On Sunday, UGBC Senator Michael Proietta, MCAS ‘19, proposed a resolution before the Student Assembly (SA) that would acknowledge that UGBC “recognizes pro-life activism as a legitimate and important form of advocacy.”
The SA meeting began with Proietta presenting the text of the resolution and making a case for its approval, followed by a number of supporting student speakers, a question and answer section, and a contentious debate between the present senators.
Arguments were made that the resolution should not be passed, that it should be amended to include recognition of pro-choice advocacy, and some said it should pass but be followed by a separate pro-choice proposal in the coming weeks. The debate ended with an anonymous vote to not pass the resolution.
Proietta, who is the senator representing Campus Ministry, has been involved with UGBC since the beginning of his sophomore year. He said he made the proposal in order to counteract the “single-minded ideology” present within UGBC.
“Supposedly UGBC is supposed to be for all students, and ‘all students’ does not constitute merely those who are left leaning,” Proietta said.
Proietta, although adamantly pro-life, considers himself a political moderate. But within UGBC, he believes his views have caused him to be seen as a much more conservative person in an organization he sees as "aggressively liberal."
“My goal has just been to expand the conversation,” he said.
When asked about the effects his proposal would have, he said that many resolutions don’t have a concrete end goal. “The goal is just to not implicitly say that we are pro-choice and everything that is not pro-choice is against the mission of UGBC, which I honestly think is one of the results of having a super liberal organization. It isn’t saying that UGBC is pro-life… it is saying that we recognize that pro-life advocacy is a legitimate form of advocacy.”
Proietta’s speakers included two members of the pro-life club, and two unaffiliated supporters. Two of the speakers were men and two were women, and they made various arguments for the pro-life cause and what it means beyond religion.
One speaker, Natasha Bednarz, MCAS ‘17, described herself as a “female, feminist, and pro-life” individual. She suggested acknowledging pro-life activism would reduce the stigmas students create around pregnancy, and give respect to decisions to choose to remain pregnant.
Some senators took issue with Proietta’s claim that pro-choice was implicit within UGBC. They referenced how UGBC had not sponsored any pro-choice event or activity, and in fact, Boston College has an official pro-life club, while there is no recognized pro-choice advocacy organization. And if there were to be a pro-choice student organization on campus, it would need to be approved through the Office of Student Involvement. Proietta himself said such an organization would most likely not be approved due to conflicts with “the values of the university.”
Many saw the language of the resolution as being controversial. It includes a definition of pro-life that is broader than being anti-abortion, meaning the stance is in opposition to “euthanasia, capital punishment, social irresponsibility, lack of concern for the poor and subjugated, and many other issues,” in conjunction with Catholic Social teachings.
During the debate, an accusation was made that this type of language was designed to make the resolution more palatable to pro-choice members when in fact the entire purpose of the resolution was focused on anti-abortion support, not the acceptance of different ideologies.
In the course of the debate, Proietta and other supporters of the resolution were asked if they would be willing to revise their statement to include recognition of both pro-life and pro-choice advocacy, which they quickly denied.
Ray Mancini, CSOM ‘19, a former UGBC Presidential candidate and current member of the SA supporting the resolution, said “The purpose is to support pro-life activism. It is contradictory to include both sides of the debate.”
Senator Kate Lindenburg, MCAS ‘20, cited the inability to support both kinds of advocacy as the reason she did not vote in favor of the resolution.
“The bill was advocating for inclusion of a minority voice, and I thought it would be more productive to represent the entire spectrum. I think being pro-choice means a lot of things, just like being pro-life means a lot of things, and to say that one is the antithesis of the other is just very misleading,” Lindenburg reasoned. “Since UGBC is so oriented towards advocacy, I thought it was unfair to divide these arguments into separate bills. I think if the bill included both sides, I would have voted for it.”
Ellen O’Brien, MCAS ‘20, had similar thoughts. “UGBC works to serve the interests of all students, so if you’re proposing a resolution that only serves the beliefs of some students, it is immediately isolating others.”
After the debate, when asked about plans to reintroduce a new proposal containing more comprehensive language for both sides of the abortion argument, Proietta said, “This was a good discussion given the political climate of this organization... but I am strongly pro-life, and this was a strongly pro-life proposal.”