Pro-life group holds demonstration at intersection of Forsyth and Wallace

and | Senior News Editors

Pro-life group Created Equal held a demonstration with large posters and pamphlet handouts at the intersection of Forsyth Boulevard and Wallace Drive Monday, Oct. 8.

The posters, of which there were about seven, depicted graphic images of fetuses aborted during their first trimesters with the slogan, “Vote Anti-Abortion” written across them.

Sophomore Dani Swanson, who confronted the protestors, believes these kinds of protests are manipulative.

“I feel like with controversial issues, it’s very important to understand the rationale of the other side, if for nothing else, to enhance your own opinion,” Swanson said. “The main reason I wanted to speak to them was because the photos were very graphic and disturbing, and I wanted to understand why that choice was made, especially given the context of a very public place, a highway. Students, young people, children all could have seen it.”

For junior Hannah Kirley, these were the first things that she saw entering campus on Monday morning.

“This young guy like my age just stops me and goes, ‘How do you feel about abortion?’ and I was like ‘Oh…okay, guess this is how I’m starting my Monday.’ I had to go to class, but it was just one of those things just after Kavanaugh had been confirmed, and [it] felt like I didn’t have any power at all as a woman,” Kirley said.

After her first class, Kirley went back to speak with the group, which was comprised of a middle-aged social worker and several recent high school graduates.

“The alarming thing was that, as far as I saw, there were actually only two young guys there. The rest were young women [who were about] my age, which really struck me,” Kirley said. “That was who I spent the most of the hour talking with.”

Swanson believes it was unfair of Created Equal to place such young protestors at a university campus.

“The person I spoke to was a girl…had just graduated high school, and I found it bizarre that this organization placed her at the edge of a university campus and not just any university campus, but a very highly ranked one with clearly very intellectual students who want to hear a proper argument,” Swanson said. “Her first question was, ‘Are you going to be rude to me?’ to which my response was, ‘I don’t know why that’s even relevant. This is a controversial issue and you are provoking people. You’re not being respectful, why would you deserve anything? Why do I have to show you this kind of attitude when you’re not?’”

WU Students for Life, a “pro-life club that teaches students how to have loving and gracious dialogue on abortion,” does not condone the tactics of Created Equal.

“As a club, we do not condone their use of scare tactics with the graphic images on display and aggressive behavior towards members of our Wash. U. community. We are disappointed in how they chose to represent the pro-life movement,” the club wrote in a statement to Student Life. “WU Students for Life would like to apologize, on behalf of the pro-life community, to anyone who was hurt, shamed or offended by the anti-abortion group. We feel these methods are not compassionate and do not allow for productive dialogue, which is what WU Students for Life strives for.”

Pro-life junior Celia Kennedy also did not endorse the protest methods of Created Equal.

“I am passionately pro-life, but I don’t believe in graphic images and scare tactics as a method of fighting for the issue,” Kennedy said. “I recognize that the topic of abortion is a personal and emotional one, and I think equal and open dialogue is the best method for discussion. I apologize for any students that were hurt or offended by this display—know that these individuals do not represent the entirety of the pro-life movement.”

In response to the demonstration, Student Advocates for Reproductive Rights—a group that is a part of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, a network of youth organizations—held a counter-demonstration on Tuesday at the same location.

President of Student Advocates for Reproductive Rights and senior Sophie Elliott believes that her group can counteract opposing viewpoints most effectively through education.

“It was really important to us that if these signs were going to be there, we were going to be there, too, providing info in a positive light and in a way that celebrates education and reproductive health,” Elliott said. “We were there with t-shirts and donuts and information pamphlets and petitions for people to sign. We ended up getting almost 250 signatures yesterday.”

Kirley doesn’t believe that Created Equal’s demonstration was compelling enough to sway students’ opinions, regardless of what side of the issue they stand on.

“I hold Wash. U. students to a higher standard. If they actually are pro-life, I do believe it’s because they deeply believe this but can also reason with the actual science behind it and not just spew misconstrued information,” Kirley said. “I couldn’t see their strategy of manipulated images to get an emotional rise out of people being particularly effective because Wash. U. students just in general are smarter than that.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.