Student Protesters Challenge Anti-Abortion Activists on Library Walk

Freedom of Speech Remains a Contentious Issue on College Campuses

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It’s not unusual to see groups displaying Greek letters or club advertisements on Library Walk. Those who found themselves there January 19, however, were likely first greeted by graphic images of aborted fetuses on posters erected by The Genocide Awareness Project, which juxtaposes images of aborted fetuses with images of victims of genocide. University students were quick to respond, and have since organized a pro choice counter protest in the same location.

The display of these images is called the Genocide Awareness Project and is put on by the Center for Bioethical Reform [Please note, some of the images contained on this site are very graphic], according to Lois Cunningham, the Center’s deputy director. “We’ve been taking this to colleges and universities since 1998 with the hopes of educating college students that abortion is an act of genocide,” she said.

The Center for Bioethical Reform states that their aim is to “establish prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn, the disabled, the infirm, the aged and all vulnerable peoples through education and the development of cutting edge educational resources.”

Usually, Cunningham said, a student group will invite the project on campus. In this particular case, this was the group’s first time on campus. Cunningham was sure to clarify that “The project “worked with the administration to follow the regulations for free speech here.” 

Worked with the administration to follow the regulations for free speech here.

The group of students opposed to the project grew rapidly, student and protester Manoli Dawson said, in part because “one of our [sorority] sisters posted on our page, letting us know that there were very graphic images on Library Walk claiming that abortion is genocide.”

Student Lydia Chou added that “it’s something our sisters feel really strongly about, so we decided to make posters about it and stand up.”

Donny Kim, another student at the protest, added, “My background here is a little different because my mother’s an OB-GYN so she has performed abortions.” Kim explained that he views the abortion rights movement as freedom for women to choose what to do with their bodies, while the anti-abortion group spreads “misinformation.” He added, “Honestly, it all goes back to controlling women’s bodies.”

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“I am a woman and I’m listening to people scream about women’s rights,” Cunningham said, adding that the protesters for abortion rights are “ignoring those of us who are pro-life” and who “don’t want to kill little babies and those in the womb that are women, and I suppose, little boys.” She believes that “many of them will someday regret abortions if they choose to have them or have already had them.  They’ll realize that was their own child they paid to have killed.”  

Kevin Olivier, director of operations for the Center for Bioethical Reform, stated, “We believe that until America sees how awful abortion is, America will not be moved to stop abortion, so we show what abortion is by sharing with the public photographs and videos of aborted human babies.”

We affirm the right to freedom of expression at UC San Diego. We promote open expression of our individuality and our diversity within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, confidentiality, and respect.

Concerns about the group’s use of large graphic images, however, have begun to make their way among students in the form of a petition to “protect UCSD community principles.” The petition states that while freedom of expression is one of the key UCSD Principles of Community, these principles specify that free speech is allowed “within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, confidentiality, and respect.”

Protester for abortion rights Rachel Lynn was “surprised that they were just able to throw up these pictures that were so graphic with very minimal warning.”

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Chou was also concerned about the use of children in conveying the group’s message. She expressed concern about the use of children in “handing out pamphlets” and stated that “kids don’t even have the ability to make their decision on this; they don’t really grasp what it is they’re supporting.”

Shirli Cohen, another student protester, said, “I think it’s really important to provide as much context as possible for the people who not necessarily have already made an opinion about whether they’re anti-abortion or pro-choice but who want to know information.” She emphasized that there are people supporting many different opinions and believes that information should be available to those who want it. The most important part, she said, is to show that “we do support women’s rights. We do support safe medical practices for everybody, not to convince the anti-abortion supporters that we’re right and they’re wrong.”

In addition, Lynn voiced concerns that the abortion rights movement would automatically be seen as pro-abortion. She emphasized that “it’s a choice that we should be able to make; it’s not something that should be made for us.”

We have the right to let them know what we think of it.

Cunningham believes there are better options, particularly in the form of pregnancy health clinics, such as the ones where she once worked. “I just would hope they take the time to get the facts and make an educated decision and not just an emotional one,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to feel alone and that we’re judging them–not at all. We’re here to help them get the truth.”

“Let them have their opinion and they have the freedom of speech,” Dawson said. “We have the right to let them know what we think of it.”