Anti-abortion activist sparks heated debate


audience

An audience gathers on Feb. 28 for the Central Michigan Students for Life event featuring speaker Rebecca Kiessling in Anspach 255.

Anti-abortion activist and lawyer, Rebecca Kiessling, was escorted to her car by police after she said she was harassed and disrespected by a pro-choice student during her lecture Tuesday night in Anspach Hall.

Central Michigan University’s Students for Life group hosted Conceived by Rape on Feb. 28, a presentation Kiessling does all over the country designed to share her story as child born from sexual assault.

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Students packed inside the classroom to hear Kiessling share her life story.

A group of Planned Parenthood and pro-choice supporters were the first to file into the classroom. They filled up the entire back row, forcing some of them to stand, and students were forced to retrieve extra chairs.

After speaking for an hour, Kiessling answered questions from attendees. Disagreement in regard to abortion dominated the atmosphere. The debate between supporters and opponents of the pro-life movement got so heated that Kiessling felt scared for her personal safety and had campus police walk her to her car.

In a Facebook post following the event, Kiessling described a male attendee who mocked her with hand gestures throughout the presentation. During the question and answer segment, the man kept his hand raised despite her refusal to answer his questions.

“Then he came up and started harassing me when we were all done and someone called campus police to make sure I was protected and could be walked out because he was swearing at me,” the post stated. “There was another guy there who seemed to be belligerent as well.”

Since last night, the post was deleted by Facebook and Kiessling has been blocked from using the site for three days. 

There was friction between Kiessling and students who disagreed with her position throughout the presentation.

Kiessling started her story by telling the audience she was adopted “pretty much from birth.” Although she loved her adopted parents, she was curious to know who her biological parents were and why they gave her up.

After turning 18, Kiessling set out to answer those questions. When legal papers informed her that her biological father was a rapist, she was dissuaded from opening any lines of communication with him.

Quinn Kirby | Central Michigan Life

Co-founder of Hope After Rape Conception, Rebecca Kiessling, speaks during an event put on by Central Michigan Students for Life in Anspach 255 on Feb 28.

She received permission to contact her mother from a judge, and did so when she turned 19. Their relationship has blossomed since and they continue to talk today.

Her mother was brutally raped by a stranger when Kiessling was conceived and she said if abortion had been legal at the time, she would have gone through with the procedure.

“I owe my birth to the law because they had protected me when I needed protecting,” Kiesling said.

Kiessling now spends her life speaking out against abortion, especially in situations of rape. Her biological mother told her this advocacy changed her mind on the topic, and is now glad she did not abort Kiessling.

Some students in the audience shared their personal stories and told Kiessling if impregnated by their molesters, they would have wanted the option to have an abortion.

Some students also questioned Kiessling’s stance regarding abortion in cases of incest. She answered by saying pregnancy would have protected them from the abuse they were enduring.

This sparked instant uproar as offended students left the lecture.

“This event was very interesting to say the least," Chicago freshman Natalie Weith said. "During the Q&A I had to leave because the topics were so heavy and no one could see eye to eye.”

Several students in the audience accused Kiessling of only answering questions that pertained to her own life experiences, and would defer from questions with broader implications.

“It was more or less annoying when we were trying to ask her questions and she wasn’t answering them,” said Grand Rapids junior Natalie Visser, who is also a member of the Organization of Women Leaders. “She was just relating back to her life stories when she answered them.”

Shortly after the presentation, the Central Michigan Students for Life group sent out an email apologizing for the event. 

"Heated discussion often occurs when talking about these issues and we wanted to apologize when this discussion increased past heated into insensitive," the email stated. "We appreciate those of you who chose to share personal stories and are very sorry that the environment was not supportive of you." 

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