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Anti-abortion group displays graphic images on Lowry Mall

Mizzou Students for Life reserved Lowry Mall for the display for the second year.

Volunteers Teresa Harris and Ellie Pearson share a laugh during a lull in activity. They volunteered with Students for Life of America to speak out against abortion.

Jack Howland/Staff Photographer

Senior Melissa Needles counter-protests the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform presentation on Lowry Mall on Monday.

Brent Pearson/Senior Staff Photographer

April 9, 2013

Boldfaced signs reading “Genocide Awareness Project” and “Warning Genocide Photos Ahead,” lined the entrances to Lowry Mall on Monday.

The signs were placed to warn passersby of the graphic photo display in the center of the pedestrian thoroughfare. The images, sponsored by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, are a part of its Genocide Awareness Project, which aims to use graphic images to deter woman from getting abortions.

Mizzou Students for Life reserved the space on Lowry Mall to allow the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to bring its display to campus.

The CBR’s posters placed images of aborted fetuses next to images of acts of genocide including the Holocaust, the Cambodian Killing Fields and the Rwandan genocide. Other posters compared abortion to child abuse, lynching and animal testing.

“One of the ways we teach (about abortion) is with this Genocide Awareness Project because, sadly, human history, and the last century, has unlimited examples to cite,” CBR Regional Coordinator Bill Calvin said. “In many cases, the powerful forces, whoever they are, deny the personhood of whatever group they want to take something from.”

Calvin said he believes the logic Nazis used to persecute Jewish people is the same logic people use today to justify abortions. He said Nazis declared Jewish people to be parasites, and he said students he spoke to at the display similarly called unborn fetuses parasites to justify abortions.

Some students expressed their concerns about the graphic nature of the photographs.

“There are 30,000-plus students on this campus,” graduate student Jessica Berry said. “You have no idea who’s affected by this. To put this on blast and have everyone see that without any kind of warning is (not) thoughtful.”

Calvin said he encountered both students who were supportive of and students who were against the displays. He said that, while it may upset some people, the intent is to save the lives of the fetuses.

Mizzou Students for Life president Reagan Nielsen said she founded the organization last March. The group brought the project to campus last year as well.

“This display really brings conversation on the campus about abortion,” Nielsen said. “Often times, people are hush-hush about it. They don’t want to talk about it. This creates a conversation . . . hopefully these images strike home and cause people to think about abortion.”

Student organizations requesting the use of university facilities must be recognized by Student Life and be in good standing as per the Organization Resource Group website, according to the Administrative Services website.

John Murray, Assistant Director of Business Services, and Mary Maxwell, Administrative Assistant of Business Services, then review the requests.

“We don't really concern ourselves in content as far as requests,” Murray said in an email. “As long as the request is in compliance with policy, we generally approve it.”

Feminist Student Union members quickly organized the morning of the display and peacefully protested the display with Planned Parenthood signs, while collecting signatures and emails of students who support relocating the event to Speakers Circle in the future.

“I find it incredibly offensive to compare a woman’s choice about her health and her body to mass genocide and evil going on in the world,” FSU President Nicole Silvestri. “I just think it’s completely absurd and an unfair comparison.”

Several students wore clothes to emulate Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk-rock collective and show their disapproval of the display.

“Pussy Riot is a punk collective of women in Russia who assemble spontaneously when problematic situations arise, and they dress in bright colors and they wear balaclavas to mask their faces and cover their identities,” junior Kat Seal said. “They do this to have their presence and their voices heard in situations when they feel that women as a whole are being oppressed.”

Calvin said the intent of the display was not to change laws but to change the minds of individuals.

“We don’t have a political agenda,” he said. “We’re not trying to elect a candidate in Missouri or change the laws in Missouri. We want to make individual people recognize what we believe, that abortion is unthinkable. It’s so horrible, if you really understand it.”

Some students were upset with the comparison of abortion to the Holocaust because the demonstration fell on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“I don’t see how abortion and genocide go hand in hand,” Berry said. “I don’t see how they thought this was okay to do this on national Holocaust Remembrance Day. This was supposed to be a day about them.”

However, Nielsen said it was unplanned for the day to coincide with the presentation — it was just the date that worked best.

Mizzou Hillel, the organization for Jewish students, sent an email offering support to students offended by the exhibit.

“We understand that this exhibit has the ability to evoke painful memories for students and faculty on campus,” the email said. “Hillel’s doors are always open, and we are here for support should anyone wish to discuss the issue.”

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Article comments

April 9, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.

Deanna B: "Nielsen said it was unplanned for the day to coincide with the presentation".... two years in a row. The choice of date was blatantly intentional. It is cowardly and disrespectful to say that the organization had no idea it was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

April 9, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.

Merrill : Hey, Bill Calvin, don't counter or displace your ignorance and discrimination about the Holocaust and genocide on the shoulders of pro-choice protestors by saying we compared unborn fetuses to parasites like Nazis did Jews. Mizzou students pay a lot of money for their education, we're smarter than that and we know the difference between genocide and abortions. Like really...think about it...would a feminist group adopt a nazi-like mindset and say anything even close to that? Maneater - check your facts and think logically before you publish articles.

April 9, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.

Emma VanDelinder: I agree, Merril. I'm dumbfounded that such a ridiculous and ignorant comparison can be made. I'm stunned not only by the distasteful comparison but also by the fact that there were children present, handing out fliers to students who had no mind to say no. This is a discussion, lets not pressure young adults to take something they don't support by putting ridiculous comparisons side by side and allowing children to be present and AROUND such graphic depictions.

April 9, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.

JohnF: Merrill, would a feminist group adopt a nazi-like mindset? Well, I can think of an individual. Ever heard of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood? Well, she was a white supremacist and a proponent of negative eugenics, the idea of hindering the reproduction by those deemed "unfit." Does that seem very nazi-like?

April 10, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.

Kameo M: “We don't really concern ourselves in content as far as requests,” Murray said in an email. “As long as the request is in compliance with policy, we generally approve it.” Personal opinions on abortion aside, walking through Lowery Mall during this display was very difficult. Requests for displays on Lowery Mall or anywhere on campus should, without question, be reviewed for content. Lowery Mall is one of the most traversed areas on campus, not only by students but also by families and visitors to the University. These images were very large, and painfully unavoidable. If you want to say something to discourage people from getting abortions, do it in a way where people can actually avoid it, where people can seek out the information for themselves, if desired.

April 10, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.

Ruth schwartz: As a tax paying member of the state of Missouri, and 74 years old, I am very disappointed that anti-abortion group was allowed to put up those offensive displays. You obviously don't remember why abortion was voted as legal. My generation was killing themselves trying to abort. And this will continue if women are not allowed choice. Thank God, there were a group of young women willing to stand up to this offensive display but please reconsider not allowing that anti abortion to ruin the beauty of the campus and create misleading pictures.

April 11, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.

Nick: Ruth, are these tax-paying and tuition-paying students not afforded the right to freedom of speech and freedom of protest? I'm not a fan of these displays, but what you just wrote suggests that you're not only against the displays, but against the idea of pro-life individuals even having the chance to speak their minds. The idea that people believe that a university, of all places, should shut down freedom of expression and diversity of thought, is a far more offensive thing than any set of pictures.

April 11, 2013 at 9:56 p.m.

Beth: I think the comment that strikes me most is Kameo's. I totally agree, and I am so glad I didn't have to witness it personally as I can't imagine having to see that. What if there were some students or other women on campus who had abortions in the past, who were currently contemplating one or had recently just gone through one? If this group had any idea personally what those women go through under that process and in making the decision to do that for whatever reason they choose, then I doubt this display would've been done so thoughtlessly. Imagine what this display made these women feel, and perhaps do afterwards. I think this display should've been torn down, or at least moved to speakers circle which is usually home to ridiculous crap like this. But, who am I kidding, exaggeration always works better than thoughtful and fair doesn't it?

April 12, 2013 at 12:15 a.m.

Matthew: The unborn are either whole, distinct, living human beings, in which it be wrong to kill them in all circumstances, or they are not whole, distinct, living human beings, in which it would be perfectly acceptable to kill them under all circumstances (without a worry, doubt, or regret). In the first scenario, the killing of millions of very young, defenseless children is an outrage and should be exposed for exactly what it is. In the second scenario, the unborn has no value or rights, and abortion should be of no consequence. However, those who speak out against displays such as this want to say that the unborn are nothing, of no value, simply tissue, a part of the woman’s body, but at the same time talk about what a hard decision the mothers have to go through, how the images may cause psychological distress, etc. If the choice truly is benign, then there should not be a strong psychological impact. The problem is, there IS a tremendous amount of hurt in the choice to have an abortion. There is also a lot of deception. The science shows without a doubt that the unborn human is living, whole, and distinct from the mother beginning at the moment of conception. At conception, the DNA from the mother and the DNA from the father are combined to create a new human being and provide every bit of information to continue development throughout every stage of life. It is true that we all start very small, but we all develop through the same stages in the same way. We all started out as an embryo, then a fetus, then an infant, toddler, child, adolescent, and adult, through until death. Age does not determine value, and we cannot kill based upon size, level of development, degree of dependency, or environment of the human being. For those that are able to see through the smoke screen regarding abortion, it is clear innocent human children are being killed in legal “medical facilities”, with the full consent of the mother. The younger generation, our generation which has lost 1/3 of our peers to abortion, has been indoctrinated with the pro-choice agenda throughout our lives. The issue has been hijacked from “What is the unborn?” and “What does abortion do to the unborn?” to an issue regarding our freedom to choose. I agree in choice in most all matters, and do not appreciate interference of the least bit in my personal choices. However, society has always limited our choices in so much as they interfere on the rights and choices of others. We cannot steal, assault, rape, or murder, all because they infringe upon the rights of others. When our choices affect other human beings by restricting their rights and choices, we no longer have the absolute freedom to do as we please.

April 12, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.

Matthew: Not one of the organizations on campus for this display was responsible for, or condoned, any of the violence portrayed in the images. That is, with the exception of the counter protest by those who support facilities which are responsible for the violence imposed upon the unborn, which were depicted in some of the images. Does it make sense for Group A to be outraged that Group B displays images of activities which Group A condones and states are of little consequence? Do you get mad at the murderer, or the crime scene investigator which takes pictures of the victim and uses them as evidence? Do you get mad at the mass murderer, or the reporter which exposes the story? The rest of the images were used to draw parallels between abortion and other human rights tragedies throughout history. They all demonstrated instances of government sanctioned, systematic, killings of an unwanted group. They all used the same tactic of portraying the unwanted group (unborn children in the case of abortion) as less than human in order to do as they pleased with them. When injustice happens, it has to be exposed. Many did not believe the magnitude and horror of the death camps, until they witnessed or saw images of the aftermath. The civil rights movement exploded when the general public saw the images of Emmett Till in his casket, beaten to death, his face almost unrecognizable as that of a human’s face. Images of the realities of war, natural disaster, persecution, etc. are used regularly because they show truth more so than words can begin to. If the truth of abortion is exposed, it will be rejected. We all have a resistance to admitting we were wrong, especially deceived. However, we all also have a right to be given the facts and the truth, especially when it concerns life and death. This display was very effective at facilitating thinking and dialogue on a topic that is usually kept quiet.

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