Today as I sat through my linguistics lecture, every feminist-type group I’m involved in informed me of a counter-protest that had been quickly organized. According to their messages, an anti-choice group who was not even affiliated with the university was on the diag spreading false information about legal abortions. Students for Choice was having none of that crap, so they got some signs, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” stickers, and information cards about the 1 in 3 campaign and positioned themselves just feet away from the opposition.
After class I marched myself to the diag and picked up a “Pro Child, Pro Family, Pro Choice” sign and a stack of cards because women’s rights. At a time when legislation over reproductive health is getting more and more extreme, I could not justify walking away from an opportunity to dispel the myths that cause them. The propaganda spewed by the opposite side was ridiculous. Their signs had pictures and names of women who had died from complications of abortions with “killed by *insert name of abortion doctor here* in *insert year here*.” As if people never die from complications of other medical procedures. Another denied the indisputable fact that abortion death rates spiked when the procedure was illegal. They even included, “Wait, didn’t like 10,000 people die from abortions every year before Roe v. Wade? NO!” The inclusion of the word “like” as a subtle but deliberate attempt to make pro-choice people sound stupid. Though I’m all for freedom of expression, blatant lies in propaganda have no place on a university campus. By participating in the counter-protest I think I made my disapproval clear.
For a while the protest went surprisingly without incident. We gave out a lot of stickers and people went about their days. As time went on, though, they took a turn for the more interesting. Many people thanked us for our presence in opposition to the original protest and said that they were impressed by how quickly we organized. I talked to a visiting prospective student and a guy who was showing her around about what a huge year for on-campus activism it has been and how easy and fulfilling it is to get involved. We had a group of school children on a field trip swarm us without provocation just because they wanted stickers. The teacher frantically tried to remind them that this is just one opinion and “there’s separation between church and state” before stealthily giving us a thumbs-up. An older man informed us that he writes checks to Planned Parenthood every month. We had a lot of funnily great responses of support from the male students who we talked to. The only real trouble we encountered was one guy who argued with one of my fellow protesters for almost an hour using the same arguments over and over again, including “But why is a fetus less human than someone who’s already born?” and “Why should it be covered by insurance. They could just not have sex.” Eventually we told him to leave, though we should have much sooner.
When the anti-choicers closed up shop, we put down our signs, one of our leaders thanked them for keeping the protest peaceful, and we all went back to our days. My only regret after participating in this protest was that I didn’t wear more comfortable shoes.