More than 300 pack Bell Museum for abortion debate

Visiting philosophers debated the ethics of abortion Friday night.

by Cali Owings

Despite a nearly hour-long delay, University of Minnesota students joined a crowd that filled the Bell Museum auditorium to hear visiting philosophers debate the ethics of abortion Friday night. The crowd, which included people from outside the University community, pushed the auditoriumâÄôs capacity limits, with people sitting in the aisles and listening from the doorways. Nicholas Stommes, vice president of Students for Human Life, which sponsored the debate, estimated there were more than 300 people at the debate and several were turned away. Stommes attributed the high attendance to the popularity of professor Peter Kreeft from Boston University, who presented the pro-life argument. Kreeft has written more than 60 books on philosophy and is a popular speaker. Harry Geist, an attendee and longtime fan of Kreeft, called him âÄúthe Catholic C.S. Lewis.âÄù By a show of hands, the majority of people attending the debate were pro-life, but the crowd listened intently to the pro-choice argument presented by professor David Boonin from the University of Colorado. Boonin, author of âÄúA Defense of Abortion,âÄù exposed the crowd to what he considers an âÄúunorthodoxâÄù argument in the public abortion debate. âÄúThe right to life is not the right to be kept alive by another person,âÄù Boonin said. To illustrate his point, Boonin used the analogy of a bone marrow transplant. Someone who needs a bone marrow transplant to survive would not be able to force another person into giving bone marrow. Junior nursing major and president of Students for Human Life Leona Jovanovich said BooninâÄôs argument was the best pro-choice argument she had ever heard. But Kreeft called his symbolic logic âÄúbizarreâÄù and invoked Emmanuel KantâÄôs âÄúcategorical imperativeâÄù philosophy to argue against abortion. The categorical imperative is the same as the golden rule, he said: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Kreeft said if you donâÄôt want others killing you, you donâÄôt kill others. He also claimed that unborn children should be considered people. He challenged pro-choice philosophers to provide an argument that did not also support infanticide. Boonin claimed a woman who disconnects herself from providing life-support to a fetus is not killing and, therefore, certain types of abortion that involve removing the fetus are morally acceptable. âÄúIf abortion isnâÄôt wrong, there are very few things that can be classified as wrong,âÄù said Kreeft. âÄòA terribly important issueâÄô Jovanovich said she wanted the debate to encourage thought. âÄúWe think that presenting two very strong but opposing voices will help people to really critically examine their own views,âÄù Jovanovich said. Scott Deeney, an officer of Medical Students for Human Life, said he hoped the debate would eliminate unfair characterizations. âÄú[Pro-choice supporters] are not monsters, and weâÄôre not religious fanatics,âÄù Deeney said. Both Kreeft and Boonin, who have debated each other before, agreed the debate went well. Boonin said he was impressed by the questions his argument provoked. âÄúI like participating in these kind of events [because] I can expose some of my arguments to people who disagree with me,âÄù Boonin said. âÄúI want them to âÄî at the very least âÄî see that the argument against abortion is not as simple and straightforward as they think it is.âÄù Kreeft said he thought they needed to have more debates. âÄúItâÄôs a terribly important issue, abortion,âÄù he said. âÄúWhoever is right here is very right and whoever is wrong is very wrong.âÄù