Human Rights

Harvard students were pro-choice on abortion but not on putting up posters

Planned Parenthood, abortion videos

In a recent article on Live Action, I wrote about how a pro-abortion booklet aimed at college students and other activists told them to prevent people from seeing images of preborn and aborted babies. The booklet said:

Another set of questions involves the opposition. Has your audience seen anti-abortion propaganda? Are you debating a Right-to-Lifer? Is the opposition bringing slides or pictures? Try to insist that they not be allowed to … Find out if your opposition is bringing audio-visuals. Try to insist that you will only speak if they do not …

Now I have stumbled across an example of some pro-choice college students  who took that advice to heart. What I’m about to relate happened in 2006, but because it so perfectly illustrates the point of the other article, I’m going to discuss it now.

Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek wrote about a project that members of Harvard Right to Life were doing on their campus. The pro-life group put up a series of posters with photographs of a preborn baby at different stages of development who had been given the name “Elena.” The purpose was to show the humanity of children in the womb. Below, you can see two of the posters.

Elena 1

Elena 3

The images are not graphic, and the words are not condemning, strident, or angry. However, it seems that many students on campus were pro-choice about whether or not to kill a baby, but not pro-choice about whether or not to put up a poster. The posters were ripped down almost as soon as they were put up, and then torn down again and again, repeatedly.

There were a number of comments from pro-abortion students in student publications.

In an article in The Harvard Crimson, one student wrote: 

The “Elena posters” are the newest tactic of Harvard Right to Life. They feature a little fetus saying, “Oh, HI! I was just celebrating all my organs and me being 56 days alive!” I am not a fan…. They seek to cause anger, not excitement. In doing so, they reveal their antagonistic purpose, implicitly admitting that their primary function is to irritate pro-choice supporters on campus….this is a hurtful and unproductive way of expressing opinions…. it is simply a statement of anger to express your ideas in the way of the “Elena Posters…It also happens to misrepresent the pro-choice members of this campus as bloodthirsty baby killers…. They’re offensive because they draw the false distinction, “Either you’re with the right-wing loonies, or you’re with the murderers.”

She also called the display “purposeless aggression.”

In another Harvard Crimson article, a different student says:

I personally find the image disgusting and don’t want to walk past it everyday,.. .It doesn’t have to do with abortion as an issue or free speech; it’s about being decent and not being disgusting.

After reading these two responses, I couldn’t help but shake my head and wonder if we were looking at the same pictures. These are not graphic, in-your-face photos of babies torn apart by abortion. They are the same photos you might find in a biology or embryology textbook, or in a book for expectant mothers. I did not see anything in the posters that claims that pro-choicers were “baby killers” or “murderers” or that one had to be a “right wing loonie” in order to be a good person.

And it’s sad to see that a young woman would find a preborn baby “disgusting” – and I can’t help but wonder, is it the little arms and legs, the fingers, the head – which part of the baby disgusts her so? And if she is disgusted by a photograph of a preborn child in the womb, how must she feel when she sees a born baby in someone’s arms? That must really disgust her. But that’s beside the point. Simply because something “disgusts” one or more members of the student body doesn’t mean it’s okay to censor the message by any means possible. Tearing down posters is an immature way to respond to a challenge to one’s thinking.

Here is another example of a complaining student, which I think gives an indication of why the pictures were so hated:

I think I have a right to not see that crap on my way to breakfast, lunch, and dinner….Ethically charged posters like that have no place in common spaces. Quite simply, if one is pro-choice, they make you uncomfortable and annoyed….

That’s it. These pictures make pro-choicers “uncomfortable.” That’s because they push the issue of “choice” from the abstract to the concrete. The pro-choice person is forced to see the object of the choice they speak of – and it looks alarmingly like a human being. And it can be uncomfortable to confront the fact that you support killing human beings.

The written message makes them uncomfortable too. It reminds them of what they already know, what everyone knows – personal identity begins in the womb. I was the same person in my mother’s womb as I am now, and the same is true for every person reading this, as well as every one of the proabortion students who tore down the posters.

Incidentally, Jill Stanek’s blog attracted at least one person who was ok with students tearing down the posters.  Apparently, they were frustrated because their wife is named Elena.

I’m married to someone who doesn’t appreciate a fetus who has usurped her name and plastered all over the place where she lives and works and so what if people rip them down. HELLO no poster on a college campus should expect to stay around for more than a couple of days..who the heck names fetuses anyway..?!?!?

Perhaps when I write my byline, I should take out the name “Sarah.” After all, some pro-choice person might have the same name and get offended.

Even though this particular incident happened at 2006, it illustrates an ongoing attitude among many pro-choicers. Pictures of unborn babies must be censored, suppressed, discarded, or mocked. They must not, for any reason, be looked at or considered. They must not, for any reason, be thought about. If you think about the baby in the womb too long, you start to think that maybe it’s wrong to kill him or her. And there goes the pro-choice position.

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