Anti-abortion activist Kristan Hawkins argues abortion has ‘no place in civil society’ at UC Berkeley talk

Maya Valluru/Staff

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Anti-abortion speaker Kristan Hawkins launched her “Lies Feminists Tell” tour in UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall on Thursday evening.

With the hourlong presentation, Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America, began her eight-campus series of speeches, detailing five “lies” espoused by “mainstream feminists.” Campus organization Students for Life at Berkeley hosted the event.

The presentation walked through the history of feminism and the anti-abortion movement, culminating in the list of five alleged lies. An enthusiastic Q&A session ensued, during which key topics included the definition of feminism and the position of anti-abortion advocates in the feminist movement.

“I am not called a feminist because of one issue — abortion,” Hawkins said during her talk. “Abortion has and will always be the opposite of empowerment, and I will argue that it has no place in civil society.”

Hawkins also railed against contraception, Planned Parenthood and the belief that women can easily balance work and family life. Her views were received favorably by many audience members, who occasionally interjected calls of approval and laughter at Hawkins’ jokes. Many audience members engaged Hawkins on topics ranging from the role of religion in advocacy to successes achieved by Students for Life of America.

Berkeley resident and self-described men’s rights advocate Vance Armor, who attended the event, was one of the few audience members to openly object to parts of the speech. Armor, who considers himself “pro-life in politics,” said he agreed with cutting funding for Planned Parenthood but added that he disapproved of the generally “gynocentric” approach taken by Hawkins — which he defined as the belief that women are “the center.”

“I thought, ‘I want to see how this broke down and see if this is an approach that is pro-male and respecting the relative dignities of men and women,’ ” Armor said of his decision to attend the talk. “We in the men’s rights movement want to have reproductive rights and responsibilities for men and women to be the same.”

The few ideological differences in the crowd did not, however, flare into protest. No representatives from campus pro-abortion rights group Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley made themselves heard at the event.

Phoebe Abramowitz, external director of Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley, said her organization focused more on “positive organizing,” but she maintained that the views expressed by anti-abortion speakers such as Hawkins promote a “dangerous” stigma around abortion.

“The fight is not over, and there is a lot of work to be done. These groups thrive off the passivity of pro-choice people,” Abramowitz said.

UC Berkeley itself was not involved in the organization of the event, but campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof affirmed the campus’s commitment to free speech.

“We support the right and freedom of student organizations to bring speakers on campus,” Mogulof said. “It is part of our commitment to the First Amendment.”

Hawkins said she seeks precisely this freedom of expression. Students for Life of America previously sought to partake in the Women’s March on Washington in January but was allegedly denied partnership in the event by the organizers, according to Hawkins. Hawkins said she was also not invited to speak at the Women’s Convention in Detroit from Oct. 27-29 but has vowed to attend the convention regardless.

“We have to understand as women that our happiness, our freedom, is not found in autonomy and what serves ourselves,” Hawkins said during the event. “Our real freedom as women, as human beings, is the ability to love.”

Contact Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sophiabrownh.