Paul Moreno, professor of history and dean of social sciences, is teaching a seminar on the history of abortion this semester. With about 30 students enrolled, Moreno has lectures twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays, and students have the option to choose which section to attend on any given week.
“The chief thing I wanted to do in this course is to give the students an accurate history of the abortion issue,” Moreno said. “That history is grossly distorted by law professors like Cyril Means and historians like James Mohr. Hundreds of professional historians prostituted themselves, signing briefs in Supreme Court cases that attested to this distorted history.”
Moreno requires no books and provides handouts for the course but asks students to stay informed about the current events and stories around the abortion issue. He asks them to scan media sources throughout the semester, particularly regarding their home state, and three times throughout the semester, the students are to send him the link or photocopy of the story and evaluate how the writer addresses and uses the history of the issue in the story.
“Both sides have distorted the history, though the pro-abortion side has done so wholesale and the pro-life side retail,” Moreno said.
Moreno cautions students to “believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.”
Senior Andres Torres, who plans on going into medicine, said he wants to understand the medical side of the debate.
“I want to understand why the practice of abortion has been endorsed by the medical community,” Torres said. “As I am going to enter the medical field, I believe that I need to know about the practices that I know that I will refuse to practice on a moral basis.”
For junior Megan Kerr, who is also in the seminar, the abortion issue is also extremely important and hits close to home since since she has a special needs brother.
“When I first heard about abortions targeting babies who are at risk of having special needs and developmental disabilities, I was outraged,” Kerr said. “I feel like it is my job to fight for them and for all the preborn because the sanctity of life ought to be celebrated at any and all stages.”
Kerr wanted to take the seminar to learn more about the seminal cases that have surrounded the issue.
“I recognized that this seminar was going to be a great way to be educated on the evolution of the abortion debate, and I wanted to learn more about what I was fighting for,” she said.
Sophomore Bryna Destefani is also taking the course and the whole issue of abortion is particularly important at this time in her life.
“My husband, who is also a sophomore here at Hillsdale, and I are expecting our first child this summer. As a new mother, I am reminded that so many young women are told that abortion is their best, and almost only, option for an unplanned pregnancy,” Destefani said.
As Destefani experiences pregnancy, she said she wants to be more educated on the history of an issue that has been constantly developing with new laws and understand how the history and debates have brought the country to this point.
“Learning about abortion practices during my pregnancy is both a challenging and powerfully real experience. As we talk about laws concerning weeks and viability, I am experiencing these milestones of pregnancy firsthand,” Destefani said. “It is such cruelty to young women to tell them that the best way to support them is to ‘terminate’ their child’s life, rather than supporting them through their pregnancy.”
Moreno has regularly taught U.S. history after World War II. In one of his classes when he discussed Roe v. Wade, a student asked Moreno if he could teach a one-credit course just focusing on abortion history.
“And now it’s in the news every day, so it’s very timely,” Moreno said.