The mother of an anti-abortion activist who made national headlines earlier this month after her physical confrontation with a UCSB professor on campus has made a public plea for more civil discourse around the divisive incident. Catherine Short, legal director for the Life Legal Defense Foundation, said that while Professor Mireille Miller-Young’s conduct has sparked justified criticism, it has also generated unwarranted personal attacks — many of them tinged with racist and sexist overtones — via social media and other online outlets.
Short’s daughters, 21-year-old Joan and 16-year-old Thrin, had traveled to UCSB with a Christian group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and erected large signs of aborted fetuses when they were allegedly accosted by Miller-Young. According to the Short sisters, Miller-Young stole one of the signs, shoved and scratched Thrin when she tried to follow her, then destroyed the sign in her office with help from students. Miller-Young has been charged with theft, battery, and vandalism, and her arraignment is scheduled for next Friday.
In a prepared statement provided to The Independent on Thursday, Short also takes exception with language used by Michael D. Young, UCSB’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, in an email he sent to students following the confrontation and its ensuing news coverage. Read Short’s full statement below:
In early March 2014, my daughters Joan and Thrin, along with several friends, went to the University of California at Santa Barbara to conduct a pro-life outreach. While there, they were accosted by UCSB professor Mireille Miller-Young.
We are confident that the legal process will establish, without room for doubt or equivocation, that Miller-Young was the aggressor throughout her encounter with the pro-lifers. The pro-life speakers did not taunt, provoke, or incite either Miller-Young or anyone else, as some have suggested. On the contrary, they made every effort to meet her provocations, taunts, mockery, and profanity with calm and reason, trying to move her into a more productive channel of discourse. She rebuffed these attempts and deliberately chose instead to engage in the conduct that led to the District Attorney charging her with theft, battery, and vandalism.
Unfortunately, along with the expressions of support we have received, we have become aware of individuals engaging in ad hominem attacks against Miller-Young. We do not condone this, and we ask that such attacks stop. As my daughters tell people they meet on campuses, let’s keep to the topic and have a reasonable, productive conversation. What Miller-Young did, what she has said and written, what she teaches and publishes, UCSB’s response, and appropriate sanctions for her actions have a place in the conversation. Comments on her personal appearance and threats against her person do not.
Finally, we encourage UCSB Vice-Chancellor Michael Young to observe a pro-life outreach, whether conducted by my daughters and their friends, a Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust campus team, Justice for All, Project Truth, or UCSB’s own pro-life organization. If he does, he will not see any pro-life person ‘provoking,’ ‘taunting,’ or ‘peddling hate and intolerance,’ as he described in an e-mail to UCSB students following the incident. What he will see is individuals trying to reach the minds and win the hearts of others by employing facts, reason, discussion, and persuasion - exactly the type of ‘exchange of ideas’ that he said ‘is fundamental to the mission of [the] university.’