And so, free speech rears her often-contentious head once again.
The plaza plays host this week to a large and terribly graphic anti-abortion display, sponsored by the group “Students for Bio-Ethical Equality,” a group that has landed on campus because this week is a week devoted to the protection of free speech. This is the same protector their ideological opposites use to protect pornographic displays in art museums. Apparently, the ultra-conservatives have grown weary of the other guys having all the fun.
The images are wrenching. And the display is large enough and in such a public place that it seems impossible that, unless one was purposefully avoiding them, many CSU students will not be subjected to incredibly graphic and upsetting photographs of aborted fetuses.
And, while the mission of the group is to “Promote, through education, justice and the right to life for the unborn, the disabled, the infirm, the aged, and all vulnerable people,” the display does not necessarily lend itself to useful dialogue.
I can understand why people will protest. The group’s Web site features pictures of screaming picketers and volunteers standing behind metal dividers, sheltered from the crowd. The display is a catalyst for the incitement of intense feelings, usually of anger. Any catalyst for useful dialogue usually does not require the presence of campus police.
I may be one of the few on this campus who actually agree with the social, political and religious paradigms from which this group stems. Not only do I believe that abortion is wrong, I think that it is wrong in all circumstances.
All of them.
We live in a world where we must live as reactionary beings to the events that befall us. And often, those events, such as rape or incest, are heinously evil. Which is why we must have the courage to choose the right way, to choose the better way, even when it’s terribly hard. Especially when it’s terribly hard. Courage is nothing if it is not exhibited at very great cost.
However, even as a conservative Christian, I am slightly uneasy with the confrontational scare tactics employed here. But I am not sure why. I can imagine that, if there were graphic images of genocidal atrocities going on somewhere else, I would be shocked and horrified, but also glad for the information.
No one is pro-abortion. Inevitably, both people who find themselves either pro-choice or pro-life would like to live in a society where abortions are not considered necessary because the circumstances behind them no longer exist. But the circumstances do exist.
We live in a society where abortions happen. And we live in a country where they are legal. And where abortion is legal, abortion will be protested. And inevitably, regardless of where you fall on the rightness or wrongness of the display, or even the rightness or wrongness of abortion, it really does all come down to free speech. We live in a country where contention is not only encouraged, but also protected as well.
To steal a line that frequently occurs in pro-choice discourse, even though I would probably never set up a display showing graphic fetuses, I do not have the right to tell others that they can’t.
Because their free speech is protected. And the fact that everyone is protected is a marvelous thing.
Sarah Laribee is a second bachelors candidate studying English education.