Burning the Straw Man

Graphic by Louise Nillas

Rebuttal of Aug. 19 op-ed “Born Equal”

In their latest issue, The Mercury published an opinion piece attacking the student organization Comets for the Pre-born for not openly protesting the ICE detention centers on the border and, therefore, supposedly acting in violation of their platform defending the sanctity of all life — including the unborn. I would also like to note that — between The Mercury and AMP — this is the fourth article that has been published by UTD’s student media (and the second by managing editor of AMP, Ruqiya Barreh) attacking this organization. At some point, I hope that someone will explain to me what CftP has done to deserve such antagonism besides, you know, existing. But it is neither my pro-life stance nor the numerous attacks against a student organization that has provoked me to write this letter. What compelled me to formalize my protest was the simple fact that The Mercury allowed an opinion piece to be published containing not an ounce of actual evidence to support it.

Barreh, the author of the piece, begins her commentary with the accusation that “instead of rising against the barbaric attacks on human rights at our borders …CftP have chosen to concentrate their efforts on vilifying a medical procedure.” Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that, according to Pew Research and a 2019 Gallup Poll, 48% of Americans viewed the above mentioned ‘medical procedure’ as morally wrong, including 51% of women and 51% of Hispanic/non-white individuals. By using the word “instead” Barreh creates a false dichotomy: as if one cannot possibly fight for the rights of the unborn and the human rights of those at the border at the same time. As I personally am a strong advocate for both, I can tell you that it is most definitely possible. 

Furthermore, when Barreh delves into the logic that is supposed to support her argument, she cites a laundry list of physical and emotional harm inflicted on immigrants by ICE agents in the last few years. She details the abuse of pregnant women, detained migrants whose squalid living conditions and lack of medical attention caused them to miscarry and a statistic from The New York Times citing 859 reports of sexual abuse. Now let me start by stating that I agree wholeheartedly with Barreh in that these are atrocities and human rights violation which should most definitely be rectified, even railed against. However, what Barreh is doing here is constructing a “red herring”; a kind of logical fallacy called an “ignoratio elenchi” or “irrelevant conclusion”. The abuses made by ICE agents at the border, while deplorable, are completely unrelated to whether or not Comets for the Preborn actually value the sanctity of life. It would likely serve as decent justification for the argument that ICE agents don’t value the sanctity of life. But I checked. None of the CftP members work for ICE. Let me also note here that Barreh also accuses CftP of essentially being xenophobic racists by citing “their apparent disdain for people of color” and supposed belief “that minorities’ lives are worth inherently less than unborn ones,” all the while failing to provide any data, testimony or witnesses to verify what I would consider a very serious accusation. 

In fact, Barreh gives no evidence that any pro-life group is in favor of the detention centers or actions taken at the border at all. So allow me to provide some facts for her. Over the course of the last 11 months, the National Association of Evangelicals, a group which has repeatedly submitted pro-life amicus briefs to  Supreme Court, has led 24 separate relief trips to the border and facilitated over 250 one-on-one consultations between potential asylum seekers and U.S immigration law professionals. The World Relief organization, a group whose president published an op-ed in The New York Times titled “I am pro-life and pro-refugee,” works to provide presentations on immigration and asylum law in churches. Members of World Relief have opened both their homes and churches to asylum seekers as living spaces while better accommodations can be made. But let’s take church groups out of it for a moment. In a campaign called “Bottles for the Border” New Wave Feminists, a secular pro-life group, partnered with roughly 50 different pro-life organizations to raise $130,000 dollars in funds and supplies (including diapers, formula, water and more) to be delivered to the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, TX. The National Review quoted Herndon de-La Rosa, the founder of the group, as saying “As pro-lifers, we must stand with the vulnerable wherever and whenever we see them suffering.” And “We are pro-lifers because we care about the inherent human dignity of the living person, inside the womb and out.”

I don’t know if members of Comets for the Pre-Born have any particular thoughts or feelings on the border crisis. As a student organization (and I will re-emphasize the word “student”), I think they have about as much of an obligation to comment on the situation as any other group on campus does — which is to say, none. But I would hope that in the future, any accusations leveled against CftP would include, at the very least, the mere suggestion of relevant facts. Or perhaps, we could treat them like any other student organization, respect their right to an opinion and just leave them alone.

Madeleine Keith is a political science senior from Garland, Texas.

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