Graphic Anti-Abortion Demonstration Draws Student Criticism

Photo: <b>A group of pro-choice students</b> rallied in front of a pro-life display on Sproul sponsored by the Berkeley Students for Life.
Michael Restrepo/Photo
A group of pro-choice students rallied in front of a pro-life display on Sproul sponsored by the Berkeley Students for Life.

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Pro-life activists demonstrate on upper sproul

On October 26 and 27, pro-life activists came to UC Berkeley to talk to students about a practice they equate with genocide. Many students were upset by the nature of the posters set up by the activists.

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Pro-life activists at UC Berkeley concluded a two-day display of graphic images of aborted fetuses on Upper Sproul Plaza Tuesday, but some said the demonstration challenged the limits of free speech permitted on the plaza.

Berkeley Students for Life sponsored the event, which is part of a tour of college campuses in the U.S. and Canada conducted by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, a pro-life activism organization.

Though some students objected to the graphic content of the display, Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard said campus authorities only require that a demonstration be held within the confines of state and federal law as well as be sponsored by a campus-affiliated group.

"We don't regulate content," he said.

He added that counter-demonstrations, like that of pro-choice activists who came to the display, enjoy the same rights to free speech and the free use of space.

"I've seen people from (The National Organization for Women at the display), and they have a right to have their perspective shared and viewed and heard as long as it is within the rules and regulations of our campus," he said.

Other students objected to the event organizers' use of pictures of Mario Savio and President Barack Obama. However, senior Alberto Gonzalez, president of Berkeley Students for Life, said any interpretations of such images were "in the eye of the beholder."

"(Savio) fought so fervently for free speech," Gonzalez said. "He would have supported us being here."

He added that Obama's picture was used in order to juxtapose Obama's position on healthcare vis-a-vis his pro-choice policy position.

"It's to have people recognize the irony (of) the things he has said in comparison to what he does in practice regarding abortion issues," Gonzalez said.

But while walking through the plaza Tuesday, sophomore Devin Murphy said that the images took what Obama said out of context.

"These pictures are really disgusting and aggressive," Murphy said. "His quotes are not related to abortion."

Sophomore Imali Bandara said the prominence of the more than 10-foot-tall display was unsettling.

"This is just in your face," she said. "It's just imposing these images comparing abortion to the Holocaust and genocide, which I find really offensive."


Zach E.J. Williams is the assistant university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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