William and Mary students hold counter-protest during anti-abortion group demonstration

Staff writer

A group of William and Mary students protested an anti-abortion group that displayed graphic images of genocide victims and dismembered fetuses on campus Wednesday and Thursday.

William and Mary’s Student Leadership Development group notified several student groups Sunday that the not-for-profit corporation Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which travels to campuses across the country, would demonstrate at the college from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

VOX: Planned Parenthood Generation Action student group held a counter-protest outside Swem Library Wednesday.

“We decided we need to have a presence here and first of all let people know. It made me realize the only reason most students know about it now is because of our post which is unfortunate,” said Willa Moffatt, secretary of William and Mary VOX. “I don’t think imagery like that is a partisan issue I think it’s disturbing and traumatizing.”

The student group created a Facebook event which states, “Join with William and Mary students today and tomorrow to support choice and stand against fear and intimidation. Help hand out flyers and comfort students who may be traumatized by graphic displays brought in by an out-of-the-area group seeking to stigmatize abortion and draw a parallel between genocide and abortion.”

The anti-abortion group set up 4-by-8-foot panels showing images of genocide and Holocaust victims next to images of mutilated and dismembered fetuses as part of its Genocide Awareness Project.

“We’re trying to show people first of all that abortion decapitates and dismembers a little human being. It kills a human being, it’s an act of violence,” said Fletcher Armstrong, CBR southeast region director. “It’s a small school but it’s a very influential school and so we think students here deserve a chance to see what abortion is and have a discussion about whether it’s moral, immoral, should be legal or not.”

VOX called the display an attempt to spread misinformation using fear and shame to discourage women on campus from seeking abortion services. More than a dozen students held pro-choice and Planned Parenthood signs in protest.

William and Mary’s pro-life group Tribe for Life, released a statement on Facebook in opposition to the group’s demonstration which said, “We have spoken directly with the Center, asking them to refrain from demonstrating at William and Mary. If they still choose to conduct their demonstration, please know that Tribe for Life is in no way associated with it. We affirm that all life must be protected from conception to natural death, but we reject the Center’s use of graphic imagery and condemnatory language in making this point.”

The Division of Student Affairs set up a table near the group with information on free speech and the role of the school as a public institution. In addition, Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler released a statement ahead of the demonstration.

“As a public institution of higher education, William and Mary recognizes its legal obligations to foster constitutionally protected free speech and expression in the university community,” it read. “This is not a university-sponsored event and William and Mary is not endorsing the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s message. The university is honoring its obligations under the U.S. Constitution and Virginia law… Discussion, differing opinions, debate and dialogue are part of the educational experience here.”

Martin can be reached at (757)-243-3685, by email at sararose.martin@vagazette.com or on Twitter at @SaraRoseMartin.

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