Earlier this year, several Johns Hopkins students applied for Student Government Association (SGA) recognition and funding for a Voice for Life group, which would be a “strong pro-life” group aiming “to defend the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being from conception until natural death, and especially to be a voice for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society threatened by abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos for research.” But on March 12, the SGA rejected the group’s appeal, on the grounds that some of its proposed activities (“sidewalk counseling” outside an abortion clinic on Calvert Street) were in violation of the university’s harassment policies. That’s when everyone started to get really upset.

First of all, Voice of Life appealed the SGA’s decision. The sidewalk counseling would entail “peaceful, non-aggressive” efforts to intervene outside the abortion clinic, according to group organizer Andrew Guernsey; there would be no shouting or physical obstruction. The group pledged to obey all laws. But because Hopkins is a private institution, they can determine how free speech functions at the school — and the SGA decided that the sidewalk counseling, coupled with the group’s possibly-offensive website, was too much. (There were also fears that the group would prominently display rubber fetuses and photos of aborted babies on campus property.) Meanwhile, a former SGA president and Hopkins alum is arguing that the student government has gone too far in rejecting the group’s application, and an editorial in the school’s student paper has drawn many heated responses.

According to an article in the Johns Hopkins Newsletter, the SGA’s decision may have been influenced by the negative press that Towson University’s White Student Union has brought upon that school. (An anonymous individual leaked private SGA emails to the student paper and other websites.) Certain conservative websites are seizing on the leaked emails, claiming that the SGA has equated pro-life views with white supremacy.  No decision has yet been made on the group’s appeal of the SGA’s decision.