Students protest anti-abortion display on campus

Video by Amanda Lalezarian

UNC students protested against the anti-abortion images that were displayed in front of Wilson Library all day Tuesday. Hear what organizers and spectators had to say about the protest.

Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ), Feminist Students United! and The Siren magazine are a few student organizations that protested the display created by the Genocide Awareness Project on Monday.

Dylan Mott, a UNC junior and organizer of the protest , said the display took a lot of people by surprise on Monday and the images caused some emotional distress.

“A lot of people told me that they had to find alternate routes to get to their (academic) buildings,” said Holly Sit, another organizer and SURJ member .

Maggie Egger, project director with the Center for Bioethical Reform , said she wishes the images weren’t so graphic but that this is the most effective manner to convey the Project’s message.

“Without these pictures, we wouldn’t be having this dialogue. We wouldn’t be having this protest, and no one would really be talking about abortion on this campus right now,” she said.

Mott said the decision to organize a protest — that intends to create a counter-narrative — was made on Monday.

“We decided to come together today to really provide a safe space,” he said. “And to let this community know that folks are here for each other and able to protect each other even when these kind of images are here.”

Sophomore Michelle Gavel , who participated in the protest, said she saw the signs on Monday and was immediately upset.

“It’s freedom of speech. You have the right to your opinion by all means, but I think that some of these images are ... triggering,” she said.

Sit said some students did not attend their Monday classes because they did not want to see the images.

“We were unprepared for this. If you come to class in the middle of the morning, you don’t expect that to be there,” she said. “It’s too much.”

“The way they are voicing their speech is not something that should be welcome at UNC,” Gavel said.

But Tony Mellon , a UNC senior, said he found the student protesters, and not the display, to be hostile.

Protestors were yelling over the anti-abortion displayers, playing loud drums and placing their signs and petitions in front of where the displayers were positioned, he said.

Campus police were dispatched to come to the scene as there was an issue with some protesters blocking one of the Project’s handheld signs.

“You can’t shut someone up just because you don’t like it,” Mellon said. “It’s very distracting to what they’re trying to do and what they’re trying to do is their right on a public university under the clauses of free speech.”

Protester Michelle Herzenberg , a UNC freshman, said anti-abortion proponents do have the right to express their beliefs on campus, but the graphic images used by the Project are unthoughtful and offensive.

“I lost family in the Holocaust, and abortion is not genocide. Genocide is a systematic extermination of a political, cultural or racial group,” she said. “A woman who gets an abortion is not a Nazi.”

But Egger said the inability to see the connection between genocide and abortion is due to misunderstanding.

“If you don’t recognize that the pre-born is a person, a human being, then of course comparing abortion to genocide is completely ludicrous,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to educate and inform students because a lot of people don’t know that that’s what abortion is and looks like.”

Egger said the display is drawing the comparison between victims of genocide — not the perpetrators. Egger also said she doesn’t understand complaints of the comparison because science says the fetus is a human being upon conception.

“Every targeted group of a genocide is denied their personhood,” she said. “Now, in this country, before birth you’re not considered legally a person. So we can kill you; we can get rid of you if we don’t want you.”

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