Emotions were high as a coalition of pro-choice supporters appeared with fake blood-stained wire hangers to show dangerous methods of abortion — a subject of contention between two separate pro-choice groups during last Thursday’s pro-life event. “(The wire hangers) can be very triggering to someone who’s had an abortion. Some students are feeling that men shouldn’t be holding the hangers because it’s a woman’s choice,” said Romanie Arterberry, interim director of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), which was there to support students who may have been triggered by the display.
The event, held by the national pro-life organization Students for Life of America (SFLA), featured a display of pale blue banners with text inviting a discussion of abortion in the case of rape. SFLA was invited by UCR’s Students for Life, which has historically sponsored pro-life organizations, such as the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR), to present on campus.
Supporters of the WRC came out in protest of the pro-life display, because they felt that it was a traumatic trigger for both sexual assault survivors and students who may have chosen to have an abortion. “(The display) triggers memories of a difficult decision for someone who might be a victim and so it makes them relive an experience they’re trying to move past,” said Julisa McCoy, a sociology graduate student, to one of the pro-life advocates.
Alessandro Morosin, one of the pro-choice protesters and a sociology graduate student who wielded a coat hanger, took a different approach and said that this pro-life display was “slicker” because it did not contain graphic abortion imagery but that “the message was the same.” He also disagreed with the other protesters who suggested that the display was a trigger warning for sexual assault survivors. Instead, Morosin felt it was important for the public to see the coat hangers to show the extreme measures some women may go through to get an abortion.
“The anti-abortion message is not welcome. I don’t feel safe when this group is on campus … it makes me furious. The bloody coat hanger is a symbol of what women have been forced to go through in terms of … they have to self-abort when they seek to terminate a pregnancy … when abortion used to be illegal, many women died,” said Morosin.
However, many other pro-choice advocates disagreed with the presence of the wire hangers. UCR third-year English major Shawn Veasey, a supporter of the WRC and a co-organizer of the protest, said she did not approve of the use of coat hangers and furthered, “I was more than a little disappointed that the ‘man’ who was supposed to be an ally was so insistent about the wire coat hangers. When I declined (to hold a wire hanger), he had the audacity to attempt to lecture me.”
Casey Tesauro, a national representative for the SFLA clarified that, “(Our organization) …. just wants to encourage dialogue. Our generation is targeted by the abortion industry and our generation has the most abortions which is why we think it’s important to be here on college campuses.”
“This is actually the first (protest) we’ve had,” continued Tesauro, who travels with the display to college campuses all around the nation and was disappointed to see the vehemence of the protesters. “We’ve had people (on other campuses) come up to us and thank us because even though they disagree, they say that we presented the information in a way that made them feel safe.”
Emilio Virata, assistant dean of students, affirmed that all the groups had a right to be on campus as students. “They are students who are appropriately vocalizing their positions,” he stated, adding that it was simply a part of campus culture.
Contributions made by Jake Rich