NISG Senator speaks out about controversy

NISG Senator and regular Northern Iowan Opinion Columnist Mohammed Rawwas responds to recent controversy surrounding the

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NISG Senator and regular Northern Iowan Opinion Columnist Mohammed Rawwas responds to recent controversy surrounding the “Students for Life” group.

MOHAMMED RAWWAS, Opinion Columnist

On Wednesday, Oct. 7 the far-right anti-abortion Students for Life organization attempted to register a chapter at the University of Northern Iowa. The senators of the Northern Iowa Student Government voted against the registration of this organization (for transparency’s sake, the author of this article is among the subject of the preceding sentence). This was immediately picked up by other far-right groups, such as Young Americans for Freedom, who published an article on the happening (or lack of) and publicized the story on social media. As expected, the vitriol quickly followed, as well as a number of arguments as to why Students for Life should have been registered, which we will discuss presently. The university administration, for its part, issued a statement reassuring the far-right that they would gladly cater to their every desire, and that they would be more than willing to ignore any pretense of democracy and override the decisions of student representatives in order to reverse the decision and register the organization.

For additional context on the national organization in question, the President of the organization, Kristan Hawkins, signed a letter to the Republican National Committee chairwoman urging the GOP to oppose exceptions to criminalizing abortion in the case of rape, according to the Washington Post. To be as clear as possible, that means that this person’s position is that if a woman is raped and impregnated, she should be forced to carry the child of her rapist to term and that a woman should be criminalized if she opposes the idea of her being forced to give birth to her rapist’s child. According to a 2019 NPR poll, only 9% of Americans believe that abortions should be limited only in the case of a life-threatening complication, with a further 9% believing abortions should not be allowed in any circumstances, meaning that 82% of Americans support exceptions for the case of rape. As student representatives, senators should not be voting to register organizations that will act explicitly against the interest of their constituents, and the factoid mentioned above clearly demonstrates how fringe of an organization Students for Life is, and that it most certainly does not reflect the will of the student body, or the U.S. in general.

Furthermore, as per their website, Students for Life is explicitly in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade, which the majority of Americans support, and intervening with Planned Parenthood. Their website also describes their desire to build a “trained and experienced army of ground troops ready to engage,” making their militancy clear. Their presence on campus would clearly be a detriment to the majority of the student body. Beyond all this, the talking points that appear on the website are full of lies and misinformation, and given the fact that their submitted constitution states that their goal is to “educate,” NISG cannot register this organization per the Student Organization Handbook, which calls for organizations to be registered if they apply “in good faith.” Claiming to educate while being affiliated with a national organization that constantly engages in lies is the opposite of good faith.

As is to be expected, the organization is decrying the failure to register this student organization as a case of discrimination and an attack on free speech. The problem with this argument is that the reasons the organization was denied registration had nothing to do with speech; as always, the students wanting to register this organization are free to speak their mind, on campus as elsewhere. “Speech” does not entitle one to university funds and an official designation as a student organization. Ultimately, the decision to not grant registration to this student group was in reference to the specific actions of the Students for Life organization, their stated intentions to interfere with Planned Parenthood activities and the militant language of their website that speaks to their intended actions. The idea that actions are being equated with speech is ridiculous. Finally, it was determined that, as student representatives, it was not in the best interest of our constituents to allow this hate-mongering and inciting group on campus, given their affiliation. Finally, it should be noted that the role that university administration has taken up is egregious, openly violating the sovereignty of the entire student body by openly declaring they will overrule students’ only representation on campus, prompting the question: who is the University for?