Johns Hopkins Relents, Recognizes Student Pro-Life Group
April 10, 2013
After intense national pressure and a strongly-worded letter from a pro-life legal group, Johns Hopkins University is finally recognizing a pro-life student group that had been denied official status.
Voice for Life (VFL) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has officially been granted recognized group status after members of the student government initially likened it to a white supremacist group. This unanimous decision by the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Judiciary Committee overturns the SGA Senate’s rejection of VFL.
The pro-life group had been denied official status because the SGA had deemed sidewalk counseling “harassment” under JHU rules and because of a link on VFL’s website to an organization that posts graphic images of aborted babies. Internal SGA emails had also revealed a bias among members against pro-lifers.
Despite the action, HU administration agreed with Students for Life of America and Voice for Life and gave an opinion that sidewalk counseling was protected free speech – as the Supreme Court has ruled – and did not violate any university rules or codes.
Andrew Guernsey, President of JHU VFL told LifeNews: “We commend the SGA Judiciary for honoring Johns Hopkins’ institutional commitment to free speech by overturning Voice for Life’s rejection by the SGA Senate. Today is a victory not only for pro-life students here at Johns Hopkins, but for pro-life students around the country. ”
He added: “We hope that our story of rising above discriminatory opposition can inspire pro-life students around the country to courageously take a stand for life at their own college campuses. On behalf of JHU Voice for Life, I wish to thank all our supporters in the Hopkins-Baltimore community and around the country. I especially want to express my gratitude to Students for Life, FIRE, and the Thomas More Law Center for their support in helping us win approval from the SGA. It is important that pro-life students like us who face unjust discrimination on their college campuses know that they are not alone, and that there are powerful resources to help them win the battle for free speech in order to win the war of defending the dignity of every human life.”
Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, told LifeNews she is elated by the decision.
“We are so proud of our students in Voice for Life for courageously standing up to the pro-abortion forces in their student government and on their campus that sought to silence them for their beliefs,” she said. “In this case, the private personal character attacks on pro-lifers as racists and misogynists that we know go on all the time were exposed for the world to see.”
She said, “The national outcry these revelations provoked forced the JHU student government reconsider its anti-free speech stance, but this is the kind of discrimination pro-life students face across the country every day. Students for Life will always fight for students who are attacked and have their rights violated as they peacefully spread the positive Culture of Life on their campuses.”
“We stand with Andrew, Monica, and other Voice for Life students as they fight to abolish abortion despite the harassment and hateful allegations hurled their way. They are the leaders of this pro-life generation and we look forward to helping VFL continue to change hearts and minds at Johns Hopkins,” she added.
Monica Rex, Vice President of JHU VFL also commented: “Now that the SGA Judiciary Committee has approved us, we are ready to begin the real work of saving lives! While the road was difficult, we have learned just how much this fight for life means to us, and how important it is that students at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to hear our pro-life message. Johns Hopkins has always stood for the very best in higher education, and we look forward to bringing our pro-life message to future leaders in the medical industry here at Hopkins.”
The Thomas More Law Center, a pro-life legal group that aided VFL, chimed in as well.
Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel, commented: “This is a great example of courageous students facing tremendous opposition, sticking to their deeply held pro-life principles and advancing those principles based on their right to free speech so deeply engrained in our culture, enshrined in our constitution, and fostered at Johns Hopkins University.”
TMLC, whose mission includes defending the constitutional rights of pro-life groups and individuals, representing VFL, authored an April 4th letter to top Johns Hopkins University officials and the SGA Judiciary Committee laying out the legal basis requiring recognition of VFL.