While coat-hangers and holocausts were brought up, the general feel of the meeting was quiet tame.
On Tuesday night, there was a formation meeting to bring about the Students for Life (SFL) club at UB. The club was very active in the pro-life arena back in the '90s, received some resuscitation in 2007, and is now trying to re-form if it can drum up enough interest.
"There wasn't anything on campus that expressed my views," said Sara Buttitta, a senior business major and president of the fledgling club. "There's no strong swing either way, and there's no support for women who don't want an abortion but don't know what to do."
SFL invited three guest speakers to share their beliefs and views on abortion. Matthew Boyle, Rachel*, and the keynote speaker Dawn M. Iacono, the director of pro-life activities for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, all took turns speaking to the group.
As counterpoint to the meeting, several people on the pro-choice side of the debate came out. This was originally to protest, but they sat quietly through the meeting and engaged in civil debate afterward with the students and guest speakers that were there for SFL.
Boyle started off the show with stories of how he helped to form Students for Life back in the early '90s. Some readers may remember the Valentine's Issue of The Spectrum that showed a pro-life display of 4,400 crosses on a field at UB. SFL was responsible for that, and Matt discussed the reaction to that display.
Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe, the woman behind Roe v. Wade, came up in Matt's speech as he told of how she switched sides in the abortion debate. He closed with a warning that the new SFL could expect a lot of opposition.
Rachel spoke of her experience receiving an abortion when she found herself accidentally pregnant while still an undergraduate. She had no physical complications, but did not appreciate how she was treated and has since come to regret her decision.
After Rachel's speech, there were a few respectful questions from the pro-choice people, namely Alex Walters, a junior linguistics major who was part of organizing the pro-choice side. Walters' questions were answered respectfully in turn.
"I used to identify as pro-life," Walters said. "I came from a small conservative town, so I know where they're coming from, I can relate. I've also seen the slippery slope that can lead these debates into chaos, and I wanted to avoid that."
Iacono then stepped up and began her presentation. She talked of how many women she came in contact with through her position as a crisis pregnancy counselor.
"There is so much external pressure to have an abortion for some of these women," Iacono said. "There's even a rise in mothers pressuring their daughters to abort."
She used a slide show to further her point and also brought up McCorvey as well as other pro-choice activists that later became pro-life. The main thrust of her slides was to present evidence in numbers.
Most of these numbers were merely the amount of abortions performed nationwide, statewide, and Erie County-wide. There was also a list of physical and psychological complications that come with abortion. The physical list included perforation of the uterus and bowel, loss of fertility, and death.
Once Iacono was finished, the room was opened up to questions.
Crescenzo Scipione, a sophomore American studies major and the main organizer of the pro-choice side, started with a list of questions that attacked most of the numbers presented. Scipione stated that 77 percent of pro-life people are men and pointed out that only one in four people at the meeting were women.
"I found that there are 125 pro-life activists that are labeled as domestic terrorists by the FBI," Scipione said. "You called pro-choice activists damaged, but I say the real crazies are on the pro-life side."
The back-and-forth became angrier and there was a real danger of the meeting falling into a shouting match.
Ed Koch, associate campus minister at the Newman Center, brought calm to the discussion. The vitriol and rhetoric from both sides was put in check, and an actual discussion was had by all.
"We welcome debate," Buttitta said. "We're here to make sure all choices are informed, and debate is a great way to do that. We aren't just here to deny abortions, we want to do diaper-drives, walks for life, and do what we can to help out after the birth as well as before."
*The Spectrum was unable to confirm Rachel's surname.