A field of controversy

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Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Marquette for life put up a pinwheel display in front of the AMU in honor of “Respect For Life” week

“Beautiful” and “triggering” were some of the polarizing words used to describe the pinwheel display put on by Marquette for Life, a pro-life student organization, that was outside of the Alumni Memorial Union last week.

The display was put up in honor of  “Respect for Life” week, a week that many Catholics acknowledge as time to respect the dignity of all lives.

“It’s a time where our club can focus on bringing the most dignity to all communities and really making sure that we set aside time to reflect on what matters and stand up for those who really need it,” Lucy Wirtz, a senior in the College of Communication and the service chair for Marquette For Life, said. 

As part of “Respect for Life” week, Marquette for Life put up a pinwheel display outside of the AMU.

“The first purpose of the display is to show people who are willing to help women who are in need. And the second is to show that there are already women being helped, who are choosing life and have hope for their futures because there are women and men who are there to support them,” Wirtz said.

Each pinwheel represents five women served through pregnancy centers and who have received supplies, counseling or any sort of care after making the decision to continue on with their pregnancy.

However, Emma Unholz, a junior in the College of Business Administration and president of Marquette Empowerment, the intersectional feminist group on campus, has a different idea of what those pinwheels represent.

“When you consider that all the pinwheels represent women that were helped by pregnancy centers, to me that means those are all the women that were manipulated into not terminating the pregnancy,” Unholz said.

Matthew Valentino, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of Marquette for Life, sees the display in a different light.

“Looking out for single mothers, that’s what we really care about and respecting every life not only the lives of our friends, but the local community, as well as babies, adults, we think it’s really important to value every life equally,” Valentino said.

However, not everyone felt that Marquette For Life’s display showed respect for others’ lives. Some students felt that the display could be triggering to those on campus with past experiences involving abortion.

“This decision is never made with ease or without careful thought. Displays like this one antagonizes women into thinking that abortion is never a plausible option for them,” Erika Escamilla, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. 

In order for a student organization to hold an event or public display, they must go through an approval process. This process is partially conducted through MARQUEE, the student organization web portal. 

Student organizations can either request a space or approval for the event first. Lee said that the order doesn’t matter and that different student organizations go about it in their own way. Regardless of order, all events must obtain approval from the Office of Engagement and Inclusion.

“These steps are reviewed with student organization leaders at “student organization 101 sessions” coordinated by OEI/Demetria Anderson. The Event Confirmation our office sends also includes a statement that they must also obtain approval from OEI,” Linda Lee, assistant director for events services at the AMU, said in an email.

Even though Marquette for Life’s display was approved by the university, members of campus have questioned whether or not it was appropriate.

“Having this display at the AMU, which represents the core of Marquette’s student body, inherently ties its views with Marquette. Such a controversial issue, that targets women and their right to bodily autonomy, should not be set in a place where many students go to and pass on their way to and from class. It is not the place for large political displays,” Escamilla said. 

Wirtz acknowledges that the display may make some members of the campus community upset, but invites those who are into conversation.

“There are a lot of people who don’t really understand where we are coming from and who are deeply wounded by this topic,” Wirtz said. “I would love to sit down with any of them, I’m never going to shove this down your throat. I want it to be something that’s hopeful and beautiful and brings joy to peoples’ lives. We’re just trying to find common ground and show that there’s beauty in this movement.”

Phoebe Goebel and Tim Littau contributed to this report. They can be reached at phoebe.goebel@marquette.edu and timothy.littau@marquette.edu

This story was written by Megan Woolard. She can be reached at megan.woolard@marquette.edu