Grisly images focus of abortion demonstration

A display that showed pictures of aborted fetuses, and images of death and violence was erected in the South Park Blocks yesterday, causing some commotion from protestors and upset students.

A display that showed pictures of aborted fetuses, and images of death and violence was erected in the South Park Blocks yesterday, causing some commotion from protestors and upset students.

Throughout the day the close to 15 participants working around the display handed out flyers across a metal partition to students who would listen. At times, passersby would approach the group and get into short arguments. But for most of the day, quiet protestors were the only response to the images and display.

The display was sponsored by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which calls itself a non-profit educational corporation. The center has the goal of “working to establish prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn,” according to their website.

The display, called the “Genocide Awareness Project,” featured large posters and signs correlating abortion with genocide, lynching and murder. The PSU student group, Students for Life, have been trying to get the Genocide Awareness Project to campus for about a year, according to Nathan Sheets, a member of Students for Life.

“We wanted to bring an exhibit to campus that we thought would be relevant,” Sheets said. “The main point of the exhibit is to show the similarities between genocide and abortion. The only way to compare them is to show pictures of both.”

The display, which was erected between the Millar Library and Neuberger Hall in the Park Blocks, incited some turmoil on campus Wednesday among students and protestors who stood near the display. Some students yelled at the group, while protestors held signs that read, “I have had an abortion” and other pro-choice slogans.

PSU student Tricia Duffin saw the display in the morning and decided to skip her classes to protest it. She said there was no contact between herself and the group. As the day progressed more people with signs joined Duffin.

“I just couldn’t sit through my lectures,” Duffin said.

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform informed the Portland State administration in advance that they would be visiting the Park Blocks. The group asked Campus Public Safety for a uniformed officer to be present.

Public Safety Director Michael Soto said he denied that request, but said that officers would patrol the area. The Park Blocks are public property and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform received a display permit from the city.

Darrius Hardwick, the Northwest director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, said the only real trouble they have had at PSU is some shouting–but sometimes their displays cause a violent reaction. The last time they visited PSU was in 1999.

“A university is a place for ideas,” said Hardwick about why they come to universities. “The pro-life position is a minority position, but it’s a point of view that needs to be shared.”

Portland State administrators and representatives from different departments on campus met Tuesday night to form a plan of action about how to deal with possible consequences of the display. They decided to put up signs around the Park Blocks, which would inform students that the park is a public space and that the group is allowed to be there.

A band played music on the Park Block stage less than a block from the display, while students ate and studied in sight of the images. A group of visiting middle school students from Patton Middle School walked near the display, until the adult leading them took them away.

“It bothers my conscience. I don’t like looking at these pictures,” Hardwick said, adding that as long as abortions occur, he said he will show the pictures. “I’ll be happy for the day I’ll bring all my pictures down.”

Administrators also reminded students they could visit the Student Health and Counseling Center if the display upset any students.

Lars Larson, a conservative radio talk show host, learned of the display and spoke against the PSU administration on his morning radio show yesterday. He said implying that the images of bloody disembodied fetuses would disturb students to the point of needing counseling means that PSU was taking a political stance against the pro-life message.

“It has a chilling effect. It would tend to turn people off to a message before they’ve even seen it,” he said in a phone interview. “Why were they warning people? I think there’s a huge double standard. If they were to do it for every protest I would understand it. It’s the only time the university has taken these kinds of actions.”

PSUnity, a part of the President’s Diversity Initiative meant to create a positive environment for faculty, staff, and students on campus, had a booth near the display to listen to anyone who was upset by the images. Kelle Lawrence, coordinator of diversity programs at PSU, was outside during the day with PSUnity and said that the volunteers with PSUnity were not sharing their opinions about abortion, even if they did have one.

Although not many students visited her, she said that the students that did needed someone to talk to.

“People were coming up with wounds reopened,” Lawrence said.

Matthew Peterson, a worker at the Fuego Burrito cart that sits daily at the corner of the Park Blocks near the display, said he was affected by the images in the display. A sign in his cart read, “Abortion is not genocide.”

Peterson said he thinks the display directly harmed his burrito sales. On Tuesday, Peterson sold 90 burritos. On Wednesday, Peterson sold 40. A lot of people lost their appetite, he said, even some of his regulars.

“I don’t know why I’ve been subjected,” Peterson said. “I think it’s disgusting.”

The Genocide Awareness Project will be on campus again today from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.