New pro-life organization comes into conflict with SGA event


Kennith Woods

Multiple graphics detailing important beliefs and symbols of the pro-life movement were put on display during Southeastern Students For Life’s pro-life exposition.

On Wednesday morning, Southeastern Students for Life, a newly-formed pro-life organization on campus, caused an uproar when its social media apparently used an SGA event as publicity to draw more people to its expo. 

“Come see us at free speech alley!” the group wrote on its Instagram story, referring to SGA’s “Free Speech Alley,” an event held during the same time as the expo that invited students to voice their opinions on the death penalty. In reality, the events had nothing to do with each other, and the SGA was not happy about Students for Life piggybacking off of its event. After SGA confronted them over the use of their promotional material, the conflict was then brought to administration to resolve. 

For Students for Life, the controversy with SGA was the climax of an eventful day that began with their pro-life exposition, their first event of the semester. The expo displayed multiple graphics on abortion and the pro-life movement as a whole. 

“We are a fairly new organization, this is our first semester here. Really, our goal is to let people know that there are resources out there. You do not have to choose an abortion. We just want to be a voice for those that are in a rough spot in their life, and we’re just here to support them,” said Trent Rodriguez, the group’s secretary. 

Students for Life is led by its president Harlee Barbier. She’s been a pro-life activist since she was 15, according to the organization’s Instagram page. Barbier is a volunteer coordinator for the organization Live to Love for Life, a ministry “focused on educating and empowering others to advocate in a culture of life,” according to its website

The expo featured large abortion and pro-life graphics. One banner included murals of adopted celebrities including Jamie Foxx, Steve Jobs, Marilyn Monroe and Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who helped end apartheid. The graphic suggested their accomplishments would have been impossible if their moms had abortions.

Another graphic on display during the event featured a young man named Nik Hoot, a former high school wrestler who survived an abortion attempt that cost him his “right leg, left foot, and a few of his fingers.” He rose to prominence in Feb. 2013 when the Catholic News Agency chronicled his story while he was a 16-year-old sophomore attending Woodlawn High School in Woodburn, Ind. Ever since, he and other abortion survivors have served as symbols for the pro-life movement. 

While many students came to learn more about the pro-life movement, not all were pleased with the display. Matty Matthews, a senator for Student Government Association, was among the students who voiced their displeasure with the organization’s presence on campus. 

“I am very pro-choice. As a trans man, I understand what it’s like to have your body policed. I’d never put that kind of pressure on a woman, it’s her body and it’s her choice,” Matthews said. 

On the other side of the issue was Louisiana Right to Life’s college director and youth programs director for North Louisiana Kandace Landreneau, who led the expo. She said, “I’ve never met a woman who said that they were thrilled about having an abortion, that they were so excited to have an abortion. They did it because they couldn’t afford it, or they were scared they were going to have to drop out of school, or things of that nature. That’s a travesty. That’s not a choice.”

Landreneau expressed the pro-life movement “absolutely support[s] giving resources out to women” in need of assistance during pregnancy. She said they “don’t take a stance” on providing resources such as contraceptives, comprehensive sex education and affordable health care, though. However, according to a study done by the Guttmacher Institute, access to contraception, especially highly effective contraception, leads to a decrease in abortions. 

Affordable health care and abortion were linked in another study by the Society for Human Resource Management, which found that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover birth control and other contraceptives reduced abortion rates. Also, research from the online science forum NewsWise suggests comprehensive sex education decreases abortion rates by lowering the level of teen pregnancies.   

Matthews said he felt it is not “appropriate for people like that to be on campus.” He acknowledged Students for Life didn’t verbally berate anyone during its expo, which he admits is better than other pro-life groups that have been on campus. The event’s seeming warmth did nothing to change his stance on its message.

“Their group is probably the best of the protestors coming to campus, but that isn’t saying much at all. Not verbally assaulting people really shouldn’t be the bare minimum,” Matthews said. 

Though its exposition was met with backlash, Students for Life intends to stay and continue the spread of pro-life ideals on campus. For more information on the organization, contact the president via email at [email protected]. For more information on abortion statistics, visit the Pew Research Center and the World Health Organization.