Ellen Wittman, President of Students for Life, Miami University Hamilton Campus; on December 7, 2017
It wasn’t an unusual request. Nothing like it had been denied before. The same student group had got it in previous years. This year, though, when Students for Life at Miami University’s Hamilton, Ohio, regional campus, applied to put up a pro-life display, the school told her no — not unless they also put up warning signs around campus.

On November 29, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit in federal court to support the group’s free speech rights on campus. On December 7 The Stream met with Students for Life local chapter president Ellen Whitman on campus to learn more. Her ADF attorney, Travis Barham, joined by phone.

Ellen Wittman comes across as bright, confident and well assured of herself and her position. She explained her strength as simply coming from knowing the Constitution is on her side.

Restricted Speech
The display was to be a field of 200 crosses on the main campus quad, a “Cemetery of the Innocents” representing lives lost to abortion. Campus officials told them they had to post a note around campus saying: “Students for Life is displaying its annual cross event. Please contact Ellen Whitman if you have questions.” That would “shut down our speech and made us send a message we didn’t want to send,” Wittman said.

“The Constitution is the only permit we need to speak on campus.”

“Ultimately,” she pointed out, “that would not only deter people from [the display]. It would also point out who was behind it. Really, the only permit we need to speak on campus is the First Amendment. We don’t need the university to even be involved that way.”

Selective Enforcement, Compelled Speech
Miami University has an existing policy by which they claim the right to make this requirement. It has never been implemented for any group before this one, however. Selective enforcement “is one of the many problems with these policies,” according to Barham.

He added, “The university officials were trying to compel Ellen and her friends to issue a government-mandated message. … The First Amendment is very clear that universities cannot compel speech, especially when that speech directly contradicts the purpose of the speaker. They cannot force a student to put up a warning-sign message — or any message — as a condition for allowing them to speak on campus.”

Reactions on Campus
Students for Life members were “upset,” said Wittman, “knowing we were being singled out and our rights violated.” There are some 200 members on the group’s roster, with about 20 of them regularly active in meetings and events.

“The best antidote to speech we don’t like is more speech, not less.”

Other students’ reactions on campus have been “pretty friendly.” The Stream asked whether it felt like a case of pressure against her Christian faith. “Ultimately it’s more of a constitutional thing for me than a faith thing. Because this case is about free speech, it’s not necessarily about whether it’s the pro-life issue or the abortion issue. It’s about free speech, which is one of your rights.”

A Nationwide Issue
Wittman sees this as another example of free speech being “clearly under attack on campuses nationwide. … I think it’s everywhere. It needs to be addressed. I’m glad we’re able to come out and take a stand for free speech and send that message not only to the campus community here at Miami but nationwide. Our rights are being violated and we need to do something about it.”

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“I think that awareness itself is going to strengthen the free speech movement,” she said. “A lot of students might not necessarily know that universities have these policies. They’re kind of tucked away, and only implemented when the administration sees fit. Exposition and awareness to the campus community is only going to help, because all speech should be allowed on campus, no matter the viewpoint.”

Barham added there is strength to be found under the protections of the law. He noted that Alliance Defending Freedom has been defending students’ free speech rights for years.


“Offensive” Speech Is Constitutionally Protected
He also explained that some people thought the speech Ellen and her friends wanted to partake in “offensive.” 

“This case illustrates the absurd consequences of that approach,” he said. “When you have something as innocuous as a display of crosses, and when additional restrictions are put on it that aren’t placed on any other student speech on campus, it shows the absurd consequences.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly protected speech considered “offensive,” he noted. “Out of a multitude of voices truth will arise. The best antidote to speech we don’t like is more speech, not less,” said Barham.

“What is deemed ‘hate speech’ these days is a very subjective term,” added Wittman. “You can’t really limit it without completely limiting the First Amendment.”

“One of the Cornerstones of Higher Education”
“I think that ultimately we’re hoping to get a change in policy so that all students on campus can speak freely.”

The suit was filed on November 29. What happens with it next is in the university’s court to decide. What happens then depends on whether the university soon recognizes the merits of the students’ position.

“It certainly feels very discriminatory,” Wittman said. “The Constitution is the only permit we need to speak on campus. So with the fact that our speech is being conditioned, and our rights are being violated, obviously I feel very personally affected. Obviously Students for Life is affected by it as well.

“I think that ultimately we’re hoping to get a change in policy so that all students on campus can speak freely. That’s what we want. Miami University needs to encourage free speech. It’s one of the cornerstones of higher education.”


by Claire Chretien

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is officially investigating Planned Parenthood for selling baby body parts, more than two years after the release of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos.

“It is time for public officials to finally hold Planned Parenthood and their criminal abortion enterprise accountable under the law,” said David Daleiden of CMP.

Fox News broke the story Thursday evening, reporting that they had obtained a letter from Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. This letter asked for unredacted documents from that committee, which had been investigating Planned Parenthood.

“This is long-awaited, good news,” said Abby Johnson, a former abortion advocate and Planned Parenthood director who is now a pro-life activist.

“Planned Parenthood has actively participated in illegal activity, selling the body parts of aborted babies in exchange for profit,” said Johnson. “They’ve lied to the very women they purport to fight for. I saw it first-hand when I worked for the abortion giant and yet, they still manage to obtain over half a billion dollars a year in our tax dollars.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced in 2016 that it recommended the FBI and DOJ investigate and possibly prosecute Planned Parenthood, some of its affiliates, and companies involved in the trafficking of young human body parts.

The U.S. House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives also made 15 criminal referrals against abortion companies including Planned Parenthood, universities, and fetal tissue companies.

Both committees had extensively investigated Planned Parenthood and the fetal tissue trade after the release of CMP’s shocking footage of abortion executives haggling over body parts, picking through dishes of tiny organs, and joking “it’s a boy!” about a freshly-aborted baby.

The videos showed the abortion industry admitting the humanity of preborn babies in the womb by discussing their brains, livers, and other organs.

“The stark evidence points to the need for this further Department of Justice investigation to uncover the entire truth about Planned Parenthood's sale of baby body parts,” said Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council. “The fact that DOJ is requesting unredacted information shows they are serious about its investigation.”

“Congress should immediately halt any money to the abortion giant until the FBI completes their investigation,” urged Johnson.

“We applaud the Department of Justice for finally moving towards investigating Planned Parenthood for their illegal and unethical behavior,” said Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America. She said taxpayers have had “enough” of funding the trafficking of human body parts and the commission of crimes.

“Given this investigation, Congress should refuse to give another cent of its over $400 billion in annual federal funding to Planned Parenthood,” said Perkins. “The Republican-controlled Congress did this in 2015 on a reconciliation bill with 51 Senate votes which Obama vetoed. They can do so again on a reconciliation bill now that there is a pro-life president in the White House.”

Despite Republican majorities in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and White House – and many political promises to defund Planned Parenthood in 2017 – the abortion giant continues to receive massive amounts of tax dollars through Medicaid and Title X grants.

Daleiden noted that both Congressional investigations “confirmed that Planned Parenthood Federation of America, several of their biggest affiliates, and multiple business partners broke the law in a profit-driven scheme to commodify dismembered baby body parts.”

Daleiden has faced gag orders, lawsuits, and felony charges from the abortion industry and its political allies. The outcome of some of these has not yet been determined.