A giant display of posters showing bloody, aborted fetuses caused controversy in the Plaza Monday.
“Warning: Genocide Pictures Ahead” read the signs erected at the free speech Plaza, where the anti-abortion group Justice For All had set up for day one (the group will be on the Plaza again today) of its controversial exhibit. Billboard-sized posters showed fetuses at different stages of pregnancies, after the women had undergone abortions.
Surrounding the anti-abortion demonstration area were blank white boards where spectators could freely write their thoughts. Written in marker on the “Free Speech Boards” were remarks like, “This is Bullshit,” “It’s too bad you have to use gory pictures to persuade people to believe you,” and “I hope this makes you sick because it’s murder and if you support it, you need help.”
Justice For All was not the only organization present, although their display towered in size over the others. The pro-choice group, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, had a booth focused on the upcoming election.
Nearby, shouting ensued between another pro-choice platform, Life and Liberty for Women, and several anti-abortionists.
Throughout the Plaza, students engaged in heated discussions, some wearing neon-colored “I Am Pro-Choice” stickers that NARAL had distributed. Some of these conversations were sparked by a group of about ninety people that had traveled from Colorado Springs to engage students in non-confrontational dialogue about the topic.
The Colorado Springs group was composed of students at the Focus Institute, a Christian organization and school against abortion. The students individually strolled through the Plaza, meeting spectators and posing the question, “What do you think about all this?”
Bonnie Bolz, a student at Focus Institute, said Justice For All came to their school and asked them to come engage in dialogue without necessarily expressing conflicting views.
The resident supervisor at Focus Institute, Lindy Beam, said their group came to educate people about abortion.
“I don’t think people really think about what abortion really is,” Beam said. “If it’s legal and it’s the most common surgery in the United States, why don’t we ever see pictures of it? Why don’t we ever look at it?”
Beam said the group of students came with the approach of engaging in conversation without trying to force their beliefs on people.
“We’re all pro-life and we want to get our view across, but basically the truth is going to stand for itself,” Beam insisted. “I don’t have to force you to believe it.”
The bloody abortion posters upset some students, inciting obscenity, shouting and disappointed sighs.
“I completely disagree with this,” said Hannah Girtin, a sophomore English major, as she examined the Justice For All exhibit. “It’s so atrocious. If I don’t even have a right to choose, then how can someone expect me to be a mother?”
“Yeah,” agreed Emily Latta, a freshman open liberal arts major. “It kind of makes me numb to the whole thing. Why scare me with something like this?”
Nate Enyart, a young man who had traveled from Denver to witness the demonstration, had other thoughts.
“People are just mad that they have to see these pictures, but no one is forcing them to look,” Enyart said. “Students can see it if they want to see it, and if not they don’t have to look at it.”
Conversations between the leaders of the Wichita, Kan. group, Justice For All, and members of the crowd continued throughout the first day of this display, which lasted from 8 a.m. until about 3 p.m.
Tammy Cook, spokesperson for Justice For All, sat on a stool addressing comments and questions that passersby confronted her with.
“This is just another form of education,” Cook said. “Our main goal is to help raise awareness that abortion takes the life of an unborn baby.”
Cook said she realized the pictures may disturb people, but for a reason.
“If something is so horrifying,” she said, “then maybe we need to rethink how we view abortion.”
On the other end of the Plaza stood Peggy Loman from Life and Liberty for Women, arguing with a cluster of people surrounding her. Loman also had bloody pictures displayed at her pro-choice platform, but instead of aborted fetuses they showed a naked woman bleeding on a floor after undergoing an illegal abortion.
“I’m here to educate the people on this campus about what illegal abortion looks like, because they don’t know,” Loman said. “It’s important that against those (Justice For All) pictures, which I believe are distorted, that you see what an illegal abortion looks like.”
Her posters included more text than it did pictures, first posing the question, “Does God Condemn Roe vs. Wade?” then answering it with sentences like, “God Committed the Deliberate Act of Abortion,” and “Abortion is Absolutely in Line with God’s Laws.”
Pro-choice group keeps focus on elections
Steering clear of students hoping to debate, the NARAL members had a booth on the north end of the Plaza focused solely on the upcoming election. Since the Colorado State Senate has a pro-choice majority by merely one vote, NARAL emphasized the stance, “We Must Elect Pro-Choice Candidates!”
Corrie Bonnar, campaign coordinator from the Laramie county NARAL, said the group just began its Voter Contact Program, which involves informing voters of the pro-choice candidates in their districts. To further this cause, NARAL has organized a pro-choice rally to take place in Denver on Oct. 7.
“What we’re doing today is focusing our efforts on the election because it’s a really important election year,” Bonnar said. “So today we’re signing people up for our pro-choice rally next week and signing them up to volunteer in our Voter Contact Program.”
Tammy Cook and the Justice For All group, labeled “anti-choice” by some people, disagree with that term.
“I say that I am vehemently pro-choice for women to be able to choose their schools, their careers, what color their hair is, what they wear, their husbands,” Cook began, “I am for all of these choices. But some choices are wrong, like taking the life of a human being.”
Justice For All, as well as the pro-choice groups NARAL and Life and Liberty for Women, will continue to demonstrate on the Plaza today.
-Edited by Shandra Jordan, Colleen Buhrer, Ben Koerselman and Becky Waddingham