When the University of New Hampshire Students for Life planned an event on campus, opponents of their pro-life politics took action. They planned their own event in the same building and simultaneously as a counterprotest to the Students for Life event.
This counterprogramming is significant because it was launched not by the pro-lifers’ fellow students but by UNH administrators — specifically the UNH Health and Wellness Center. And it is part of what pro-life UNH students say is a culture of opposition and intimidation at the Durham campus.
Katelyn Regan, president of the UNH pro-life group, said issues started soon after flyers went up advertising a talk by Kristan Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America, called “Lies Pro Choicers Believe.”
Hawkins’ speech also features Isabel Brown, a conservative commentator with Turning Point USA. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18.
“We started to advertise and spread the word, and it didn’t take long for the UNH Health and Wellness Center to announce plans to host their own event. It’s in the exact same building at the exact same time,” Regan said.
The Health and Wellness Center is part of the UNH administration and is funded by taxpayers and student fees. It is not a student organization or a stand-alone entity.
The Health and Wellness Department’s “Choice & Cupcakes” is advertised as a “joyful celebration of abortion as healthcare.” The joyful abortion event also promised to give students safe sex supplies. Regan said the college was obviously trying to mute the pro-life event.
“There’s no way this was a coincidence,” Regan said.
And it’s not.
Erika Mantz, UNH’s executive director for media relations, confirmed the Health and Wellness Center planned their “Cupcakes & Choice” specifically to counter the pro-life speeches. After NHJournal and students began asking questions about the timing, the event was postponed.
“The ‘Cupcakes & Choice’ event was planned by a university office in response to student concerns,” Mantz told NHJournal. “Once the university learned the event had been planned for the same time as the Students for Life event, the decision was made to postpone it to avoid any perception that the university opposed a student event.
“UNH supports and is committed to protecting the principles of free speech, free expression, and the free exercise of religion,” Mantz added.
Not long after finding out about the school’s counterprogramming, Regan got an email from Patrick O’Neil, chairman of the UNH Student Activity Fee Committee, demanding that UNH Students for Life take down all the advertising for the event.
Regan told NH Journal that due to a mistake, the UNH Students for Life flyers included a disclaimer that the Student Activity Fee funds the event. That is not accurate, though the fee funds the printing of the flyers.
Because of that error, O’Neil wanted UNH Students for Life to take down all the flyers and replace them with copies with the correct disclaimer. All advertising materials for student club events that the college prints are required to have a disclaimer under school policy.
The school print shop had already approved the flyers, with no one catching the error. The demand to have the flyers removed clearly came after people on campus started to complain about pro-life speakers coming to the school, Regan said.
Regan told O’Neil in an email that he was free to find all of the erroneous flyers and replace them himself.
“Given that our flyers went through the approval process and nothing was flagged, we will not be taking down our flyers and will continue to use the flyers we have left over. Our event is a week away, and the incorrect print is so [small] that no one will pay too close attention to it anyway,” Regan wrote.
“Given that the mistake was overlooked by your office, if it is as big an issue as you make it seem, please feel free to take them down yourselves and replace them with the proper wording.”
Mantz said the mistake with the disclaimer should have been caught by the Student Activity Committee during the printing process. The UNH administration was not involved.
Regan has pushed against the UNH Health & Wellness pro-abortion culture for years. Health & Wellness staffers make referrals to the nearby abortion clinic for students seeking the procedure, but it does not refer pregnant women to the pro-life pregnancy center, which is closer to campus, she said.
In a podcast interview with NHJournal, Regan revealed that the Health and Wellness Center won’t allow students to even post information about crisis pregnancy centers on the same bulletin board covered with material from Planned Parenthood.
“Health and Wellness has refused to let us put up any life-affirming resource materials,” Regan said. “They have a brochure wall, and half of those brochures have a lovely little Planned Parenthood stamp on the bottom of them. They won’t let us.”
The UNH administration’s response to the pro-life event could be seen as a contradiction to its celebration of success supporting free speech on campus. UNH is ranked the third-best school in the U.S. for protecting and promoting free speech by FIRE, a national watchdog organization.