Curious students and community members trickled into the Armstrong Student Center for Miami University Students for Life’s first-ever campus-wide event last Thursday.
The event — a lecture on “Understanding Responding to ‘My Body, My Choice,’” featuring pro-life advocate Josh Brahm — drew the attention of the Miami College Democrats and the student organization FWORD (Feminists Working on Real Democracy), whose members chose to set up tables on Armstrong’s ground floor near the Seal, and passed out condoms and sex education information.
Three MUPD officers were present for the event. Two officers were posted outside the room and one inside the lecture as pro-life supporters, pro-choice advocates and curious bystanders alike peered into Pavilions A and B.
Ellie Whitman, president of Students for Life, spoke briefly, calling it her “mission to create a culture of life” at Miami before introducing Brahm to the half-filled pavilion rooms.
“My passion is to have better conversations between pro-life and pro-choice advocates,” Brahm said. “There’s a lot that both can get from this talk and I hope every pro-choice person here will leave feeling respected.”
Brahm is the founder and president of the Equal Rights Institute, an organization dedicated to training pro-life advocates to “think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively on the issue of abortion.”
In his lecture, Brahm consistently advocated for pro-life policies, but remained respectful to those in the audience who disagreed with him.
He outlined various “thought experiments,” in which he used analogies to explain how he believed he could still advocate that a survivor of rape should not abort her unborn child.
Brahm focused specifically on the movie “Up” and the scene in which Russell, a young wilderness explorer, ends up on Carl’s porch while the home is airborne due to hundreds of balloons sprouting from the chimney.
In the movie, Russell knocks on Carl’s door and asks to come in — terrified by being hundreds of feet up in the air and hanging off of the ledge of Carl’s porch. At first, Carl, a grumpy, old man, shuts the door in Russell’s face. But moments later, Carl begrudgingly opens the door and lets an enthusiastic Russell in.
“Now, let’s take a moment to discuss: what is Carl’s relationship to Russell?” Brahm asked. “He’s not his grandson. They are not related. Now, let’s imagine that Pixar decided to take ‘Up’ in a much darker direction,” Brahm said. “Let’s imagine that he knocks at the door and Carl opens up the door and he says, ‘Nope — my property, my choice,’ and kicks [Russell] off. And the house lands later, the police eventually show up and say, ‘We’ve been looking for this missing child, have you seen a boy scout?’ And he says, ‘Yep, but my property, my choice. I kicked him off.’”
Brahm argued that in that extreme situation, Carl was Russell’s de-facto guardian — or an adult who is in the geographic vicinity of a child who is the only one who can help that child not die by providing basic support: food, shelter, etc.
While Brahm admitted this thought experiment “is not like pregnancy,” he believes it is “analogous in a lot of ways to a woman who is pregnant and a survivor of rape.”
Brahm acknowledged he is a man who cannot experience pregnancy, but he argued that fact does not make his arguments any less valid.
During the Q&A segment of the event, Brahm gave another example, in which a mother going through postpartum depression pushes a car containing a baby into a lake.
“My attitude is not going to be one of judgment, but one of empathy,” Brahm said. “I’m going to jump in the water to save the baby and also help [the mother].”
“You’re not obligated to help people,” Brahm added. “But you are not allowed to kill people.”
While not every member of the audience agreed with him, Brahm consistently offered those who disagreed the opportunity to both challenge and respectfully argue with him.