By Thomas Kelley
Along with most of the student body, faculty, administration and even visitors to the Portland campus this week, I had the displeasure to view an anti-abortion display by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform on Wednesday and Thursday. The installation was a ring of dozens of graphic images approximately six to seven feet tall ranging from abhorrently offensive to deplorably nauseating. The pictures shown were of various world genocides and other tragic plights throughout the recent years to highlight the organization’s supposed Genocide Awareness Project (GAP).
The message, amid the bloody imagery: that abortion is an international holocaust.
It proved clear that the message that the CBR was trying to sear into the public’s memory their own deeply-held belief that abortion is equivalent to genocide — an opinion that is purposefully tenebrous, debasing, vile. And wrong.
Putting images of Darfur, Auschwitz, September 11 and Barack Obama (not engaged in any killing, just posing with his family) side by side, with what were purported to be images of aborted and mutilated fetuses in-between, is simply pointless. On browsing the CBR’s website, which I don’t recommend, they have in small print that the group “condemns all abortion-related violence and will not associate with groups or individuals who fail to condemn such violence,” so their aims are as overt as their methods.
That principle is written right under a video of an abortion that is the first thing that starts playing as soon as one visits the website.
The sad issue we have here is that these pictures that were out on the campus were not thought-provoking, or contextualized, but something closer to slander. The strategy that the CBR used was the cliché of shock value. I see no value in this approach. The vast majority of people who see these impertinent photos will simply speedily walk away disgusted and the people who may have been undecided on abortion will be reluctant to associate with such a group. No matter your beliefs on abortion, the presentation was certainly inappropriate.
If the event had a positive impact, it would be the resultant debate about free speech that popped up all over campus in its wake. I support a person’s right to express him or herself, even if they do so poorly and in decidedly poor taste. I, in turn, retain the right to be indignant about their expression in voicing my own, opposing thoughts. There was a mountainous and well organized effort by several student organizations to direct foot traffic around the display and student groups such as the Arts and Crafts Club even set up an area to occupy people with alternative activities. Several students peacefully protested the GAP set up.
I believe that this action students took answered many questions. While USM is a public university we do pay tuition (and not in order to view such sights or be distracted from classes). At least our student activity fees can go toward countering, or providing a balance of viewpoints. Furthermore, active students expressed their own conclusions on abortion and how such information is presented by to all in the realm of free speech on our campus.
Thomas Kelley is a senior political science student.