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Visual tactics of anti-abortion protest in front of Wilson Library questioned

A display depicted graphic images of abortions alongside examples of genocide, such as those which occurred in Cambodia and World War II Germany, sparking campus-wide debate.

The controversial demonstration was held Monday in front of Wilson Library by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform in partnership with Carolina Students for Life , and it will be held again today.

It was part of the center’s initiative to persuade students that abortion is a violent crime against human beings and falls into the United Nations’ definition of genocide.

“(Genocide Awareness Project) is our campus project, we have others, but this is specifically designed for college students,” said project director Jane Bullingto n, who travels to colleges around the country. The organization has visited UNC twice before.

“Typically college students believe genocide is one of the worst things that can happen, but they don’t want to consider the fact that killing a million babies a year in our country is genocide,” she said.

The presentation follows all UNC procedures and policies covering events and facilities use, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp in an email Monday morning. The statement also mentioned that students could seek help from UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services if they are disturbed by the images.

“The University’s responsibility is to remain a vibrant intellectual community in which all viewpoints can be comfortably expressed and heard in an atmosphere of civility and respect,” he said.

Around 11:30 a.m. Monday, both unaffiliated students and Students United for Reproductive Justice members organized a counter-protest.

Students started a petition to Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls to discourage displays that make students feel unsafe on campus.

“This is very upsetting and stressful,” said senior Megan Blanton , who participated in the counter-protest. “I literally arranged my travel this morning so that I could avoid it going to class. I don’t think any student should have to be scared to go to class.”

Blanton said the display was triggering to individuals for whom abortion is a sensitive and personal topic. She said the photos depicted late-term abortions and are representative of neither genocide nor the norm for legal abortions.

Ellen Farrell , the mother of a UNC student, said the campus shouldn’t have offensive displays like that — but said UNC students are smart enough to know the truth.

“It really pisses me off. I don’t want this stuff up here,” she said.

Junior Julie Ascik, the co-president of Carolina Students for Life, said the goal of the display was to expose truthful information about abortion and show the inhumanity behind the procedure.

She said preemptive measures were taken for those who would be disturbed, such as warning signs about the images and a woman who has undergone the procedure who would be available to counsel anyone affected.

Feminist Students United is planning a counter-protest Tuesday morning that will distribute and discuss reproductive health resources available for women. There will also be guides to escort people away from the exhibit who are uncomfortable.

Bullington said students are right to think the display is offensive. She said she believes if society is willing to legalize abortion, then it needs to face its consequences.

“The kids can yell all they want to — that’s fine, I don’t care. They need to be thankful,” she said. “They have free speech in this country, and that allows them to say what they want to say that might be offensive to someone.”

However, Blanton and other counter-protestors said the right to set up the display was not the issue at hand.

“I think freedom of speech is important, and I think that people should be allowed to voice their opinion; however, it’s the University’s responsibility to maintain a safe environment conducive to academic achievement, and this is not that.”

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