Group’s Visit to Campus Prompts Abortion Debate


Photo by: Tamika Rey

Amy Ronhaar, a pro-choice activist, confronts anti-abortion rights protesters. “I will not be ashamed. I will not give in to policy.”

Pro-abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion rights protesters clashed over the free speech rights of an anti-abortion group that visited the Fresno City College campus on March 19.

The explosive exchange happened near the main fountain where the small group of about four speakers set up to engage passers by and hand out fliers.  

The group’s visit was the subject of an email by the college president who warned of the group’s anti-abortion rhetorics, including graphic photos of aborted fetuses.  The email also warned faculty, staff and students against attempting “to regulate the speech of visiting groups,” by taking down posters or trying to make the group move to a different campus location.  

“Free speech law is complicated and constantly evolving,” the president also stated in the email.

“’As matters of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible,’” William Wilberforce, a member of the visiting anti abortion rights group, read aloud a quote attributed to Edward Lazarus who clerked for Justice Harry Blakmun whose vote was pivotal in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  

With Fresno police department officers standing by to prevent physical altercations, the audience argued heatedly with escalated and sweaty brows and flushed cheeks.

“Who are we to decide what half the world wants to do?” a woman in the audience asked, challenging Wilberforce’s assertions.

“Half of the population doesn’t want to. What about a child molester or a rapist or a thief? Or anything that you and I agree is wrong,”  Wilberforce said. “We are silencing those people by saying ‘You don’t have a right to molest children,’ but there are people going, ‘Who are you to tell me what to do with my children and what to do with my life?’”

Wilberforce spoke about Anthony Levatino, a medical doctor who “was an abortionist for several years,” and had even spoken before congress on abortion rights but who now feels differently.

“‘I want the general public to know that the doctors know this is a person; this is a baby, this is not some type of blob of tissue,’” Wilberforce said, quoting Levatino.

“No woman wants to go through this,” said Amy Ronhaar, an FCC student who explained why she had an abortion. She said she was unable to care for herself properly let alone a child. Ronhaar was adopted and did not want her child to be.  “So as a woman, I will tell you right now that [what Wilberforce was saying] is false and that is a lie.”

Ronhaar said she was an agnostic and believes life begins at birth. While she wouldn’t support abortion at nine months, only up until the point where it’s no longer, “a cultivating pile of cells, after 12 weeks.”

“This right here is false,” Ronhaar said, pointing to the pictures of the aborted fetuses. “It actually isn’t a baby. I’ve had an abortion at eight weeks, and that is not what it looks like. That is not what came out of me. Those pictures are inaccurate.”

Wilberforce said abortion is neither a man or woman issue.  

“It is a human life issue because half of the babies aborted are men, are little boys, “ Wilberforce said. “And half of them are little girls, and I’m speaking out for both the boys and the girls.”

In response to a statement that men did not have a right to vote on what women do with their bodies, Wilberforce said, “A woman can’t get pregnant without a man. Yet, he doesn’t have any rights until after the baby is born, and then he has to pay for it if he’s not married to her.”

Another Pro-abortion rights advocate said that even if abortion is outlawed, it will continue to happen in most likely ‘shady’ facilities.

“That goes for every issue — rape, child molestation, and stealing, robbing banks. That goes for everything! People are still going to do wrong things,” Wilberforce said. “You don’t base a law based upon rather or not people will obey the law.”

Wilberforce said he valued any life, no matter the quality of life, even if the pregnancy resulted from rape.

“Two wrongs do not make a right,” he said. “There are millions of people in the world born in regular situations who are now drug addicts on the street and prostitutes.”

He said that if the mother’s life is at risk due to a pregnancy, the goal should be to save them both. “You remove the baby from the womb, put it in an incubator and do whatever you have to do because doctors are wrong a lot,” he said.

Ronhaar explained that pregnant women have many opportunities to change their minds about aborting their fetus.  

“When you make an appointment, the doctors ask you if that’s what you really want to do, and if so, you go back a week later,” she said. “You take some pain pills and antibiotics which make you feel ill, but no bloody fetus with hands and fingernails falls out of you.” She likened an abortion to a very “extreme period” that lasts about four weeks.

Kayla Engel, an art major who was in the audience, said she agreed with Ronhaar.

“I was a 15 year old who had an abortion because of rape, and I was grateful to have a mother who looked at me and said, ‘The choice is not in your hands’, and it’s not that she was forcing me, it’s literally she was saying, ‘there’s not going to be any repercussions,’ and because of that, I was emotionally able to hold.”

Engel said she got married, got pregnant and had a baby at 29, and the first thing she told the nurse was, “No one should have to do that who does not want to, because it hurts like f@%k.”  She said she was offended that “it is men who are telling us what to do with our uterus.”

She said it is time to stop the abortion conversation and instead have a different one such as how to “make it safe and legal so that we don’t have late term abortions.”  

One of Ronhaar’s friends said that society should stop blaming and shaming women and try to make condoms and birth control more accessible because responsibility for preventing pregnancy should not remain solely with the women.

“Men should be abstinent,” said a male anti-abortion rights advocate who wished to remain anonymous. “I think we can both agree that some men should be abstinent.”

Ronhaar agrees, “At the end of the day I support abortion I have no regrets. I will not be ashamed. I will not give in to policy.”