‘Intolerant and hostile’: Pro-life students faced unprecedented amount of free speech hurdles post-Roe

(Daily Caller) – Students for Life of America (SFLA) college chapters faced an unprecedented number of free speech violations during the 2022-2023 academic year, according to its recent…

(Daily Caller) – Students for Life of America (SFLA) college chapters faced an unprecedented number of free speech violations during the 2022-2023 academic year, according to its recent report.

The number of free speech violations SFLA students encountered in the semesters following the overturn of Roe v. Wade tripled with nearly 100 incidents reported during the fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters, according to SFLA. The infringements included incidents of vandalism, property theft, censorship attempts, assault and bullying against pro-life students.

“Incidents have never poured in like this before, and it’s very clear that following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, life for pro-life students on campus has changed drastically,” Olivia Garza, SFLA legal correspondent, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The abortion lobby has become more intolerant and hostile, and I’m so proud of our students for staying the course regardless of obstacles put in their path. We will continue to fight for their right to free speech.”

The most commonly reported violations involved destruction of property, theft and vandalism against pro-life chapters, according to the report. Pro-abortion students ripped the head off of a fetal model during a pro-life display at Rider University in New Jersey in September 2022, SFLA reported, while other chapters reported stolen flyers, “ruin[ed] expensive educational display boards” or erased chalked pro-life messages.

The second-most reported incidents involved censorship attempts by university administrations, according to SFLA, while other reported incidents included “death threats, student petitions to shut SFLA groups down, denial from administration or student governments to start an SFLA group, online bullying and threats, physical assaults, huge security bills for the SFLA groups to host SFLA President, Kristan Hawkins, and public smear campaigns.”

A recent event featuring Hawkins and Turning Point USA contributor Isabel Brown at Virginia Commonwealth University was derailed when pro-abortion protesters shouted down the speakers and turned violent, leading to the speakers being evacuated from the room. Two protesters were arrested and SFLA chapter president Autumn Walser reportedly received a leg injury while other students received cuts and scratches during the unruliness.

A pro-abortion student threw a cup of urine at a College of William & Mary pro-life students who held a display during SFLA’s “Abortion Is Not Right” fall semester tour, SFLA reported. A Bowling Green State University student was arrested in February and charged with criminal mischief after vandalizing a flag display visualizing the total number of abortions conducted per year.

“What are we teaching our students when they can’t use their Constitutional Rights on school campuses? Americans should be deeply concerned about the lack of pro-life free speech in educational settings,” SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said in the press release. “When student groups receive death threats, have urine thrown on them, and get assaulted at their own events, we must acknowledge that the First Amendment doesn’t exist in some places. It can be frightening to be pro-life — and yet it’s more important now than ever.”

The frequency of the reports leads SFLA’s legal team to expect the total number of violations to reach 100 by the end of April, according to the report. SFLA “strives to give students an appropriate platform to challenge their administration when their rights are violated,” Garza told the DCNF.

“Sometimes, we help them share their story publicly to expose unconstitutional decisions made by their campuses and use the courts of public opinion to make a difference,” she said. “Other times, our legal counsel helps them find resolutions legally.”