Abortion group at UTC draws demonstrators

Abortion group at UTC draws demonstrators

September 14th, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

Kristian Kastner, left, holds a sign as Mariah Pike, center, and Malaina Horn sign a petition Tuesday against a display of abortion images placed at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

On one side of the walkway, more than a dozen signboards are filled with graphic images of dead fetuses, what appears to be a small bloody hand over a dime, a young boy with a black eye.

On the other side, a group of students protests the images, collecting hundreds of signatures for a petition to take the signboards down.

The Genocide Awareness Project, a traveling photo-mural exhibit that compares abortion to genocide, visited the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Monday and Tuesday, placing its placards near the UTC library. The exhibit was sponsored by Students Choosing Life at UTC.

The visit did what it set out to do -- get attention and generate discussion -- prompting about two dozen students to make their own signs with such statements as "My uterus is my business" and "We don't want to see these images."

"We are just saying we don't want these pictures on our campus," said Mary Kathryn Cox, a 22-year-old women's studies and psychology major who planned to collect signatures all day Tuesday.

"Some of us are pro-life. Some of us are pro-choice. This is not about abortion," she said. "We don't want to see these images. We don't want to invoke PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] upon students because we don't know what they've gone through."

Madi Rose Taff holds a sign Tuesday to protest the display of graphic abortion images on the UTC campus. Students having pro-choice and pro-life viewpoints came together to gather signatures against the graphic panels placed on campus by an anti-abortion group.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Nicole Cooley, project director with the Southeast Region of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which created the Genocide Awareness Program, said the pictures are part of the group's methodology.

"Martin Luther King Jr. said America will not reject racism until America sees racism," she said. "We believe pictures are vital to communicate the humanity of the unborn child and the violence of abortion itself."

Students walking through campus had mixed emotions about the display. Because the signboards were in a central area of campus near the University Center, some students said they should have been warned that the images were coming.

Cox said she wishes the university had warned the students about the graphic images at least two days before they were put up.

UTC spokeswoman Cindy Carroll said the university doesn't warn students about upcoming events.

"We don't warn them about graphic presentations. On that same note, we recognize that this particular group offers an edgy presentation, but they are welcomed to push the envelope on our campus as long as they stay in the area they were given, they don't block a walkway, don't physically touch anyone," she said. "They are just exercising their First Amendment rights."

Keith Myatt, 22, who spent several minutes talking to Cooley, said the pictures are drastic but something has to reach people.

"I'm not happy to look at them. I have not looked at them because I know what they are. They are disturbing. But it's also something that is very prevalent, especially on a college campus," he said.

John Michael, 23, who spent only a few seconds in front of the pictures before heading to his next class, said the images were really graphic, but he didn't mind them because they are real.

"We are college students. We are grown," he said.

But Bridgette Wallace, an 18-year-old freshman holding a sign that read "Choices are Sexy" in blue letters, said it's a bad way of getting a point across.

"We think it's in bad taste," she said.

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