GVSU and MSU students debate abortion
Abortion, the controversial issue that has been at the heart of many arguments, will become the focus once again in a debate set to happen tonight.
Students for Life and the Philosophy Club at Grand Valley State University will be hosting the event, which will bring two Michigan State University students to Allendale to argue their opinions.
Though Students for Life interacts with many religious groups, it is a secular group, said R.J. McVeigh, the organization’s president.
“We defend our position using science and philosophy—not religion,” McVeigh said. “This is often an untrue assumption about pro-life groups. We have both religious members and secular members.”
Pro-life and pro-choice groups have been debating the issue of abortion for ages, but McVeigh said he isn’t aware of when GVSU last held a debate for students—if ever.
“We openly admit to focusing mostly on abortion,” McVeigh said, because of the issue’s prevalence and how it affects college-age adults.
The organization’s members also address issues such as capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia.
“Students for Life is a group that focuses on the importance of protecting human life at all stages,” McVeigh said.
He will team up with GVSU freshman Bailey Wright to present the pro-life side, and the two MSU students, Brad Varner and Mitchell Pawlak, will debate from the pro-choice position.
Varner, a freshman at MSU majoring in physics and math, met McVeigh over Facebook after posting a status with his opinion on abortion. Through a friend of a friend, McVeigh saw the status, befriended Varner, and a number of “mini-debates” ensued.
“Then one day I got a message from R.J. saying he appreciated my debate style,” Varner said. “He wanted to have another abortion debate in person, onstage (and) in front of an audience. I couldn’t say no to that.”
For the majority of cases when abortion occurs, Varner holds the belief that it is morally permissible. “I would prefer a world in which we did not need abortions but I understand their benefit,” he said.
For Varner, debating is about finding the truth and following the logic and evidence wherever it leads.
“Debating means that views are not respected, but the individuals who hold them are,” he said. “The views are to be hacked apart to see their moving pieces, then reconstructed to see if they live up to expectations, and then taken apart every so often and at any challenge to see if they still maintain integrity.”
Senior philosophy major Malachi Sullivan is no stranger to debates. Acting as president of the Philosophy Club on campus, he has participated in other more informal debates and will act as moderator to ensure the debate doesn’t get too heated.
“The people that are debating are familiar with each other, so that might help keep things under control,” Sullivan said.
The structure of the debate should also help keep things in line, he said.
The debate will consist of two panels with two people on each side. The first panel will be allowed 15 minutes to argue their position, then the second panel will have five minutes to ask questions for clarification.
The second panel will then present their position for 15 minutes, followed by five minutes of clarification questions by the first panel. Each side will then have 10 minutes for rebuttal and five minutes for concluding remarks. Questions and answers from the audience will follow the debate.
The debate will be held 7:30-9:30 p.m. in 107 Manitou Hall.
The Students for Life organization meets Mondays at 9 p.m. in 1104 Kirkhof Center. For more information on the Philosophy Club and a recently formed Debate Club, attend the organization’s meetings Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. in B 1124 Makinac Hall.
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