An orange sign with the words “Abortion victim photos ahead” in bold black lettering was displayed Wednesday at the corner of Tenth Street and Fee Lane, in front of the entrance to the Arboretum.
Beside the sign were six posters of bloody fetuses. One showed a fetus in its first trimester. Another had one lying on a metal plate beside a pair of surgical scissors.
Members of Students for Life, a pro-life organization at IU, stood beside the signs with handouts that read “Abortion is ageism.” Two IU police officers watched to ensure the protest stayed civil.
About five feet behind the signs were two women in pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts.
“Would you like to support Planned Parenthood?” they asked passerbys while holding clipboards for people to sign in support.
Students for Life worked with the Created Equal campaign to protest abortion at IU as part of 40 Days for Life, a national annual campaign against abortion that runs from Sept. 27 to Nov. 5.
Planned Parenthood representatives responded to the Wednesday protest by showing up to advocate for the organization.
On her way to class, IU junior Chea Kim walked past the posters and stopped to speak with a Planned Parenthood representative.
She looked up at the images of fetuses and then looked back down at her clipboard.
“They make me uncomfortable,” she said. “They’re gory and graphic, and I don’t see why they’re allowed on campus.”
She said the images sensationalized abortion and depicted it as a violent act when often, it only involved taking a pill. Kim added that the images could cause emotional harm to people walking by and not expecting to see them.
“It’s violence against people’s consciousness,” she said.
Junior Jenna Fisher, president of Students for Life, said many people mutter, “That’s disgusting,” as they walk by. She said they are right because the images are disgusting, but it is the reality of the situation.
“This is what’s happening,” Fisher said. “And by using these images, we’re letting the victims speak for themselves.”
Emmarsyn Mysko, a field assistant for Created Equal, said no social rights movements can succeed without showing images of victims, no matter how graphic they are.
“We’re showing the victims no one wants to see,” she said. “We’re standing up for victims who can’t speak for themselves.”
IU freshman Brigitte Frazee also stopped to sign her name on a Planned Parenthood clipboard. She said she does not agree with the message the posters send, but she believes the protesters should be able to use them because of free speech.
Frazee said there had been a time in her life when she thought she was pregnant but did not have the money or support to care for a child.
“I was terrified,” she said. “It turned out to be nothing, thank God, but it made me think about young women with low incomes or in poverty who would have nowhere to turn to.”
She said Planned Parenthood gave women like her options and control over their lives that would be lost if they were forced to have a baby. These options are especially important for women who are rape victims and are pushed into a situation beyond their control, she said.
“Giving women control over their bodies gives them control over their lives,” Frazee said.
But Fisher said abortion was not a women’s rights issue. Instead, it concerned the basic right to human life, she said.
“This is a genocide right under our noses,” she said. “People say it’s to protect the rights of women, but what about the rights of women who have yet to be born? Who’s fighting for the girls still in the womb?”
Fisher said many people on campus were hostile toward these opinions. During her time protesting, she said several people cursed at her. She said “fuck you” was a common choice of words.
Clinton Mahoney, a participant in a Sunday demonstration and student at Ivy Tech Community College, said pro-life protesters in front of Henderson Parking Garage on Third Street faced similar reactions.
“You get a lot of screaming and middle fingers,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of that today.”
As he finished speaking, a Jimmy John's delivery car stopped at the traffic light in front of the protesters. The driver began honking his horn and giving them a thumbs down through an open window.
“Yup,” Mahoney said. “A lot of that.”
But Fisher said the Planned Parenthood representatives and most of the students signing their support for Planned Parenthood acted with nothing but respect and civility.
Mysko said it is important for both sides to approach one another with this level of respect.
“No one seems to want to talk about it,” she said. “But having both sides here like this opens up the ability to have respectful conversations.”
As she spoke, one student waved her hands in the air and yelled, “Yay Planned Parenthood.” Another student walked up to Fisher and picked up a handout.
Still, others walked past the protesters and Planned Parenthood representatives while looking straight ahead. They shook their heads “no” at both pro-life students offering handouts and at Planned Parenthood representatives extending clipboards.