For two consecutive days last week, the Pennsylvania non-profit Generation Life displayed the Genocide Awareness Project, an outdoor exhibit featuring explicit photographs of fetuses and corpses from various genocides, at the Bell Tower.
The Temple Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Temple College Democrats protested the message displayed in the exhibit, including the genocide-abortion comparison which was shown and discussed by Generation Life and GAP participants.
Posters with disclaimers explaining that explicit photos were ahead were placed close to the exhibit. The photos, which displayed bloody fetuses, lynched African-Americans and corpses from historical genocides such as the Cambodian Killing Fields and the Holocaust, were roughly 15 feet high. Anti-abortion pamphlets were offered to everyone who passed by the exhibit, specifically by one woman with an infant in her arms.
Judy McClain, from Generation Life, a local non-profit that advocates chastity, said the media never adequately explains what pro-choice means.
“When you say pro-choice, it could be anything, like, ‘Do you like ketchup on your hamburger or not?’ That’s a choice,” McClain said. “But when we talk about abortion, that’s the choice to choose a child, but we just want the students here at Temple to be open to discussing that.”
The ideal result of the event was to start a discussion, said Mark Herrington, the executive director of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform Midwest.
“Even those who don’t stop by will look at the signs and maybe come around to this position later on,” Harrington said.
He compared the graphic pictures to other civil rights movements, including the one led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s.
“Every social reform movement that’s had any success has always used graphic images to dramatize injustice,” Harrington said. “If you just look back at the Civil Rights movement, King – he didn’t put pictures up on his own placards, but the media took pictures of African-Americans being beaten or water-cannoned and put them on the newspapers, front page [and on] TV sets.
“Pictures communicate something that words can’t, especially when it comes to something like this. Words alone aren’t adequate to describe something of this magnitude,” he added as he looked at the heated debates between GAP members and Temple community members divided by iron barriers.
FMLA and the College Democrats responded to the GAP by staging a protest against their pro-life message. Both student organizations said they were dismayed by the tactics used by Generation Life and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to raise the abortion discussion.
“We are protesting the anti-choice message that this group perpetuates, but there are also groups that are protesting the anti-Semitic nature of this event,” FMLA President Deborah Hinchey, a senior history and political science major, said. “This group compares a safe and legal procedure performed in your doctor’s office, condoned by the state and sanctioned by the government to the elimination of a people and genocide.”
Throughout the two days, both camps stayed separate. The protestors donned neon pink bandanas and wore all black, carrying signs and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, this propaganda’s got to go.” At one point, Temple students who engaged in the protest used cheerleading moves to emphasize their message against the GAP.
Although he didn’t agree with the GAP’s method of spreading their message, Hinchey said the organization has “a right to be here” since Temple is a federally funded university.
“We believe that they have every right to assert their freedom of speech, but so do we,” Hinchey said. “Our only goal is to show the Temple community that there are people who don’t agree with this and that there are people who don’t believe that this is the right tactic . . . that graphic images are not the way to get people behind a cause.”
Vicki Moore, vice president of the College Democrats, said she was also dismayed by the graphic images and extreme stance.
“This isn’t a great way for them to get their message across. It makes others write them off as extremists and radicals,” Moore said.
While some students engaged in hostile arguments with members of Generation Life, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and the GAP, others joined the protests held by FMLA and the College Democrats. Some students left the exhibit emotionally distraught after argument and debate was reduced to personal attacks.
Most students who were present at the Bell Tower last Tuesday and Wednesday seemed more exercised about the use of the photos as opposed to the issue of abortion.
“I am more pissed off at this organization than worked up about abortion,” said senior business major Brad Hoffman.
“I don’t see the correlation between abortions and genocide,” said Darryn Lee, a freshman international business administration and finance major. “I think they’re trying to scare women into not having abortions because maybe they’re playing off the basic stereotype that most women are sensitive to such imagery.”
Kyra Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.