By Hannah Reid —
The pro-life activist group Created Equal visited campus Oct. 17, sending their message to the students who pass by the SAC at lunchtime. Lead by director Mark Harrington, the Columbus group does outreach to campuses to start a dialogue about abortion.
They display poster-sized images of aborted fetuses paired with a JumboTron TV playing an abortion video. They passed out literature that includes some of these images as well.
The Ohio group found themselves protected by police and outnumbered by chanting abortion right protesters.
Harrington stressed their first amendment right to be there.
Emma Mysko is a field assistant for Created Equal who has been with the organization for about six years. “We’ve all done outreach in different ways, with images, without and we’ve seen consistently that using the images while yes, is kind of in-your-face, it’s the most effective way.”
“If you just come out and talk with people without any kind of visual, you’ll still have good conversations, but nowhere near to the same extent,” Mysko said. “And obviously with a large school like this we can’t talk with every single student on campus, but students come through, they see images, a lot of them will take pictures. Even if they don’t, the images stick with you.”
Many students were put off by the images, especially considering the location being right in front of most of the dining options on campus. Mysko said that they were designated to be there by the university permit as a free speech area.
Sophomore Sammi Mathew believes that the Created Equal group’s display was hate speech and needed to be removed immediately. She said it promotes violence against women and is traumatic to witness, especially to those who have had an abortion in the past.
While Mathew recognizes the right to free speech, she doesn’t agree with the university letting them being there.
Mathew took down signs, tried to put sheets over the graphic images and gathered students to protest. After today she said she will take further action by finding a university official to speak with to keep displays like this off campus.
When student Madeline McCubbins caught wind of the visitors on campus, she grabbed her Planned Parenthood signs and headed to the SAC. She is the president of the Students for Reproductive Freedom, an organization on campus that “supports reproductive health, rights and justice for everyone.”
Jake Hassert, a freshman student, helped block the signs he described as ugly and called the situation fear mongering and scare tactics. He mentioned this group had previously come to his private high school to share their message.
Hassert is passionate about this issue and feels he is standing up for what is right. He said reproductive freedom is “not really a political issue, it’s just an ethical issue. It’s a question of morality.”
Hassert said he was not surprised the organization was on campus because U of L is big, but is just glad he can be a part of this.
As the day progressed the students standing for pro-choice went from a handful, to nearly 50 by the time Created Equal packed up to leave at 2 p.m.
Created Equal representatives said that they aren’t strangers to groups countering them. Harrington said they hadn’t faced anything quite like U of L’s counter-protesters before.