Anti-abortion student group emerges on campus

A new anti-abortion student group has formed at Portland State, and though it is small, it is also active.

Although Students for Life has only held two meetings so far, they have already brought a high-profile anti-abortion speaker to campus in conjunction with the College Republicans.

Groups supporting abortion rights such as Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX) have been active on Portland State’s campus for several years, but until now an organized anti-abortion group has not been a major presence at PSU. Not surprising for a group addressing one of the most politically charged debates in the country, though not all students have reacted positively to the new group’s appearance.

“We’ve encountered a lot of support, but some hostility,” said Nathan Sheets the group’s founder and president. “Most people who don’t agree with us don’t say anything, they just give his disapproving glances. Someone crumpled up a flyer and through it in my face once.”

Students for Life sponsored the appearance of Janet Folger, a national Christian radio celebrity, “family values” activist and one of the major forces behind Ohio’s partial-birth abortion ban, which led to the national restrictions on partial-birth abortion in 2003. A highly controversial national political figure, Folger has been alternately described as “the adrenaline in the body of Christ” (Craig Roberts, KFAX San Francisco) and a “hate-mongering homophobic Christian bigot” ( Folger addressed an audience of more than 60 people at Portland State on Tuesday, many of them from the larger community.

“We had one or two challenging questions, but the PSU audience was pretty friendly. The audience was much more hostile at Reed,” Sheets said.

Sheets, 20, has been a pro-life activist since he was 16. He is well-known in online activist communities for several blogs that he maintains, which deal primarily with his Christian faith, anti-abortion activism, and experiences as a self-described “ex-gay follower of Yeshua.”

According to its mission statement, the group “exists to educate Portland State students about abortion, support women who are pregnant and promote diversity in the pro-life movement.” In order to reach out to the student body, has been tabling in Smith Center and posting flyers about campus.

“We’ve gotten a good response from the flyers,” Sheets said, “The pro-life people are showing up. At our first meeting, I was surprised at the number of people who showed up.”

The fledgling organization currently has 15 members, and is officially nonpartisan.

“Not all of are members are Republican,” Sheets said, “and we don’t want them to be … part of our mission is to break the stereotypes that people have about pro-life activists.”

One of Students for Life’s major objectives on campus is to create an alternative to the Women’s Resource Center.

“We’d really like to get a pregnancy resource center on campus. We have the Women’s Resource Center, but the literature I found there is very pro-abortion,” said Sheets. “We want women to be presented with all the options, because we feel that women will choose life … there are many resources in the community for those who have just given birth. We want to hook students up with those resources.”

Aimee Shattuck, coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center, disagreed with Sheets’ characterization of the WRC.

“The Women’s Resource Center has a wide range of resources and options to share with students, including adoption services, health care, childcare and parent groups,” Shattuck said. “We believe in access to health care, resources and options for pregnant women and mothers; and that given options, they will make the decisions that are best for them. A large number of the staff and volunteers are mothers, and the coordinator will be giving birth soon, neither of which we suspect [Sheets] will be doing in the near future.”

“Bridge Gorrow, the coordinator of the returning women students program, went to midwifery school, and we have two volunteers who coordinate peer support for student parents,” Shattuck explained. “For these reasons, we feel that we are in a great position to go over resources and referrals with a student and would respect their beliefs and decisions regarding their bodies.”

According to Sheets, he was “yelled out of the office” of Josh Gross, editor of the leftist alternative student monthly, The Rearguard.

“We handed him a flyer for Janet Folger’s lecture in case he would be interested in coming to the event. The flyers say ‘”Choice” is a Euphemism for “Abortion,”‘ at which point he proceeded to yell at that ‘Life is a euphemism for ignorance.’ It was disappointing that, while we showed him respect he couldn’t show it to us. I thought it was rather unprofessional.”

Gross remembered the encounter somewhat differently. “I didn’t yell at him in the slightest. He, and another girl that was with him wanted me to advertise for their ‘choice is a euphemism for abortion’ speaker, and I laughed at them. And then I think I said something to the effect of ‘Life is a euphemism for you’re an asshole.'”