Sarah Grace Goolden
The Genocide Awareness Project, an anti-abortion organization, set up their displays on Wednesday in front of Jackson Library as day one of their three day installment. Students heading to class on College Avenue had no choice but to walk past huge, blown-up pictures of abortions, lynched slaves and piles of bodies at concentration camps. Free speech should be celebrated but the way in which GAP went about voicing their opinion was offensive and was not helpful to their cause.
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform produces and manages the project which has traveled to university campuses across the United States and Canada since 1998. Before you reach the fenced-off area, there are several “Warning: Genocide photos ahead” signs. Their installments rely largely on shock value, brandishing bloodied, deformed fetuses and comparing the act to Cambodian killing fields and the Tutsi people during the Rwandan genocide. Several spokespeople stand in front of the displays to answer questions or discuss the controversial subject.
There were many different opinions at the function, more so than just pro-life or pro-choice. Some were able to bond over their mutual ideas or agree to disagree while others were engaged in heated debates. If GAP came to the school to start a conversation, they got exactly what they wanted. However, as spokesperson Maggie Egger confirmed, their purpose was to “show people the reality of abortion” and to prove that “the preborn are human beings.”
Gigantic posters of gore are unsettling, and that is a big part of what GAP stands for. The cold reality of abortions is what drives the organization. Comparing anything to the mass extermination of the Holocaust is bold, which is a tactic to prove the seriousness of their movement. While most were shocked, not everyone was comfortable with the accusations.
Several students claimed their comparisons to be racist, as well as sexist. One sign likens doctors who perform abortion procedures to Nazis. The image above is a doctor with the Sigil of Baphomet, a satanic insignia, photoshopped beside his face.
Groups of protesters, armed with signs and pamphlets of their own, remained at the scene almost all day. When some left, others showed up. Frequently, student would begin to chant “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, your backwards views have got to go.” It is obvious that the installment was upsetting to a large majority of those who saw it, so why is it still allowed to continue?
Federal free speech policies for public universities allow GAP and other organizations to preach their views and colleges have the legal obligation to let them to do so. This is not the first time GAP has set up shop on UNCG’s campus. The Carolinian previously reported on a protest against the installations in November 2015. UNCG Student Affairs staff were available all three days including Cathy Hamilton. She specified that the school does not endorse the organization, they do endorse free speech.
The exchange of ideas and perspectives is critical; however it seems the school’s hands are tied when it comes to how that exchange is displayed. An email warning students of the upcoming event as well as counseling were provided. While it may seem like the right thing to do to stand up to this event is to march carrying pitchforks and torches, to the Dean of Students office, I don’t think UNCG is to blame.
The word “genocide” is a heavy one to throw around. The lives that were lost, primarily because of race or religion, should not be exploited in such a graphic way. As spokesperson Fletcher Armstrong said, “if you don’t want to look, don’t look.” However, this sentiment doesn’t work as well when GAP sets up their huge displays in a setting with such high foot traffic. Again, UNCG had no choice in where the aborted fetus posters were set up.
I’m not writing this tell anyone what to do with their bodies or which side is right. Nor is this an attempt to curb free speech. The way in which The Genocide Awareness Project goes about circulating their rhetoric is aggressive and it scared off more people than it attracted. Chimeri Anazia, who identifies as pro-life, agreed that their current format, especially comparing abortion to genocide, is not a good way to spread their message. If people who agree with your position are critical of the approach, perhaps it’s time to reassess it.
If this pro-life organization wanted to impact more people, they would come from a place of compassion and open arms, not accusations and gore. Those who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy need an organization that will understand their point of view and provide them with their alternative. The use of graphic and offensive images is not only traumatic, but it does not welcome those in wishes to engage with.
GAP makes a loud, angry point but if they are really concerned with the preborn, I would urge them to make themselves into a compassionate refuge, not a platform for shame.