Explicit Graphics in Pro-Life Protest at SY Stir up Controversy

By Jesse Maes|May 16, 2014Archive|

The imagery shown at an anti-abortion protest at Sylvania Campus on May the 13th has triggered a stream of controversy and hot debate about explicit graphics and free speech in public universities.

Individuals identifying with “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” (SAH)  set up a display outside of the CC Building, near the Library, but were asked by PCC to instead move into the College Center. They refused, and the group stated that they were within their rights to protest outdoors. PCC lawyers agreed, and the group was operational on the grass outside, complete with Public Security to keep any serious problems from occurring. The protesters handed out pamphlets from the Human Life AllianceHow to Keep Your Mushrooms Happy!, and engaged students in conversation about abortion and its negative effects. 

However, the conversation was a direct result of the intense photographs shown at the table display. The pictures largely were of aborted fetuses and bloody tissue. The imagery was offensive to some and stirred up dissent over the rights of the protesters to subject passerby to the displays. 

By coincidence, the protest at Sylvania came shortly after a different pro-life group, the Rock Creek campus organization Students for Life had made a presentation there, showing their Students for Life Club Memorial Wall . (See the piece written by Elizabeth Anderson in the Opinion Section.) The “Memorial  Wall” is a display etched with all the names of aborted fetuses. The protest at RC was not subjected to the criticism nearly as much as the the graphic displays at SY. Caleb Knezevich, President of the Rock Creek club, told the Bridge that the two protests occurring in a short period of time was a coincidence, and that his group was unaware of the plans of “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” until a couple of days before their appearance.

The controversial images have stirred up debate over the free speech rights of the participants; many felt they went over the line with the graphics.

In an e-mail to PCC staff and The Bridge, campus president Birgitte Ryslinge stated,

“The basis for our approach to this incident was to respect the First Amendment rights of all around free expression, no matter how some of us might have felt about that particular expression…to do our best to mitigate the undoubtedly negative personal impacts on some individuals who did not wish to be exposed to these images or perspectives; and to not have our actions escalate the matter in ways that would disadvantage PCC.”

According to legal limitations and the 1st Amendment, the group was entirely within their rights to protest.

One of the points in question is children–there is a daycare facility on campus for students with young children. Given that there is a very good chance of a little child walking by with his/her parent, there was concern that bloody imagery posted up on the boards could be frightening and perhaps even traumatizing. This, among other points, has been the topic of hot debate on PCC’s “Spaces” page, a website for students’ discussion on certain topics. The page on Free Speech at Sylvania can be found here

The Bridge will continue to follow the development of this controversial issue, but if you would like to submit your own thoughts or writings on the subject, send us your article at thebridge@pcc.edu

Due to their graphic nature, the photographs are up for viewing elsewhere. To view the pictures posted at Sylvania Campus, please click here. Viewer discretion is advised. Please note that the current photograph is from a previous demonstration elsewhere, but The Bridge will have photographs from the PCC display as soon as they are made available.

Updated May 16, 4:00 pm.

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