Anyone who walked through the Diag yesterday was subjected to poster-size, horrifying pictures of dead fetuses covered in blood, which were courtesy of Students for Life — the University’s pro-life student organization — and other organizations. I, for one, was disgusted at the images and the entire concept.

I am pro-choice. But regardless of my personal beliefs, my problem with the protestors wasn’t their stance, but how they chose to portray that stance.

Yes, the Constitution protects Americans’ right to free speech and to peacefully protest, but it doesn’t require anyone to listen to baseless, hateful attacks. Comparing abortion to Nazism and then pasting life-size pictures of bloody fetuses next to Nazi symbols is an abuse of this right, not to mention completely obnoxious.

The main argument here — or what I could gather amid countless pictures of convoluted babies — was that killing unborn fetuses is akin to genocide, the likes of which were seen in the Holocaust or Darfur. Not only is this comparison nonsensical, but it is also offensive and insulting. The Holocaust, Darfur, Rwanda — these are examples of genocide. They are some of the greatest and most tragic humanitarian crises of the last century. Millions of people have been, and are being killed, in the most painful ways. The Holocaust alone spanned over 15 countries and claimed more than 10 million lives — resigning millions more to torture, intense human suffering and psychological trauma.

Abortion simply isn’t on the same scale. It can’t be logically likened to the calculated killing of an entire ethnic group or to the destruction of entire communities, villages and nations. Saying it is the same as genocide trivializes the severity and the significance of what we define as genocide. Concentration camps, civil war, ethnic cleansing, poverty, disease, rape, child soldiers, the destruction of families — everything that comes with genocide is on a whole different level of human suffering than that brought on by abortion. Calling the two similar is insulting to the victims and survivors of actual genocide.

Nowadays it seems like Nazism is a go-to buzzword for angry people to describe opposition. Putting a swastika next to anything you don’t agree with won’t validate your argument or prove your point. In fact, doing so does nothing but spread hateful propaganda. Abortion is a very heated and politicized issue — dividing people along intensely partisan lines. And, in this situation, calling someone who disagrees with you Hitler or an evil incarnate doesn’t change his or her mind. It only makes the issue more polarizing.

A protest like the one on the Diag doesn’t make a point. It doesn’t educate people or make them see the issue in a different way. It doesn’t win support for the cause it propagates. It doesn’t even substantiate a legitimate claim. It’s a publicity stunt — an attempt to get the attention of innocent passersby and in the process spread fear and hate. It is a show of bigotry and an opportunity to look down upon and unfairly attack individuals with opposing views.

The sad thing is that family planning — or lack thereof — is an actual issue. It is an issue that should be raised, discussed and debated. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 83.7 percent of abortions were performed among unmarried women in 2007. A 2009 study by the non-profit Alan Guttmacher Institute reported that while the overall abortion rate in the United States dropped from 1994 to 2000, the abortion rate for women below the poverty line rose by 25 percent. Moreover, minorities continue to have disproportionately high abortion rates.

There is a larger, underlying social and economic issue at play here — the circumstances that compel people to take the drastic step of aborting a child. This is an issue that merits rational and intellectual discussion and an issue that requires attention and solutions. As one of the chalked responses to the protest on the sidewalk read, “Respect the right; reduce the need.” Now, that’s a serious discussion worth having and one that people shouldn’t mind engaging in.

But this side of the abortion debate is lost behind absurd slogans and propaganda. The preposterous claim that anyone who isn’t pro-life is in effect a murderer oversimplifies the issue tremendously. It takes away any room for debate or discussion and doesn’t do justice to the true complexity of the issue. We can’t have substantial discussions about abortion if this politicized rhetoric continues to be the norm. If the goal is to raise awareness about an issue, do so seriously and with well-structured arguments, not by likening abortion to the Holocaust.

Harsha Nahata is an assistant editorial page editor. She can be reached at hnahata@umich.edu.

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