Pro-choice pop-up ignites debate in Union

Opinions emerged from all sides of this tumultuous issue

Large pink signs and little red crosses sit on the table in the Memorial Union.

A sizable crowd took up most of the walking room outside of the North Dakota State Bookstore in response to an impromptu pop-up table by Collegians for Life, a pro-life organization.

Members of the Women’s Activist Organization were tipped off to the happening and showed up wearing T-shirts with pro-choice slogans emblazoned on the front.

Discussion and debate ensued, but according to the guy in the middle of it, Noah Maldonado, the whole debacle should have taken place outside. According to Maldonado, the display of large pink signs was originally supposed to be set up on the front lawn of the Memorial Union.

Maldonado is the northern regional coordinator for Students for Life and was a part of most of the debate at the display booth.

The discussion at the display was a mixed bag of support and opposition, but the coordinator said most of the people who visit the display had awesome conversations with him and his team, even the ones that disagreed over the issue.

“I like to have, you know, intellectual conversations about honest issues,” Maldonado said.

Even with this attitude, Maldonado disclosed that after a heated debate with a woman partially over his role as a male in the issue of abortion, he wished his ideas as a man would have been given more credence.

“I think we can, you know, ascend above that and have intellectual conversations about these issues,” Maldonado said, “without kind of falling back into those identities.”

“The American public is fed up with abortion extremism.” 


Maldonado conceded that the woman raised an “amazing point” that women are affected differently by this issue.

The conversation could have been more cordial, according to Maldonado, but he gave her props for approaching the booth and giving her opinion.

“Having a discussion with someone that they disagree with, I mean that’s not an easy thing to do,” Maldonado said.

The same debates that happened in the Memorial Union hall between students have been happening in state and national governments with the new restrictive bill being debated and signed.

Maldonado said he has worked with pro-life groups in pursuit of this legislation and deems the success of some of the bills to be an indication of where the country is going.

“The American public is fed up with abortion extremism,” Maldonado said. “Pregnant women are tired of being targeted by the abortion industry.”

This sentiment was not shared by Jenika Rufer, an education and outreach consultant at Planned Parenthood, who showed up with members of the WAO.

“It (the display) makes me scared kind of,” Rufer said, “because of all of these negative rhetoric and fear tactics are being spewed at students.”

The group was presenting information that was meant to sway and not inform like Planned Parenthood booths, according to Rufer. “They are here directly trying (…) to influence others to take care away from millions of people,” Rufer said.

This was also the reason Rufer gave for why the discussions had become so heated at the display. “We are trying to be inclusive and give people access and options, and they are really doing the opposite,” she said.

The crowds were noticeably larger at the display than at Planned Parenthood booths, which have become a monthly occurrence in the Memorial Union. Rufer pointed to politics and a particular campus atmosphere as the reason.

“People are more likely to stop at something like this because we’re in a red state,” Rufer said.

“If they stop at a Planned Parenthood booth, they might be looked down upon or looked at differently,” Rufer said. “Like, ‘You’re at a Planned Parenthood booth; you must support abortion. You’re at a Planned Parenthood booth; you must be having sex.'”

The issue of male opinion on a female reproductive issue was also a sticking point for Rufer, who said she found it astonishing how many men were surrounding the table that don’t have the biology to have an abortion.

Rufer said it wasn’t surprising to see Maldonado, a white man, in the center of the debate. She found it ironic that he was leading the debate over Planned Parenthood, a place she said Maldonado had admitted to never visiting.

“You’re speaking on behalf of services and the care provided, yet you have never had experience with it,” Rufer said.

NDSU student Rachel Sorrells said she was passing by the booth and was interested in the content and commotion it was causing.

Sorrells has a pro-life viewpoint based in her religious and moral principles. “I feel like the choice ceases to become yours when there is another being inside of you,” Sorrells said.

The moral grounds she said she has for her opinion are based in sexual behavior. The path that some choose to become sexually active can lead to pregnancy, and this should be their responsibility, according to Sorrells.

Even with this pro-life stance, Sorrells said the display does not accomplish its goal. “I don’t think this actually changes anyone’s mind,” Sorrells said.

Sorrells also said she also does not like when people protest outside of abortion clinics with posters of dead babies, screaming at people.

“I think that the decision to have an abortion is extremely difficult for most people. I think that it comes from a place of hurt,” Sorrells said this is the reason she thinks the discussion around abortion needs to be less volatile.

Sorrells said she does support laws restricting abortion and because it would prevent the killing of babies.

Legislation to ban abortions should be paired with bills that make the adoption process easier for people expecting unwanted pregnancies, according to Sorrells.

“There are plenty of people in the world who want babies, and if you don’t want the baby, don’t kill it. Just have the baby,” Sorrells said.

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