By Brooke Beyer
The Stanford College Republicans (SCR) and Stanford Debate Society (SDS) squared off in a heated debate over a potential nationwide ban of abortion at all stages of pregnancy. Sparked by the recent changes to abortion laws in Alabama and other states, the societies convened on Tuesday night with the aim of encouraging respectful and fruitful discourse.
Around 100 students attended the debate, which was moderated by SDS treasurer Andrew Chizewer ’20. Representing SCR were third-year medical student Dylan Griswold, Michelle Murata ’22 and Myriam Yao ’20.
“We should ban abortion just as we ban murder,” said Murata, who began the debate by laying out the key principles of SCR’s argument to criminalize abortions at every stage of pregnancy.
She argued that humans are human from their moment of conception and all are innocent until birth; thus, abortion is the intentional killing of humans.
SDS members Jasmine Sun ’21, Danielle Mitalipov ’20 and Ben Anderson ’19 represented the side of opposition to the motion, though they clarified that the views espoused by the individuals debating did not represent the views of SDS, which is a nonpartisan organization.
SDS responded to SCR’s argument with an emphasis on bodily autonomy and the weighing of rights of humans at different stages of development.
Accusing SCR of being “pro-control, not pro-life,” Mitalipov appealed to the audience with rhetorical questions, asking audience members to consider whose life they would prioritize: a toddler or an embryo.
“We know exactly whose lives we are prioritizing,” Sun said.
In contrast, members of the proposition emphasized the equality of life despite age or development. Griswold cited each embryo as a “distinct human person.”
The debate focused primarily on policy and addressed key questions of personhood, government intervention in bodily autonomy and the relationship between moral obligation and physical action.
A primary point of contention was the central disagreement over the definition of human life, with members of SCR forwarding the notion that life begins at conception, while SDS argued that humans gain different rights to life at different stages of development.
The debate also touched on the relationship between moral decision-making and government policy, with SDS arguing that it is not the government’s role to determine the morality of such matters.
Mitalipov objected to SCR’s argument that criminalizing abortions will be beneficial, citing many ways to prevent unsafe abortions and asking, “Why [is the] proposition only interested in the [method] that kills and subordinates women?”
While the debate topic was highly sensitive, the debate was strictly professional, with moderator Chizewer enforcing respectful discourse from both sides and limiting audience interjection to a post-debate Q&A.
“[Abortion] has the capacity to be very polarizing,” said audience member Ashley Phord-Toy ’22. “I consume lots of liberal media; therefore I feel it is important to receive a balanced view of such topics.”
This article has been corrected to reflect that Danielle Mitalipov objected to SCR’s argument that criminalizing abortion will be beneficial, not Jasmine Sun. The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Brooke Beyer at bbeyer ‘at’ stanford.edu.