“Fake News” Does not belong on Our Campus


BY RACHAEL BLANDAU – OPINIONS EDITOR

Last week a banner was hung in Cowan proclaiming a meeting for a “dialogue on Pro-life.” Yet, as was quickly ascertained, a dialogue was not the only intention of this meeting. The moderator was Brenna Lewis, a member of the non-profit organization Students for Life of America, whose mission is to abolish abortion in our lifetime. However, they do not look to accomplish their mission using the typical means of protesting at clinics that offer abortions, or using religion to convince women to change their minds. Students for Life proclaims itself the “largest youth pro-life organization,” and has established “over 1,100 student pro-life organizations and have trained tens of thousands of students nationwide.”

This is where Centre comes in.

While the advertised intention of the meeting was to have a dialogue about pro-life on campus, it became clear when entering the meeting that more was going to take place. Attendees were handed various leaflets with information about the effects of abortion, and a paper that asked for a level of knowledge about abortions before the training. Ms. Lewis started with a general introduction about her job description, and how she lived her life as a pro-life individual. While the start was very congenial, there was a change in atmosphere as soon as she brought up training, as much of the group was not there for that purpose, but to understand what being pro-life meant, and to have a healthy debate.

While Ms. Lewis was convinced to do the training after the group had a discussion, and the event itself was mostly respectful and uncontroversial, there were some aspects that were very problematic.

First, the training that was going to take place, and presumably did after we left. Was this for the formation of a pro-life campus group? If so, why has no one heard about this, and why was the Cowan banner so vague? While clubs are allowed on campus, they are generally presented before the student body in some way so students can choose whether or not to join. If the training was not for a campus group, then why did it take place on our campus as an advertised campus event?

However, the possible formation of a club itself is not the main issue. College campuses are meant to be a place of contrasting dialogues, where you can figure out your world-views and connect with others who have the same beliefs. Pro-life groups have that same right, as would any other group, controversial or not. But, that does not mean that within these gatherings there can be the spread of false information or “fake news” that could be harmful. Therefore, the literature that was being handed out by Ms. Lewis is the primary cause of concern. These leaflets contained numerous false statements, some of which could be dangerous if spread, from extremely vague statistics to some about breast cancer, mental health, and Planned Parenthood.

One particularly incorrect pamphlet stated that getting an abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, and said that pregnancies can stop the occurrence of stage 3 or 4 breast cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, the largest and probably most reliable study on the link between breast cancer and abortion took place in Denmark in the 1990s, and concluded, “induced abortion does not affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.” Another study by Harvard in 2007 came to the same conclusion, finding no link between spontaneous or induced abortion and breast cancer. So, this pamphlet not only spreads false information, but it can also be dangerous. What if a woman thought it unnecessary to get breast cancer screenings following the birth of her child because she read that breast cancer could not or is unlikely to occur because she had a child? This is an unnecessary health risk.

Although this specific example underlines the problem, being vague about something as important and controversial as abortion can also be problematic. This is emblematic of a larger question our nation has today. If no one fact checks information, how can we know the real issues facing our world?

Vague or misleading statistics such as these can cause health problems, bad decisions and more. Whether at Centre College or in our nation as a whole, it is vital to stop the spread of false information. “Fake news” has become a colloquial term since the start of the presidential election, as social media and other factors have caused incorrect information to spread like wildfire – from Facebook to real life, this is a concern. We have seen the damage it can do to our nation – why should we stand for it here at Centre?


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