On Oct. 3, a group of University of Miami students took part in something bigger than themselves. They’re used to the feeling, though; they’ve been doing it since last year.
Members of UM Respect Life and UM Catholic Students Association along with other people from all walks of life took to US-1 and Stanford Drive to defend the rights of the unborn. Waving banners and posters at passing cars, they were part of a bigger movement to bring awareness to their cause.
“The campus has a very anti-life stance,” said senior Joao Pedro Volz. “The counseling center only offers planned parenthood as advice. A lot of the club’s mission is to help change that in the school and provide aid for pregnant students.”
UM Respect Life takes part in and organizes other events in order to bring this national debate within the borders of the UM campus. The 2008-2009 school year was their first year as an official organization. The two founding members, Laura Basulto and Kelsey Hazzard, were originally part of the Catholic Students Association.
According to their website, they “are a student-run, pro-life organization committed to educating the campus about issues such as abortion and the death penalty. In particular, [they] are concerned with making abortion alternatives easily accessible to any student who finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy.”
“We’re very concerned with the amount of aid available for pregnant students on campus,” said junior Laura Basulto, secretary for UM Respect Life.
In order to do so, they remain active in the community through the myriad of events they sponsor. Their Facebook group boasts over 50 members and 30 comments.
According to Basulto, anywhere from 25 to 30 students attend their weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at the University Center.
“We discuss any new bills or issues and how we can bring awareness to the campus,” Basulto said.
Their efforts and involvement in UM and the community at large were recognized when COSO awarded them the 2009 Student Organization Achievement & Recognition (SOAR) Award for Best New Student Organization. Not only does this award honor them, but it also supplements their funding with $200.
“We didn’t really think we were going to win,” Volz said. “We didn’t even show up to the awards’ ceremony. It was a big surprise to us, really.”
Volz attributes the win to how active they were. Last year, they sponsored close to 20 events to promote awareness of their cause and alternatives to abortion. They sponsor bake sales, controversial film screenings and guest lectures, all to get students more involved.
This year already they have sponsored close to five events, including a screening of Juno on Sept. 29, as well as a “Prenatal Development Exhibit” on the Rock sparking the debate of when life begins inside the womb.
Last year, a similar event drew many including President Donna E. Shalala, who called their display “good for discussion,” according to their Facebook group.
“We asked students to grab a little sticker and place it where they thought life begins,” Basulto said.
In the works is an event which will feature a series of cards containing facts about common myths lining the walkways around the “Green.” According to Volz, they are also planning on bringing Rick Stout, award-winning director of Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family, to campus and screening the documentary.
In January, they traveled to Washington D.C. for the March for Life and Students for Life of America conference in time for President Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States. They will attend again this year. “The most important thing is that we’re not a religious group,” Basulto said. “We welcome students of all religions.”