The club members sit in front of the panel of SA Senate officials – sweaty palms, hearts racing. This moment has been pending for months; the three clubs before this club have been victorious. Will they meet the same fate? The painfully long moment finally comes to an end – the verdict has been reached. Seven vote yes, none vote no, and three are undecided.
The UB Students for Life club, which advocates a pro-life stance on abortion, became a temporary club last year after being ignored by the SA and disrespected by those of high office at UB. Once the club received temporary status, it saw its presentations destroyed and faced animosity from students and other clubs on campus.
Regardless of these troubles, the UB Students for Life organization became an official club on Feb. 26 and received the award for Best New Club in the Nation by the Students for Life of America. While these are huge accomplishments for the club, there may be more turmoil to overcome.
Not all students are providing a warm welcome.
Of the 16 members, each has a different reason for being pro-life.
President Christian Andzel, a sophomore history and political science major, is adopted from Columbia. His birth mother was living in poverty with no one but her grandfather for support.
"My mother gave me life in the face of poverty," Andzel said. "She not only gave me life in Columbia, but she put me in an orphanage that would bring me to the United States – the land of the free and hopeful."
He now believes that he is truly living the American Dream, and the best life he could ever think of – all because his mother chose life.
For Jacob Issac, a freshman business administration major and secretary of the club, pro-life was the only option in his home country.
"Back in India, being pro-life wasn't a choice we made," Issac said. "Rather a value with which we are brought up. I think of it as being a part of my upbringing and my culture."
Sonika Singh, a freshman electrical engineering major and another international student, feels similar to Issac. While she has been involved in other things on campus, this was the first club that really grabbed her interest. This interest, combined with the presentations, videos, and speakers that come to the monthly meetings, Singh was motivated to become an active participant.
In order to transition from a temporary club to an official one, the UB Students for Life had to put on two fundraisers, two community service events, and hold two meetings. The club is proudest of its participation in the Polar Plunge and Cystic-Fibrosis fundraisers.
Its most controversial event was the Cemetery for the Innocents, where 300 crosses were placed around campus to commemorate lives lost from abortion.
Unidentified participants ruined it by vandalizing the display, but the club managed to maintain high spirits.
"At the moment, [it was] disheartening to see," Issac said. "We looked at the positives and realized that we were making our presence known on campus. So instead of letting go of the issue, the very next day we gathered again to put back the crosses. Our club's morale grew stronger knowing that we had made an impact to the students, positive or negative."
While the pro-life group takes a stand on the issues of organ donation, sex trafficking, euthanasia, and the death penalty, the main issue is abortion.
"It's not [just] a woman's issue," Andzel said. "Men, boys are being hurt and they are dying. Mothers are killing their sons; future priests and ministers, future fathers, future brothers. That's why it's not a woman's issue – it's a human fundamental life issue."
Termination of pregnancy is a heavily debated topic in the U.S., and UB is no different.
Lauren Pollow is a graduate student in the global gender studies department, with her bachelors in psychology. She was an active member of the UB Freethinkers club as an undergraduate student, an education intern at Planned Parenthood, and she also volunteers with crisis services to help domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Her problem does not stand with the club itself, but the issue it represents, and the toll it takes on women's rights.
"Pregnancy is a gendered issue," Pollow said. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it affects women more than men. You have no idea what it's like to be pregnant, let alone be pregnant from coercive sex, or forceful sex. It's an arrogance to speak on behalf of all women."
According to Andzel, the club is opening its arms to women who are forced to make a tough decision. He wants to help make the process of raising a child a reasonable option for younger mothers.
"We want to encourage you to keep your baby," Andzel said. "We are willing to give you anything you need from diapers to cribs. We want to show our support for young mothers; we don't want them to make the irreversible decision of killing their baby."
While these are beneficial services to provide to the community, Pollow believes the group is being shortsighted. She feels that the members of the club are not taking the reality of becoming a parent seriously.
"I don't think they would be prepared for the amount of money it costs to raise a child," Pollow said. "We aren't talking cribs and diapers – this is bottom of the barrel. To raise a child from essentially zero, buying prenatal vitamins, taking care of your body, eating the right food, all the way until 18. Those costs are ridiculously high. We live in a very pricey society."
In January, the UB Students for Life participated in the March for Life. Andzel was quoted in The Spectrum saying that the club wanted to represent UB. To Pollow, this is unacceptable.
"They're obviously allowed to go and represent a student interest group at UB, but to claim that they represent the school is unfair. This is a public university," Pollow said. "I think they have every right to be here [at UB] and express their viewpoints, but I have the right to respond."
Pollow is not the only one formulating a response against the organization. On April 5, the UB Students for Life will be debating the philosophy club in what promises to be an intellectual and entertaining debate. The topic will be abortion and the Students for Life are confident they will pull out a victory.
For students who are interested in gaining more insight on the pro-life topics, or for students who would like to politely bring up points of contention, simply attend the club meetings. The only request is that students maintain a respectful demeanor.