The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
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Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Turning Point USA speaker Kristan Hawkins draws protest

Kristan+Hawkins+speaks+at+the+Turning+Point+USA+event+on+Wednesday+evening+in+the+OHara+Student+Center.
Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer
Kristan Hawkins speaks at the Turning Point USA event on Wednesday evening in the O’Hara Student Center.

Kristan Hawkins, the president and founder of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, spoke to a group of fewer than 50 people at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night in the O’Hara Ballroom. Pitt’s chapter of Turning Point USA hosted Hawkins for the event titled, “No Abortions, No Exceptions,” which was the last stop on Hawkins’ speaking tour at seven different universities. 

Outside, protestors gathered to speak out against Hawkins.

“We’re protesting Kristan Hawkins, who is an anti-abortion activist. She was invited to speak by Turning Point USA and she’s said a bunch of stuff in the past negating sexual assault and saying that contraception needs to be banned,” junior natural science major Lydia Caldwell said. 

In addition, Student Government Board partnered with Pittsburgh Abortion Access Network, Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Pitt, the Pitt Chapter of Amnesty International and SAFE at Pitt to host a counter-event offering information and resources for reproductive health care. 

Lili Orozco, a senior law, criminal justice and society major and the president of Pitt’s chapter of Turning Point U.S.A, said the group hosted Hawkins because they “need more pro-life representation on campus.”

Ahead of the event, Hawkins tabled with Turning Point USA outside of the William Pitt Union during the afternoon, speaking with a number of students. She conversed with some students who held opposing views.

Hawkins said students she spoke with “would not tell [her] definitively what is inside of a human mother,” debating the time when life begins. She claimed that one student told her “there was no objective moral truth,” which she described as “scary.”

During her presentation, Hawkins said her goal was to make abortion “unthinkable and unavailable.”

“If that makes me extremist, then I’m happy to be an extremist,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said she wants to end abortion because she believes that “every human being has fundamentally a right to be born,” a belief influenced by her Catholicism. Because of that belief, she organized against Roe v. Wade. Hawkins considers the Dobbs decision that struck down Roe and ruled abortion is not a fundamental right in the United States a victory.

“We lived the tyranny of Roe v. Wade for 49 years,” Hawkins said. “But our movement, the pro-lifers in America, grew stronger, larger in number, more innovative, more creative. We’re actually really good at losing for a long time.”

Hawkins, at the end of the first portion of her presentation, invited anyone pro-choice in attendance to ask questions. When no one stepped up to the microphone, she acknowledged the protests her presence on campus caused.

“Are all the pro-choicers really outside yelling at me?” Hawkins said.

Caldwell said Hawkins’ message is unfounded in research and, as a research university, Pitt needs to do better to prevent these speakers. 

“It just feels really inappropriate, and it’s sexual assault [awareness] month too,” Caldwell said. 

Pitt did not respond to comment on Caldwell’s remarks. Previously, Turning Point USA at Pitt told The Pitt News that funding for their speaker events comes from the national organization. 

Similarly, another protester named Agate said they were protesting due to Hawkins’ negative messages surrounding women’s health care and stigmatization of birth control. 

“She says that anything hormone-related is anti-abortion. That also strikes a chord with me as someone with a blood clotting disorder, because a lot of that can be hormonal,” Agate said. 

Due to the blood clotting disorder, Agate said they think abortion should be considered health care. 

“Abortion is health care. It’s a personal choice. People die from back-alley abortions all the time. People die from ectopic pregnancies if they can’t get an abortion. This is a real issue,” Agate said. 

Another protester, communications major from West Virginia University Adrianne Dering, said she heard about the event from a tri-state coalition for abortion rights and came out to Pitt to help support the protesters. 

“I don’t disagree with the idea of free speech, even if I don’t agree with it. I think free speech that is contradictory to your beliefs should be spoken out against,” Dering said. 

As West Virginia has a total abortion ban, Dering said she felt it was important to speak out against negative abortion talks. 

“There are a very limited number of exceptions, say for incest, because you basically need a judge’s permission to have your abortion and then have to find someone who will provide you with it. 

In the second part of her presentation, Hawkins then pivoted to speak about why she believes abortion should be illegal in all cases, listing six reasons. Hawkins called abortion a “violent act of discrimination,” additionally claiming that “abortion sells women short.”

“We are told in order to have freedom as women, we have to have abortion,” Hawkins said. “It’s the opposite of empowerment.”

Hawkins then brought Beverly Jacobson up to the podium to tell her story. Jacobson, who has “always been passionately pro-life,” founded the nonprofit Verity’s Village, which works with families who receive a “life-limiting” diagnosis, after her ninth child was diagnosed with trisomy 18 in the womb — which is a genetic condition that affects development and growth. 

“We give them tangible practical support to carry to term with free counseling, walking them through creating a birth plan and navigating the medical world,” Jacobson said.

Hawkins cited Jacobson’s story as the “sixth reason” that people should be against abortion.

Hawkins then opened up the floor to questions. She mentioned Pitt’s controversy regarding research on fetal tissues. Hawkins described Pitt as “one of the most gruesome places in America when it comes to fetal abortion research.” A 2022 investigation done by an outside organization and paid for by Pitt found that the University’s use of fetal tissue is “fully compliant with federal and state regulatory requirements.”

The University did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding Hawkins’ criticism of the research.

Overall, Orozco was happy with the turnout for the event.

“We are happy to see more than just our members that showed up,” Orozco said.

First-year political science major Julia Cassidy, a member of both Turning Point USA at Pitt and Pitt’s chapter of Students for Life of America, attended the event and asked a question. 

“I was really excited to attend one of the events to see what the speaker had to say and just to be around a community of people who think like me, especially on a campus that is pretty left-leaning,” Cassidy said.