Students take sides on abortion debate
Anti-abortion protestor Jason Walsh, executive director of the Arizona Right to Life, speaks with nutritional science sophomore Martina Sepulveda on the UA Mall on Tuesday. The protest was put on and brought to the UA by the Center of Bio-Ethical Reform.
Signs along the UA Mall on Tuesday warned of genocide photos ahead, but the photos passersby saw may not have been what they were expecting.
Large posters hung on the Mall displayed photos of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide alongside photos of aborted fetuses.
The posters were part of the Genocide Awareness Project, held on college campuses across the country by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.
The CBR was invited on to campus by the Students for Life at the University of Arizona group, said Kevin Olivier, an employee of CBR.
Olivier said the purpose of the project was to educate people about preborn children.
“We want people to see the humanity of the preborn child, and we want them to see the inhumanity of abortion,” Olivier said.
Volunteers for CBR handed out pamphlets about abortion comparing the act to genocide. Lauren Scheller, a studio arts senior and volunteer with CBR, said she thought the comparison between the two acts was acceptable and that it would help teach people the truth about abortion.
“In today’s culture and college culture, a lot of people are misinformed about what actually goes on in the procedure,” Scheller said. “No one really sees pictures of aborted babies at any stage, any trimester.”
Some students found the photos and the message of genocide too graphic and offensive to be effective in making a point against abortion. Claire Larkin, a political science freshman and Feminists Organized to Resist, Create and Empower intern, said she felt the argument being made by CBR seemed to be an uneducated one.
“[The argument is] not racially aware and not semitically aware,” Larkin said. “Genocide is specifically killing people for what they look like or what they believe in, whereas these are women who do not want to be pregnant.”
The graphic nature of the photos, Scheller said, was the point of the display.
“I actually had people who were very pro-life, like I am, and they said, ‘This is too much; this is too graphic,’” Scheller said. “This is the only way really to expose the truth of the brutality of it.”
Some were concerned about the display for reasons besides the political. Jonathan Dowell, a philosophy and linguistics junior, said he was worried about how the display would reflect on the university to visitors.
“It’s kind of absurd,” Dowell said. “We have pictures of all this death on campus. … I don’t think it gives a good image.”
A lot of people were visibly affected by the display, Larkin said, and the photos could emotionally damage people.
“It’s really not sensitive to the concerns of the student body, and we have a lot of people come up to us and they’re really upset,” Larkin said. “These images could instantly bring back really painful personal memories.”
Larkin was on the Mall as a part of the CHOICE Fair being hosted by the Women’s Resource Center. Katie Kilby, a public health senior and member of the Pride Alliance, said it wasn’t an accident the CHOICE Fair happened at the same time as the Genocide Awareness Project.
“We’re out here because we knew they were coming,” Kilby said. “This is an intentional counter. … It’s not that these just happened at the same time across from each other in the grass.”
Kilby said it’s important for students to know, in the face of the Genocide Awareness Project, that there are a multitude of options available in dealing with pregnancies.
“I know that free speech regulations allow [the Genocide Awareness Project] to be here,” Kilby said, “so I’m just happy to be a part of an initiative that works to provide other information to people.”
Scheller said she hoped the photos from the project will help women make more informed decisions.
“We’re not here to change the world in a day,” Scheller said. “But if we can save at least one person from choosing abortion … to see the sanctity of life, the meaning of it, we just want to give that option to people.”