On Tuesday, Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation addressed a student forum at Harvard University, a 90-minute discussion on abortion in the black community that turned hostile when students began shouting and walking out during the Q & A portion.
In an event co-sponsored by Law Students for Life and Harvard Black Law Students Association, Bomberger spoke opposite Professor Diane Rosenfeld, lecturer and director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School. As students filed in, the auditorium at the historic Austin Hall neared capacity.
“I speak on college campuses often, and I applaud these two groups partnering for an event that brought together so many different political stripes in the room,” said Bomberger following the event. “They were hoping to have 50 to 100 students, and more than 160 showed up which blew them away.”
A black man who recently won a lawsuit brought against him and his wife by the NAACP, Bomberger explains that abortion in the black community is a personal issue for him. “I was once considered black and unwanted. It was very hard, at the time I was born, to place black children for adoption; so few families were available, because they used same-race criteria.”
He continues, “Today, abortion has a hugely disproportionate impact on the black community. Part of addressing this is dispelling the myth that black children are less than others. Regardless of pigmentation or any other traits, injustice should be a concern to everyone.”
Ironically, the Harvard chapter of Reproductive Justice—a national pro-choice activism group—caused the most uproar over his visit. “Any opportunity to speak the truth is important, but this forum did not allow for an effective presentation primarily because those with Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice displayed behavior not befitting the name of Harvard University.”
Multiple sources confirm that, once the forum opened for questions following opening remarks, students repeatedly addressed Bomberger using profanity. The New Boston Post noted the event shifted to a “confrontational tone.”
Chrystal Benedict, who attended the event after a friend invited her, was disappointed many students refused to hear differing opinions. “I was surprised that what was meant to be a ‘safe space for students to hear different perspectives’ wasn’t that at all. If you disagreed with the pro-choice opinion, you had to prepare for a verbal attack of outrage.”
When Bomberger began to respond to a question but was continually interrupted, he asked, “Do you want to hear my answer?” The interrupting student replied, “No! No, I don’t want to hear your answer.”
Caleb Wolanek, Harvard J.D. candidate and Vice President of Law Students for Life, noted that Bomberger addressed students with respect despite not always being given the same courtesy. “Even when asked difficult questions, Ryan gave thoughtful, well-researched responses.”
“Ryan also tried to make clear that this is a multi-faceted issue. Adoption, health care, poverty, education and many other factors must be considered when discussing abortion in black communities,” said Wolanek.
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Josh M. Shepherd