Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Within the Ivy League, a Shift to the Right on Abortion?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Within the Ivy League, a Shift to the Right on Abortion?

Article excerpt

Among the throngs expected to pour into the nation's capital yesterday to mark the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade was an unlikely contingent - two dozen anti-abortion students from the University of Pennsylvania. The robust presence of "Penn for Life," both on campus and off, signals a heightened debate - at Penn and elsewhere - about an issue once thought all but settled in the more elite halls of the academic world.

"At the national level, we've noticed a uniform increase in on- campus pro-life activity," says Michael Sciscenti, president of American Collegians for Life, whose pre-march conference saw attendance grow from 70 students three years ago to 350 students, representing 70 universities, this year. Perhaps most interesting has been the growth at some of the country's most prestigious institutes. Princeton, MIT, Yale, and Stanford are among the campuses that today have active groups that oppose abortion rights.

For many years, Ivy League campuses were seen as unlikely recruiting grounds for the anti-abortion movement. But as the political and social views of college students in the United States have grown more conservative, that has begun to change.

At the University of Pennsylvania, thanks to a booth at the school's activities fair last fall, membership has grown from six to 245. Members include non-Catholic Christians, Orthodox Jews, and, the leadership hopes, some atheists. There are undergrads, graduate students, faculty, and employees. Alumni support, as well as business donations and unsolicited funds, has swelled Penn for Life coffers, from $200 last summer to nearly enough, now, to fund speakers from groups as diverse as Feminists for Life and Pro-Life Gays and Lesbians.

The diminutive Nina Mirarchi, a junior from Philadelphia, who heads the organization, is determined to use her considerable intellect and her premium education to eventually outthink the other guy. "I'm learning the arguments of the other side so I can refute them," she explains.

Her membership is doing its homework as well, and brings a comfort with history, philosophy, science, law and public debate to a case which more often has been associated with theology. Stereotypes placing them on the "lunatic fringe" notwithstanding, members field the familiar arguments for abortion rights by quoting poets and writers, orators and medical research where others may have turned to Scripture. They are confident that technological developments since the Roe ruling tilt objective reason in their favor and will ultimately support their belief that life begins at conception.

In the end, members say they see no choice. "Life is life and it's wrong to destroy it," says Ms. Mirarchi.

Frank-Paul Sampino, vice president of the group and a sophomore from Woodbury, Conn., weighs the worst-case scenarios: "I don't mean to be insensitive, but if we are right and abortion was made illegal, we would just have more children and mothers would be more burdened. …

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