On Mar. 10, Dr. Wasserman, Associate Chair of the History Department and Dr. Blanchard, Chair of the Religious Studies Department had a spirited discussion about abortion hosted by the Chapel. Their discussion comes at a time when it seems as if everyone has an opinion on the issue and they hoped that their open dialogue would spark more discussions between people in the future.
Dr. Blanchard defended the pro-choice point of view throughout the discussion while Dr. Wasserman defended the pro-life point of view. Both of them believe that just because two people have opposing views does not mean that they cannot come together and have a civil discussion between one another.
Their discussion comes at a time where the abortion debate has again entered the forefront of political discourse in the United States following the passage of a near total ban on abortions in the state of Arkansas.
The law, which does not have exceptions for incest or rape would ban all abortions in the state of Arkansas. It also includes penalties of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for any woman who has an abortion. The law is currently slated to go into effect on Aug. 2 barring any judicial intervention.
“Taking away women’s resources doesn’t stop abortions, it just stops safe abortions, and in those instances you’re losing two lives rather than one,” said Abigail Zerbe (‘23).
“Abortion is a healthcare and fundamental right for all women…the government has no place in a woman’s reproductive system,” said Brenna Smith (‘24).
“The first point I think is at the root of abortion is about personhood; the personhood of a fetus,” said Blanchard in her opening statements.
“The second question is who should be responsible for making a decision, who gets to decide whether a person can have an abortion?” said Blanchard.
The issues of personhood and individual choice go all the way back to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which formally legalized abortion across the United States. Since its passage Roe has faced many legal challenges including Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 which was the last direct challenge to the ruling.
“Abortion is a very difficult topic to discuss,” said Wasserman in his opening statement.
As Wasserman stated, abortion has remained a very contentious issue that many people have very strong beliefs about. Because of its direct implications on people’s lives, many people harbor strong feelings one way or the other about the issue.
“I think that people often forget the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is that pro-choice is about the choice. It’s not about having an abortion but about being able to choose to do what’s best for you,” said Anika Reid (’23).
“If life starts at conception then terminating a pregnacy is the same as taking a [human] life,” said Wasserman in his defense of the pro-life argument.
The discussion between Wasserman and Blanchard continued in a civil manner and even featured questions from a few of the students who tuned into the event. The event was also moderated by Dr. Andrew Pomerville (Class of ‘01) and Chaplain of Alma College.
“I think [the topic of abortion] is necessary to model a dialogue between people who disagree on something that isn’t just spewing hatred,” said Blanchard following a student question on the importance of having an open discussion between two sides.
“We really need to step out of our personal beliefs and try to see from the other side’s point of view in order to have productive dialogue between both sides,” said Smith.
“I thought that it was important to show that with controversial [issues] like these we should be able to talk about them with one another,” said Wasserman in his concluding statement.
The event concluded with both Wasserman and Blanchard challenging others to begin a dialogue between each other on issues even if you do not agree with the other side.