I am a strong believer in freedom of speech. I believe that if you think abortion is wrong, you have a right to express that opinion. If I’m walking to class, and you approach me about anything — whether you just have to talk to me for, literally, the sixth time about Heavenly Mother, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, the environment chickens have to live in, your ongoing abortion protest — I will smile, take your pamphlet and drop it in my notebook.
I hate to see passersby who often forget their manners. Activists are people with feelings, not brainless, inanimate objects, so I make sure to never be rude. Though I may already have an opinion about the subject you’re advocating or protesting, one that I do not expect to change — give me a pamphlet because I’ll take it, and I’ll look at it.
One thing I strongly disagree with, however, is the manner in which the most recent abortion protest unfolded. We have censorship on television for a reason; if you are opposed to seeing graphic images on television, you switch off the TV.
But if I need to get to class and there are 20 pictures of late-term (rare) abortions juxtaposed next to beaten 12-year-old children in front of my class, I become agitated. There should be, in my opinion, a sense of responsibility on the part of protesters that tells them, “I can’t subject people to this material if they don’t want to see it.”
Last semester, two guys were pushing the same opinion. They had with them a poster that featured an image of a 12-year-old with a black eye and bloodied face. Beside that was a horrible picture of an aborted fetus. This happened to coincide with a day that children, presumably from local elementary and middle schools, were on a field trip. The kids were horrified when they saw those images; that photo, next to the photo of a tiny disembodied arm the size of a dime, is now something teachers have to awkwardly avoid explaining to young children on their field trip.
I went up to the guy and said, “Buddy, there are kids running around where you guys are protesting. I support your right to protest, but don’t you think you’ve chosen a bad day to do it? Maybe you guys could at least go to the clock tower and face Fenwick?” To me, that’s not a request for someone to sacrifice all of his beliefs but rather a very reasonable request that anyone, as a decent human being, would make.
Of course, they didn’t think so, and those unnerved, curious children go home and ask their parents what “the guys holding up scary signs of dead children” were doing. If I were a teacher, I would expect to have conversations with pissed-off parents, as well as fewer field trips to the local university.
In both instances — the most recent, larger protest as well as the smaller one last semester I cited — I think the methodology of expressing those views was objectionable, if not offensive. I don’t want anyone to think I am contradicting one of my earlier articles where I stated that I thought “shock advertising” was necessary at times; to me, there is a difference between showing Barack Obama with a bone through his nose and showing mutilated fetuses. If you’ve got an opinion you’d like to share with students, hold a discussion or shake a hand and ask them if they’re interested to know more. Lead consenting persons to a tent and show them pictures after telling them what they’ll see. I strongly support everyone’s right to express their opinion — even the Westboro Baptist Church should have that right if you ask me.
This is America, and if we’re going to live by the Constitution, unless an opinion’s entire purpose is to harm the person at whom it’s directed, we can’t make exceptions just because we disagree with them. So you can protest abortion all you want, just don’t block everyone’s path to Robinson with unreasonably graphic pictures of fetuses that would never be seen elsewhere without a person’s prior judgment and discretion.