Anti-abortion demonstration ignites debate

GVL / Audra Gamble 
Ruth Rawlins (left) and Alexandra Kamen (with sign)

GVL / Audra Gamble Ruth Rawlins (left) and Alexandra Kamen (with sign)

Audra Gamble

Recently, the warmer weather has been testing Grand Valley State University students’ ability to focus on their schoolwork. This week, however, the warming temperatures have brought something to campus other than spring fever: anti-abortion demonstrators.

The anti-abortion demonstrators consisted of members of the GVSU student organization Students for Life, as well as members of the national organization Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. The demonstration began on Wednesday, April 1 and will continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today next to the Cook Carillion clock tower.

The demonstration includes a large display of images equating abortion to genocides, including the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.

By noon on Wednesday, a group of GVSU students from the Women’s Center, the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center and other concerned students gathered with pro-abortion rights signs. At times throughout the day, more students stood with the pro-abortion rights demonstrators than the anti-abortion crowd.

The vast majority of the students that were upset with the anti-abortion demonstrators took issue with the comparison of abortion to genocides.

“I understand people who are pro-life and I respect that, but comparing it to genocide is out of line,” said Erica Ruffner, a GVSU student from the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center. “Abortion is strictly a personal choice. People who get abortions aren’t doing it based on a political agenda. Genocide is motivated by systemic social and political issues. It’s completely different.”

The anti-abortion demonstrators argue that the parallels can be drawn quite easily between abortion and genocide.

“Genocide is a killing of an entire group of people; there’s something that links them together,” said Ruth Rawlins, a member of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. “In the Holocaust, they were killed because they were Jews. In abortion, the reason they’re able to be killed is because they’re pre-born. There’s a particular age and stage of life. It’s a category.”

The comparison to the Holocaust and the use of images of swastikas drew particular criticism from a Jewish GVSU student demonstrating with the pro-abortion rights group.

“It’s so messed up,” Alexandra Kamen said. “Being Jewish, I think the Holocaust and abortion is incomparable. They should have been more sensitive to those that are Jewish on this campus. There are already so few of us here as it is.”

The images of aborted fetuses the anti-abortion demonstrators displayed were graphic, including dismembered body parts and blood. This was a conscious choice by the demonstrators to display these types of images.

“We feel that abortion is a very violent procedure,” said Abby DeVries, president of Students for Life. “Unless people see abortion, public opinion won’t change. None of us will say we like looking at these pictures; it’s very disgusting, but it needs to be said. We feel that, by the time students leave college, they’re going to be either pro-choice or pro-life and this is the perfect venue to create a safe forum for debate.”

The demonstration is taking place on one of two designated free speech zones on the Allendale Campus. The other free speech zone in Allendale is by the blue Transitional Link structure. University administration was aware of the presence of the demonstrators prior to their arrival on campus.

For some students, free speech did not seem like a good enough reason to be exposed to graphic images at one of the most heavily populated areas on campus.

“It’s free speech, but this is spreading lies,” said GVSU student Sarah Thompson. “When you have to lie to support your position, that’s a problem.”

For those who feel strongly about the demonstration, there are resources available for them.

“Anyone who is feeling shamed, threatened or attacked by this should come to the (Women’s Center or Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center) on campus and they will be welcomed,” said Ruffner.

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