The graphic comparison of aborted fetuses and genocide displayed at the Bell Tower earlier this week drew passionate, yet divided responses from students.
The California-based Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) brought their traveling exhibition, the “Genocide Awareness Project,” (GAP) to Temple last Monday, Oct. 14 and Tuesday, Oct. 15. Large stands held posters — protected by police — of what appeared to be 10-week-old aborted fetuses were displayed next to those of corpses from the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
Other posters equated abortion due to financial circumstances with euthanizing one’s parents and the pro-choice movement with racism.
CBR selected Temple University because it is a public university.
The GAP “mainly comes to public institutions that allow events of this type” said Kim Marshall, regional chairperson for Generation Life, a pro-chastity group that joined the exhibition.
Temple’s status as a public university allows CBR to gather freely in any area where they do not obstruct foot traffic.
“The platform they used to portray these messages was tasteless and offensive. It’s one thing having beliefs and a completely different thing pushing those beliefs on others with graphic depictions of mass genocide,” said sophomore James Saul.
Rachel Maisler, junior, was upset by the display’s comparison of abortion to the Holocaust.
“When I first saw the pictures they pressed buttons with me as the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.
When I walked over to find out what was going on, [they] tried to tell me that the Holocaust and abortion were equivalent for 15 minutes.”
Maisler and several others organized a petition drive at the Bell Tower to ban the GAP from Temple’s Campus, which has received more than 500 signatures.
“Temple has such a huge and diverse campus yet they’ve managed to piss everybody off here,” she said.
Some students supported the comparison of abortion to genocide.
Christy Hochrine, sophomore, believed “if the use of these pictures wakes people up to how irresponsible and immoral abortion is, it’s worth it.”
Tom Evans, a senior, said that it was “cool that they’re out there trying to educate people about what they perceive to be an injustice.
That kind of stuff offends most people, but I think if people don’t like it, that’s too bad. That’s the price of free speech.”
Temple’s Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) and the new Temple Alliance for Reproduction Rights and Actions (TARRA) protested Monday’s display, gaining over 400 signatures in an attempt to prevent the GAP from returning to campus.
“They were here last semester and we want them to know we do not want them ever coming back,” said Morgan Grimes, a senior member of the TARRA organization.
Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance president Lydia Keaney didn’t advocate restricting the CBR’s right to speak, but she did take offense to accusations lobbed her way.
“Of course we support First Amendment rights but this is not their community, it’s our private campus. Temple wouldn’t allow a KKK demonstration,” she said. “As a pro-choice person they are calling me a Nazi.”
CBR has been known for using shock value in the past.
Previous campaigns have involved using airplanes to tow giant banners decorated with an aborted fetus over the Jersey Shore and driving trucks decorated with aborted fetuses on highways and in cities.
The group has received a good deal of criticism for their tactics, ranging from dismay over GAP displays set up outside high schools in State College, PA and fears that the group’s fetus-adorned trucks could cause traffic accidents from distracted drivers.
Marshall said the purpose of the GAP was to contrast the practice of abortion with the appalling events of extermination from the past and to show that abortion is the genocide of unborn children.
She defended the use of Holocaust and lynching imagery, claiming that the comparison was necessary to gain attention and illustrate the group’s point.
Holocaust and slavery imagery has gotten the CBR into hot water before.
GAP placards that claim “A vote for a Pro-Choice Candidate is a Vote for Black Genocide” have earned the group condemnation for conspiracy mongering from most of the African-American community.
Allegations of anti-Semitism were claimed when their director, Gregg Cunningham, called a group of anti-GAP Jewish protesters at the University of Kansas “Genocide snobs who focus solely on their causes.”
Alumni Susan Silcox, now a Philadelphia substitute teacher and a returning student to Temple’s campus, felt the exhibition could have a positive impact on women by providing an alternative view of abortion.
“This is a much more open atmosphere then when I was an undergrad student here 30 years ago and I think that’s a good thing,” she said.
“I understand the pro-choice organizations wanting a chance to be heard, but pro-choice means giving women the ability to make a well-informed choice. Why then should they want to stop this organization from providing valuable information so that women can make these decisions?”
Holli Powitzky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Neal Ungerleider can be reached at email@example.com