Free Speech at LSU

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In September the Daily Reveille, the LSU Student newspaper, ran a story by Jana King criticising the new speech policy on campus as a result of my lawsuit last year. I tried to respond with the following letter, but since they chose not to publish it, I figured I would do that here on my blog:

While I support Miss King’s right to Free Speech (despite the fact that she clearly doesn’t respect that of others), it would be irresponsible for me to ignore her September 2nd article on Free Speech, both as a law student and as the person responsible for the lawsuit resulting in the new speech code she so clearly despises.

In October of last year, lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom filed a law suit on my behalf, after I was told by school officials that I was not allowed to hand out small flyers while participating in a pro-life silent protest. I was not asking for the right to harass anyone, I was simply asking for my constitutionally guaranteed rights to be upheld by LSU.

You see, contrary to what Miss King seems to think- you ARE guaranteed your right to Free Speech on campus, even if what you have to say might offend someone else. In fact, in Tinker vs. Des Moines, the Supreme Court emphatically tells us that students do not “shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door.”

Nor do they support limiting our right to free speech on the basis of “offending others.” I doubt there is anyone on campus who would deny that the actions of the Westboro “Church” in protesting military funerals and even those of victims of school shootings and natural disasters are terrible and extremely offensive. Yet in 2011, the Supreme Court upheld Westboro’s right to free speech.

While there are cases that give schools the ability to place reasonable restrictions on speech to preserve the educational mission of the university, such as not allowing protesters to be disruptive inside the buildings and class rooms, limiting free speech to a small sidewalk is not a reasonable restriction.

LSU is approximately 28,000,000 square feet and that has a student population of nearly 30,000 students, yet under the former policy the free speech rights of students and students organizations were limited to an area of approximately 1,000 square feet, or a mere 0.0035% of campus. This is not reasonable. And LSU knew it, which is why they didn’t go to court to attempt to defend the old policy.

I am proud that my school recognized the problem with restricting free speech, and I am proud that they fixed it. I am proud to be the catalyst for that change. I am ashamed that people of my generation, like Miss King, do not seem to understand that millions of men and women have died over the history of our great nation to ensure that we have the right to speak freely about issues that are controversial.

The right to speak out against injustice has led to amazing societal advances, among them the end of slavery, the right of women to vote, and the end of segregation. If I believe, as I do, that abortion is an injustice on par with those listed, how can you tell me that I shouldn’t be allowed to speak up about it? I might be in the minority and my beliefs on the issue might be offensive to others, but at one point so were the beliefs of abolitionists, suffragettes, and desegregation supporters.

Pro-Life Hulk

When I get angry I shake uncontrollably… sometimes I’m afraid I’m going to explode into a hulk-like monster when I do this. But it takes a certain type of thing to make me that angry, and as I read the LSU Reveille today- it happened.  There was an article about why Planned Parenthood should receive government funding, and the “arguments” not only pissed me off, they turned my stomach. Let’s take a look:

1. By the regulations put in by federal law, Planned Parenthood can’t put any of their government funding into abortion services because it isn’t considered to be family planning.

This is strangely worded to begin with, but I’m guessing she means that they aren’t allowed to pay for abortions with federal money. And this is true, but it is also a mere technicality. In 2011 (the most recent numbers available), federal taxpayers were forced to give Planned Parenthood $524,000,000 which accounts for nearly half of their total budget and doesn’t include state tax dollars given to regional Planned Parenthood affiliates.  With about half of their revenue coming from tax dollars, we are indirectly subsidizing abortion, even if the money isn’t going to directly going to pay for them. It is just a bait and switch argument. If it wasn’t for this funding, they wouldn’t be able to operate the clinics, or hire the doctors that perform the abortions.

2. Only three percent of all the services it (Planned Parenthood) provides are abortion.

Pro-aborts LOVE this argument, and never bother to examine how Planned Parenthood came up with this number. They did it by counting every single little thing they do as a separate “service.” Let’s look at one appointment and find see how many services we can count using Planned Parenthood counting. You walk in and get a pregnancy test, 1 service. Since you’re sexually active, they recommend you get an STD test too- that’s another service, now we are up to 2. The doctor asks you if you are on the pill and if you’re happy with the type you are on- that’s “birth control counseling” and the count is 3. The doctor does a pelvic exam and pap smear- 2 more services, now you’re at 5. Finally as you walk out the door, he gives you 5 condoms, and each one is counted as a service. So that is 10 services at one appointment. They do the same thing with counting the abortion process. Legally, you must take a pregnancy test, receive counseling and view an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion; Planned Parenthood counts each of those as an individual service, and not as part of their abortion services.

Additionally, a lawsuit recently settled by Planned Parenthood in Texas resulted in them paying the Texas Government over $4 million for charging state Medicaid for services that were never rendered, meaning that they falsified the number of services provided.

The 3% number is clearly false, so let’s look at some other numbers:

  • 1 in 4 abortions in America are performed at a Planned Parenthood clinic or affiliates
  • Planned Parenthood performed 915 abortions per day
  • 92% of pregnant women who go into a Planned Parenthood get an abortion
  • Planned Parenthood does 391 abortions for each adoption referral it provides
  • In 2011, Planned Parenthood made $150,000,000 in profit on abortion procedures.
  • There are over 8,000 community health centers that provide low cost healthcare without profit from abortions.

3. Conservative government officials, mostly men, are the ones trying to take away these fundamental and essential care options.

Ah, the classic pro-lifers are mostly men argument. While pro-life elected officials are mostly male, the same is true of pro-abortion elected officials, and elected officials in general. Women make up over 50% of the voting public but hold less than 5% of elected offices. So the governmental argument is non-unique to the pro-life side of the argument.

But if you look at who the leaders of the pro-life movement you’ll see that it is mostly women! Some examples include women such as Abby Johnson, Live Action’s  Lila Rose, Charmaine Yoest who is President of Americans United for Life, Carol Tobias who is President of National Right to Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser who is President of SBA List, Concerned Women for America, and Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oh and not that I’m in the same league as these amazing women, but last time I checked I was a woman. I’ve been to my share of pro-life meetings, lectures, and events, and in my experience women almost always outnumber the men by a large number.

Additionally, the last time Gallup did a study on abortion views, an equal percentage of men and women polled said that they believed abortion was “morally wrong”. 51% of both genders agreed on this. Furthermore, 5% more women than men felt that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Nearly a quarter of all women polled would be in favor of making abortion illegal in all cases. Recent polls on Pain Capable Abortion Bans show that actually women support these bans by a significant majority.

4. All abortion arguments and stances aside, here is the cold truth about them: unless you’re the person getting the abortion, abortions don’t affect you. Read that again, because few people understand this concept.

This is the same “logic” as the oft repeated line “Don’t like abortions, don’t have one” and is laughable at best. Martin Luther King told us that “injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere,” and we see the truth of that in many of history’s greatest movements.

Take slavery for example- William Wilberforce was a member of British Parliament who was decidated to ending the slave trade, would you tell him “don’t like slavery, don’t own slaves”? Slavery didn’t directly affect him, but his heart broke for his fellow humans and the atrocities that were being perpetuated against them. The rallying cry for British abolitionists was “Am I not a man and brother?”. I ask the same question- if I see a travesty occurring at my neighbor’s home am I supposed to ignore it? What about other things that don’t affect Americans- genocides in other countries and natural disasters that occur overseas? Should we have ignored the Holocaust? Should we ignore Joseph Kony and his indentured army of enslaved child soldiers? Should we keep our money for ourselves next time a tsunami kills and displaces millions of people in another country? Of course not! Because Dr. King was right, “injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere”.

5. You may love babies and you may think that taking away a person’s right to “kill” said “baby” is making the world a better place, but the only real thing you’re doing it using your hate and narrow- minded belief about the sanctity of life to dictate someone else’s.

Honestly, this one just confused me… how is it hateful to protect vulnerable human life? It seems infinitely more hateful to me, to rip a baby apart piece by piece and then vacuum it out of the womb. Because that is the reality of abortion.

Oh wait, I called it a baby, not a “baby”. I’m guessing the author would rather you call the preborn child a fetus. Which is fine because fetus is just Latin for “offspring according to its kind” and our kind, humans, call our offspring babies… so fetus pretty much means baby.

I suppose “the narrow-minded” claim could be truthful, but it’s not a bad thing. Abortion abolititionist Greg Koukl sums it up clearly: “If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.”

I could write a whole different article on scientific facts regarding fetal development, but a picture I took at a protest in San Antonio this summer handles it pretty well. The guy holding it was a member of the group Secular Pro-Life, a group of atheist and agnostic pro-lifers. Here’s the picture:

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And finally, the part that truly pissed me off:

6. People in favor of defunding this wonderful service need to look past the silly three percent of abortion services and see the bigger picture.

There is nothing SILLY about abortion. Most pro-abortion advocates will admit that, and say that it is a very difficult decision. This author disagrees. She thinks that 333,964 innocent, helpless, vulnerable human beings being killed is SILLY. There are no words to accurately describe the disgust I feel when I read her sentence. 333,964 human beings. 333,964 voices silenced. I won’t ignore that. I won’t “look past” it.

I AM THE PROLIFE GENERATION!

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“We will not stand down. We will expose injustice. We will fight against the lies told to our generation. We will face persecution. We will help those facing crisis. We will fight against a third of our generation being taken out before they are born. We will not be silent. We will not back down until abortion is abolished.”

–Students for Life of America

Seauxing LSU

I decided in seventh grade that one day I was going to attend Louisiana State University’s law school, and anyone who knows me can tell you that I’ve bled purple and gold ever since. So when I finally got there last fall, I never expected that in a few short months I would be involved in a lawsuit against the school.

It started in September, when I was gearing up for the 2012 Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity, which I’ve participated in for five years now. As part of the silent protest, participants hand out small cards explaining our silence and listing fetal development facts. I had never had any issues with this before, but LSU was different – it had Free Speech Alley. I had spoken to some of my friends who attend the undergraduate campus, and the general consensus was that students were allowed to pass out materials only in Free Speech Alley.

This concerned me, and I wanted to verify it, so I looked up the policy: “Distribution of Printed Material on Campus,” on page 28 of the Student Organization Policy Handbook, which listed the office in charge, strangely, as the Finance and Administration Office. I called and spoke to the assistant to our vice chancellor and chief financial officer. I gave her the details of my event, “Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity,” and told her I was concerned with where I was allowed to pass out my small informational flyers.

She asked me if I was doing this event with a student organization, and told her I was participating on my own, and I was told that I still had to follow the same rules as a student organization.

 LSU’s Free Speech Alley
LSU’s Free Speech Alley.

I was then told that those policies dictated that I could pass out the flyers only if I was in the area known as “Free Speech Alley,” which is a small stretch (about 24 yards) of sidewalk near the LSU Student Union. Also, if I wanted to pass flyers out in Free Speech Alley, I would need to register my event with Campus Life (pg. 19 of Student Org. Policy Manual), as Free Speech Alley has limited space available each day. When I asked if there was an exception if someone asked for one of my flyers, I was told that in that circumstance, I could hand it to him – but only if he asked. I then confirmed all this in a separate phone call with the coordinator for the LSU Finance and Administrative Services office.

The summer before I came to LSU, I was privileged to have attended ADF’s initial Collegiate Academy, where I was first introduced to their Speak Up program that provides university students with resources and legal help with unconstitutional, restrictive speech codes on their campuses. With this in mind, I decided to contact attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, who advised me that this was an unconstitutional violation of my First Amendment rights.

The big decision came next – should I file a lawsuit? On one hand, I would be standing up for my constitutional rights, and making the campus a better place for my fellow students; on the other hand, I might be targeted by unwelcome attention, or punished in some way. I sought the advice of my parents, husband, and in-laws, and did a lot of praying before finally deciding that a lawsuit was the right thing to do.

The lawsuit never went to court. Instead, LSU agreed to revise its speech policy, and the new policy was released last week. Under the newly clarified speech policy, my fellow LSU students are free to distribute literature almost anywhere on campus, and they do not have to obtain prior approval!

I am extremely humbled that I was able to help make this change happen, and I’m thrilled that the new policy will ensure that I and my fellow LSU students are able to freely exercise our freedom of speech. It was a hard decision, but I know that it was the right one, and the attorneys at ADF were so patient and helpful, making sure that I understood exactly what was going on at all times.

If your university has a Free Speech Alley or a restrictive speech policy, I would encourage you to contact ADF and make a stand for free speech on your campus!

LSU Advocates for Life!

I’m really excited to announce that I have requested Provisional Student Group Status for LSU Advocates for Life, a new pro-life group at LSU Law Center! Once granted provisional status, I can begin working on a general interest meeting!

In case you missed this somehow, pro-life activities are my passion, and I hope to work as a legal advocate for the unborn after graduating from law school. To that end, I wanted to bring together my fellow pro-life students at LSU Law in a group where we could learn more about the legal aspects of the movement and encourage one another. I also hope that LSU Advocates for Life can foster discussion among students at the law school, and who knows, maybe someone will change their minds about abortion.

The group is through the Advocates for Life initiative at Americans United for Life, and I’m very excited to be working with them on this!

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God has some great plans for this semester, and I can’t wait to help them come to fruition!!!

Back in the Game

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It’s been almost a year now, and so much has happened! Here’s a brief update on what you missed:

  • I went to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in the inaugural Alliance Defending Freedom Collegiate Academy
  • I got accepted to LSU Law
  • I moved to Baton Rouge 
  • I got to meet Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
  • I got to see some amazing LSU football games 🙂
  • I’m a member of the Student Bar Association
  • I survived my first semester of law school!

It’s been a crazy year, and I know the next few will be just as crazy. But I missed my blog, and I think it is time to resurrect it! Here is an idea of what you can expect coming up soon:

  • I’m taking Constitutional Law, so definitely some posts about that.
  • My search for an internship this summer!
  • I’m in the process of starting a pro-life group at the law school, but I’m also involved with the undergrad group on campus!
  • Picking my classes for next semester!
  • Writing my first legal brief
  • We get to do graded Oral Arguments for Legal Research and Writing, and since it’s the closest I’ve got to debate, I’m really excited about it!
  • Supreme Court cases as they move through, such as: HHS Mandate, Prop 8, Affirmative Action, and others.

In case all that didn’t clue you in, I want to bring the focus down to a more personal level. I’ll still do my best to write my heavily researched, heavily political posts, but with limited time on my hands I need a change in tone if I’m going to keep this up!

Thanks for sticking with me over the years, I’ll try my best not to disappoint with my new posts!