The Student Voice of MU Since 1955
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Editorial: Vile anti-abortion display harms many, benefits none

April 9, 2013

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Maneater editorial board.

This week, the organization Mizzou Students for Life partnered with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to bring a large display called the “Genocide Awareness Project” to Lowry Mall for a second year. If you didn’t see it, you certainly heard about it. Just as it did last year, the demonstration featured horribly violent images of gore, including murder and genocide victims, as well as aborted, mutilated fetuses. Regardless of the point being made and regardless of the impassioned abortion debate taking place in this country, we are disappointed that our fellow students in Mizzou Students for Life did not consider the feelings and experiences of others when deciding to stage the display.

Central to our view is the principle that Mizzou Students for Life and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform have every right to express their opinions on campus. With controversial events and demonstrations such as this one, it is wholly comforting to us to know that the First Amendment protects their right to speech (including imagery) just as much as it does our right to publish, and we’re glad that our university’s treatment of this display was fair and in total accord with our supreme law. Mizzou Students for Life met every requirement to rent the space on Lowry Mall, and Monday, their protesters stayed peaceful and civil.

However, the display is fundamentally offensive and makes many uncomfortable. We realize this is the aim of the campaign, but there are certainly more constructive ways to educate the student body. To exhibit excruciatingly graphic pictures of massacred genocide victims, of lynched African-Americans and of aborted fetuses is alienating, polarizing and upsetting, and it causes people to dig further into their trenches. Since Mizzou Students for Life chose Lowry Mall as the best location to reach the most people, then the number of students, faculty, staff and visitors who reroute their way through campus to avoid the demonstration surely detracted from the organization’s goal. The backdrop of violent images and vitriol is no place to foster discussion and understanding.

We are not here to take a stance on abortion rights and laws, but we are outraged at how the protest labels abortion as genocide. It is not. Genocide involves a single, united aggressor intending to eradicate a specific group of people (usually based on race or ethnicity) to accomplish a specific cause, and none of those elements can be used to describe abortion. Mizzou Students for Life was perhaps unaware, but their protest began on Holocaust Remembrance Day, where the Jewish community and the world remembers fresh the horrors of that terrible genocide; it is certainly telling that the Hillel Center reached out with counselors to help anyone hurt by the display. It’s an affront to anyone who has been personally affected by the beyond-cruel reality of genocide — whether firsthand, through family, through ethnic identity, or otherwise — and misinforms everyone about what genocide truly is.

In the face of such hatred and bigotry, we applaud those who worked to provide resources and alternative information for those harmed or confused by yesterday’s demonstration and will continue to do so today. As we previously mentioned, the Hillel Center was proactive in notifying its members of the protest’s graphic nature and providing counseling for those who wanted it. We sympathize with the MU Jewish community. It's not every Holocaust Remembrance Day that you witness people using violent images of your ethnic group’s greatest tragedy for political and social gain, and we regret that our campus played host to such vitriol and insensitivity.

We also commend all who helped warn others about the graphic display, particularly the Feminist Student Union, who quickly organized a counter-protest. FSU president Nicole Silvestri got the word out early via social media, and the group’s counter-protest was very professional, avoiding conflict and simply providing support to those offended and hurt by the demonstration. Looking forward, those involved with counter-protesting should be sure to cover both ends of Lowry Mall, to provide a proper warning for all who walk through it. Everyone deserves to choose what they are exposed to, and we thank everyone who enabled their fellow students to make an informed decision on their route through campus yesterday.

Many have surely questioned the judgment of university administrators in allowing such a vile display to be staged so prominently in a main thoroughfare of campus. However, for them to reject this demonstration would open up questions on where exactly the line on graphic displays is drawn, and who can and cannot express their viewpoint on campus — that is dangerously close to censorship, and we are proud that our university upheld the constitutional right to expression of all students.

We would recommend, though, that the university’s event staff consider creating a calendar of all displays, protests and other uses of public space on campus. After all, it’s students who pay for the maintenance, the utilities and the security at our university. We deserve to know who is using our public space and when they are doing it. Besides, it wouldn’t just be helpful for those who wish to avoid certain demonstrations — those who’d like to attend or witness an event would be better informed as well.

In the end, it comes down to compassion and consideration for others. While we stand for the right of Mizzou Students for Life and all other groups who stage controversial events to gather and exercise their freedom of expression, no one benefits when a demonstration is so vile that it sparks a campus-wide effort to keep people away from it. It’s a spectacle, an act of aggression. We know this is not the last time images of aborted fetuses will show up on our campus, but we hope that next time, those responsible for such displays will consider who might see it and what they might have experienced in their life. Imagery can be immensely powerful, both for good and for bad, and Mizzou Students for Life should be ashamed of the lack of compassion it is displaying on Lowry Mall.

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments

April 9, 2013 at 7:12 a.m.

Michael: There are some things in this world that need to jar people from the ignorance in which they live their lives. For those of us who believe life begins way before birth--whatever precise moment that is--these images show a portion of the truth about abortion's inherent wrongness (or, dare I say, immorality). The images draw out the point that lives are being destroyed by abortion, despite what politicians and a large majority of the political Left say. The images force viewers to ask the question, "When do I believe life begins?" This is a question the many on the political Left refuse to entertain, seeing as they brush it aside with an answer like "birth." At what stage in "birth" does is the Life of the child guaranteed? When the first hair of the baby's head leaves the mother's uterus? When the last toe leaves the uterus? When the umbilical cord is fully severed? These are the questions that many refuse to answer, but for the sake of one's conscience--to make informed political decisions as well as informed decisions about whether or not to get an abortion--shouldn't one be able to answer these questions? Unfortunately, these questions that the vile images force upon viewers are not the key questions for Pro-Choice groups. This is because at the core of the Pro-Choice movement is not the belief that a fetus is not a human and therefore can be discarded by a woman if she so pleases. No, no, at the philosophical core of the Pro-Choice movement is just that, Choice--the choice to end a life inside you simply because it does not suit your lifestyle, or because it will limit your professional career, or because it will be hard to raise, or because it was created in tragic circumstances. This is the central point of the Pro-Choice movement. It is not to support abortion, as some of my fellow anti-abortion proponents say when they refer to Pro-Choice people as being "Pro-Abortion." Many Pro-Choicers openly say they despise abortion but believe it should be legal for the sake of personal liberty, just as I despise pornography but believe it should be legal for the sake of personal liberty. The cause of personal liberty is noble and valued, but personal liberty is misunderstood if it is not seen as subordinate to Life--"Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," in that order. For this reason, we as individuals and as a society must answer the question, "When do I/we believe life begins?" I think protests like that of the Mizzou Students for Life show that "birth" is not a sufficient answer. Lastly, I think we can all agree "it comes down to compassion and consideration for others," but only the Pro-Life movement acts with true compassion and consideration for the "others" inside their mothers.

April 9, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.

MU Student: "There are some things in this world that need to jar people from the ignorance in which they live their lives." Anytime your argument starts from a place of seeing others as ignorant, you're doing something wrong. Also, "The cause of personal liberty is noble and valued, but personal liberty is misunderstood if it is not seen as subordinate to Life--"Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," in that order." Those rights are equal, and to remove any one for the sake of an individual sect is to ruin the integrity of the others. Please don't argue for legislation of religious beliefs behind the veil of libertarian ideals, it doesn't work, it only serves to make you sound as ignorant as the people your group deems necessary to bombard with graphic images and biased propaganda.

April 9, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.

Kelsey: I think those who are pro-choice only use the genocide aspect as a diversion from the display's true intentions, which is to discuss when life begins, and whether or not abortion is murder. Being anti-abortion, I think the display shouldn't compare abortion to genocide, simply because it's clearly not getting SFL's point across. Also, Maneater editorial staff, I don't think you truly meant "Everyone deserves to choose what they are exposed to"...that's cutting it a little close to the political right wing for a collegiate newspaper.

April 9, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.

MU student: Michael, I'm going to assume you're a man - sorry if I'm wrong...but until you've been able to experience why someone would get an abortion, what the mindset of a pro-choice person is and until you've been triggered by extremely graphic and incorrect information...stop using your privilege to pretend like you know everything...

April 9, 2013 at 3:11 p.m.

Fares: Right on, Maneater. I agree completely. The main issue here is NOT that we don't want people voicing their opinions. We just need people to voice their opinions in a respectful, compassionate way, instead of assaulting passersby with images of genocide and gore that border on violating the University's policy on lewd public displays. It is especially important that people keep in mind that others might have had particularly painful experiences with the subject matter. I don't see it as productive to cause passing individuals to have panic attacks or other emotional episodes as a result an insensitive means of conveying a simple message. Again, communicating in a compassionate manner is key. Finally, I don't think anyone on this campus has the time or the patience for people getting children involved in this contentious issues. I was absolutely disgusted that the parents of children were forcing them to be involved in handing out graphic images. Regardless of where you stand on an issue such as this, kids SHOULD NOT be forced to participate in the squabble. I think that the most important thing to keep in mind here is this: this protest was hardly productive, given that abortion was ruled almost universally legal in 1974, and that isn't changing. However, despite this relative inconsequentiality, this protest did cause real pain for real people. Sharing opinions via an appropriate medium is absolutely wonderful, but this was not that. This was screaming for the sake of screaming, and real people got caught in the fray. The protestors decided that their feeling like they were doing something was more important than treating their fellow Mizzou students with respect. That isn't fair. TL; DR: Debate is great. Let's debate, and not just hurt each other.

April 9, 2013 at 3:45 p.m.

MU Student: I agree, this display incorrectly used the word genocide, and could have picked a better time to put up the display. However, what is truly upsetting people, is actually seeing the truth. I applaud MU SFL for showing some of the true images of what happens inside of the abortion process. No, it is not genocide. Yes, it is murder. I am pro-life, aside from rapes and pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother. Beyond that, women had the choice to engage in sexual activity, understood the risks/consequences, and did it anyway. Once you have another human life in your hands, the slightest thought to destroy said life is nothing but pure selfishness. Our own law system recognizes that unborn children are humans, living, and valuable, not fetuses that can be thrown away at will. Example: If someone runs a red light and t-bones an expecting woman, killing them on impact, said person would be charged with the life of both the mother and of the child, a double homicide. Even if that mother was on her way to the abortion clinic that day. Murder is murder, no matter who decides how or when it happens.

April 9, 2013 at 4:50 p.m.

DB: Thank you Maneater for publishing such a valid and compassionate article for the Mizzou student, faculty and staff body, along with the surrounding community, to read. It's articles like these that make me proud to be a Tiger. With that said, I believe it's incredibly necessary to point out that regardless of where a persons individual beliefs on abortion fall, making abortion illegal would be an abomination to ALL women and the constitutional equality our Mothers, Grandmothers, Great Grandmothers and earlier generations fought so hard for and with so much dignity. And sadly, women today are still fighting that fight. "In the late sixties and seventies, America accepted that women’s reproductive rights were not a matter for government regulation. As women became increasingly confident taking control of issues that affected their health and families, they were subsequently confident taking control of their educations, their careers, their spiritual growth. That’s why they call it health and wellness. The wellness part is the rest of your life, the part your healthy body allows you to do. This effort to restrict the services available to women is a direct attack on our wellness. Fact: political regimes throughout history have used sexual humiliation as a means of maintaining control over women, and continue to do so. Taking control of a woman's body through oppressive legislation is a form of sexual humiliation." There are also hard facts that making abortion illegal does not stop abortion; it makes women more susceptible to "back alley hanger" style abortions, which usually results in less professional, non-sterile environments that put the women's life in jeopardy. Also, if we can't trust a woman to make decisions regarding her own body, how can we trust her with a child?

April 9, 2013 at 11:46 p.m.

Terrence: A vile display is only fitting for a vile practice. For those that insist "genocide" is an improper term, do some research on Margaret Sanger and her role with birth control and its evolution. An incredibly racist, vile woman who is essentially the architect of abortion's current path. Over 70% of Planned Parenthood clinics are in minority communities and over 35% of abortions are performed for black women. Whoever wrote this piece needs to open a book.

April 10, 2013 at 1:29 p.m.

Grace: I really applaud this article for not taking a side on the issue of abortion, but rather, taking the side of all individuals who could be offended by the incident. I'm extremely impressed and will continue to support the Maneater because of this article.

April 11, 2013 at 4:36 p.m.

Mel: Terrence - Perhaps Margaret Sanger was a racist in her time, but she died before the Civil Rights Act was even proposed and like many partisans on both sides of issues back then, racism was prolific and permissible in the 1920's, Eugenics was a degree at Harvard, and Jim Crow laws were enacted along with separate railway cars and trollies. Your argument is as flawed as saying because my grandpa did not like many black people in 1956, anything that comes from his lineage would be frozen in his era of thought. Also, highlighting a lower number of black women receiving abortions (ONE of PP's services) in comparison to non-hispanic women who make up over 50% of that pie is admitting your argument is flawed (Additionally, 52% of black women seek abortions for unintended pregnancies in comparison with the 40% of non-hispanic women aborting according to CDC 2008 - just because abortion exists in those areas or due to the high cost of raising a child at a low income?) Why more health centers around minorities? Well, maybe due to all the racially enacted items I previously mentioned in US history, black women and hispanic women are still put at a socioeconomic disadvantage, ESPECIALLY in the field of healthcare. These women of "minority" background don't always have premium health insurance access, but they still need health exams, contraception, STD testing, breast health check-ups, family planning and the like. Given that far less than 10% of services are abortions, that's including non-surgical medicinal abortions, I think you're the one who is making assumptions about minorities, not PP.

Post a comment
Start a discussion

Concurrence or rebuttal, if you have a strong opinion, let's hear it. The Maneater Forum seeks to publish a diversity of opinions and foster meaningful decision. Readers are encouraged to actively contribute to and develop new discussions. Add to ours, or make your own point.

Send a letter Send a tweet