Pro-life group displays controversial images on Diag

Hannah Chin/Daily
Students and passersby sign a “Free Speech Board,” which was displayed on the Diag on Monday, Oct. 3 as part of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Genocide Awareness Project. The University’s chapter of Students for Life hosted the center’s exhibit on campus. Buy this photo

By Adam Rubenfire, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 3, 2011

Large signs warned passersby entering the Diag yesterday that graphic images were up ahead.

The images were part of a day long photo exhibit of the Genocide Awareness Project that displayed photos of aborted fetuses next to images of Holocaust victims, the genocide in Darfur and a lynching of an African American person. The project is an effort of the California-based Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and the campus organization Students for Life reserved the space on the Diag for the exhibit.

A truck bearing images of aborted fetuses also circled Central Campus throughout the day. In an interview on the Diag yesterday, Darius Hardwick, regional director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, said the exhibit makes a relevant connection between genocide and abortion.

“The basic comparison of the similarity between abortion and (the) Holocaust is lots of dead victims,” Hardwick said. “There (are) lots of other comparisons — like you have to dehumanize a victim before you can kill them, and that was done in the Holocaust.”

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform brings the exhibit to different places throughout the country, mainly to college campuses, according to Hardwick.

“It is the prime demographic of people having abortions,” Hardwick said.

He added that college campuses are also better suited for the organization’s exhibits because there are fewer children present. While some students expressed concern regarding the graphic nature of the exhibit’s photos, Hardwick said the shock value of the photos is justified.

“The only reason our display is so graphic is because abortion is so graphic,” Hardwick said. “If you don’t like these pictures, then maybe you shouldn’t like abortion.”

LSA junior Carmen Allen, president of Students for Life, said the organization asked the Genocide Awareness Project to come to campus because many students here aren’t concerned about abortions.

“I think that the University of Michigan is the subject of a lot of apathy on campus that we have labeled tolerance,” Allen said. “I think that abortion is an issue that has really fallen under that apathy. The only thing that can really shake up this campus is to see what’s going on through the graphic image.”

Allen said she didn’t think the pictures are unnecessarily graphic.

“This is exactly what’s happening,” she said. “I think that we have the right to our constitutional freedom of speech … It’s important for people to be aware of what’s going on.”

LSA junior Anna Paone, vice president of Students for Life, said she was initially concerned about the graphic nature of the photos that the organization brought to campus.

“At first I didn’t agree,” Paone said. “At first I thought this was too bold, and I thought it would offend too many people to be useful.”

But she said she has since decided that the images are necessary to challenge people’s opinions about abortion.

“I think that sometimes you need to go bold, and you need to have images,” Paone said.

She added that she thinks the exhibit makes an accurate comparison of abortion to genocide.

“Our fundamental argument is that the fetus is a human,” Paone said. “If the fetus is a human, it is an accurate comparison.”

Students for Life contacted the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and brought its members to campus for a similar event in 2000, according to Paone. The campus group also had a booth on the Diag yesterday dispensing information for women who may be considering abortion and set up a “Free Speech” board on which students could write their opinions about various issues.

LSA senior Rachel Fentin, co-president of Students for Choice, said the campus organization tried to prevent the Genocide Awareness Project from coming to the University.

"We had concern for the students on campus who are going to be walking through that have experienced abortion, who have family members that have had abortions or (had) family members that were in the Holocaust,” Fentin said in an interview on the Diag.

She added that students representing Students for Choice gathered on the Diag to oppose the exhibit.

“It’s their freedom of speech, so we’re exercising our right to free speech and reminding people that there is an alternative narrative to this,” said Fentin, who added that the Genocide Awareness Project was using “scare tactics.”

LSA freshman Annie Bauer-Levey said the photos repulsed her and are too graphic for students walking through the Diag.

“I think it’s ridiculous that they’re comparing abortion to genocide,” Bauer-Levey said.

Engineering freshman Reed Lillie described the exhibit as “shocking” but said he understands the group’s use of the images.

“It gets the point across that they’re trying to make that abortion isn’t a pretty thing,” Lillie said.