Eastern Michigan University students stand in silence with handwritten cardboard and scrap paper signs, contesting the anti-abortion display of hyper-focused photos of aborted fetuses.
On Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 10a.m. to 2p.m., anti-abortion organization Created Equal along with EMU Students for Life placed a display of posters around the walkway by Marshall Hall. The large posters depicted zoomed in photos of the aborted fetuses with ‘Abortion’ written in all caps above each one. Nearly every photo included blood and parts of the fetus without any censoring.
Emma Mysko, a member of Created Equal and the main speaker for media relations, spoke about the pictures.
“We’ve seen throughout history that no human rights movement has succeeded without showing the victims, without giving them a platform.” She said.
“Aborted babies can’t get that themselves, so we show images of them so they can speak for themselves,” she continued.
Savannah Gariepy, a sophomore at EMU, saw the display outside her window in her class in Marshall Hall. After discussing the situation with other students, she created a handmade sign with a sharpie and scrap paper and walked out to the display to stand with a countering message for pro-abortion rights at about 11a.m.
“[The graphic pictures] made me concerned for the welfare of students and those who have had abortions,” said Gariepy. “These images can be very triggering to them even if you haven’t had an abortion.”
Multiple other students joined Gariepy with their own signs, one student bringing cardboard and markers to construct posters. By 2p.m., there were close to 30 students standing around the display until it was taken down. Amanda Davis, a fifth year student in social work, said she was in class when she saw what was happening.
“We actually sat around in class and decide what was appropriate to put on the signs and the proper way to counter protest.” Davis said.
Those who disapproved of the organization’s display cited the photos as ‘going overboard’ in terms of getting their message across.
“I think if you have your own values – whether they be religious or not – about abortions, then that [the pictures] just isn’t the way to go about it.” Said Davis.
Created Equal’s main debate against abortion revolves around the concept of ageism, or discrimination on the basis of age. They compare their mission to that of the Freedom Riders during the civil rights movement, even creating their own version of the Freedom Rides called Justice Rides.
According to their website: “Like the Freedom Riders, we’re focusing the attention of America on injustice—this time, it’s the ageism of abortion, by which young humans are killed daily for reasons we would not permit the killing of older (born) humans.”
Mysko commented on the ageism concept as a main reason why abortion is considered by their organization to be wrong.
“We forget about the preborn babies, who’s only different from us is they haven’t been born yet and at a younger stage of development,” she said. “Our development isn’t what gives us value.”
Members of the organization standing by the posters asked passing students what they thought of abortion, initiating a conversation when they were answered. All members wore Go-Pro cameras strapped to their chest, meant to capture any footage of anyone reacting violently to them or their display.
Lauren Metz, and intern on tour with the organization, had heard of and gotten involved with them after a friend told her about their time as an intern.
“I felt the call to stand up for the children that don’t have a voice – I saw the injustice that was happening and wanted to do whatever I could to help them be seen as something whole,” she said.
Passing students often started up conversation about the display upon seeing it without engaging with members of the organization. Some walked faster or plugged headphones in to avoid the speaking to members, while some did stop to engage. Chelsea Mabey, a freshman at EMU, had grimaced upon seeing the pictures.
“I don’t think they should have a say in what a parent does with their child,” she said. “They shouldn’t be able to control a woman’s body.”
Created Equal was conceived by Mark Harrington, an anti-abortion activist and executive director of the Midwest office of Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Their website features links for pregnant women for advice on their pregnancy as well as options for their program.
The university part of Created Equal’s midwest traveling campus tour, a new initiative created this year. Other Michigan schools they’ll be visiting are Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
EMU Students for Choice, a pro-abortion rights student organization, will be holding a silent protest Thursday, Oct. 12 from 12p.m. to 2p.m. in response to Created Equal’s demonstration.