Hopkins Voice for Choice (VFC) hosted the 1 in 3 Campaign, a movement to diminish stigma surrounding abortion, on Q-level of the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Library on Wednesday. Meanwhile, representatives from the Maryland chapter of The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) held a display on the median in the middle of N. Charles Street outside Charles Street Market to share their anti-abortion views with students.
VFC members held a protest against the CBR display, which was part of the organization’s national Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) tour. The display contained graphic images of aborted fetuses and compared abortion to the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The display was not announced to the University community ahead of time.
Jonathan Darnel, a CBR Maryland field worker, said that he hoped people would find the images in the pro-life display upsetting.
“They shouldn’t be upset because the picture disturbs them, but because [they] depict... legalized murder,” Darnel said. “[CBR’s] bread and butter is to go to universities... and show the truth of abortion and try to discuss with people why it’s wrong.”
Although the 1 in 3 Campaign display was advertised on Facebook and in the University’s daily announcements email, Darnel said that he had been planning to bring his volunteers to Hopkins without knowing about the VFC event.
“Honestly, it’s perfect timing to show counterpoint and counterpoint about the same subject,” Darnel said.
Although Hopkins Voice For Life (VFL) President Jessica Janneck also stood with the CBR representatives, she wrote in an email to The News-Letter that VFL did not sponsor or invite the GAP display.
“I found that GAP provided a helpful starting point... to share my beliefs that women deserve better and that both women and their pre-born children deserve to be valued and treated with dignity,” Janneck wrote. “While Voice for Life members have varying opinions on which method is best to share the pro-life message, we all agree that abortion hurts women and their pre-born children, and that we must end... abortion on demand.”
In an email to The News-Letter, VFC President Vinitha Kumar wrote that she thought the GAP display was triggering and offensive.
“As a pro-choicer, I believe in debate, and healthy discussions over these controversial issues. This display allowed no room for that,” Kumar wrote. “All the content was based on emotional appeal and fear mongering.”
The VFC members who were running the 1 in 3 Campaign display brought their materials, including free condoms and pamphlets with contact information for campus, local and national organizations that offer counseling services and information about abortion, to their counter-protest on N. Charles Street.
“We diverted the resources we had as soon as we heard about [the GAP display],” Kumar wrote. “We advocated for safety, not stigma. This counter-protest was a peaceful protest across the street. We received good feedback from students as well as relief from many students that we were there.”
VFC had only planned to host the 1 in 3 Campaign, which was founded in 2011 by Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Advocates For Youth and is designed to spread awareness about the statistic that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime,
“The 1 in 3 Campaign is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion — telling our stories, on our own terms,” the campaign’s website states. “Together, we can end the stigma and shame women are made to feel about abortion. As we share our stories we begin to build a culture of compassion, empathy and support for access to basic health care.”
In addition to the list of educational and counseling resources, the MSE display also featured materials sent from the national campaign, which encourages women who have had abortions to feel comfortable discussing their experiences.
“Women should feel comfortable sharing their story — if they want — without fearing judgment from their audience,” Kumar wrote. “We hope to make sure students know that abortions are more common than they think and safe reproductive health care is a priority.”
Because abortion is a sensitive topic, VFC put posters around the library of a “Trigger Warning” so that students who might feel offended can avoid the Q-level of the library during those times the campaign is active.
VFC has emphasized that they do not try to force others to do adopt their beliefs.
“We are not here to tell students what is best for them, we are here to provide resources to students and have thoughtful discussions,” the Facebook event page for VFC’s 1 in 3 Campaign display states.
Sue Waterman, who works in MSE as a library guide, said she had no complaints about the content of the VFC display.
“It’s something I used to see in college years and years ago,” Waterman said. “It’s an informational display for women, and I think it’s perfectly legitimate.”
Isabelle Kargon, a library assistant and graduate student, said she was pleased that MSE was hosting an event that provided information on abortions.
“I’m glad we’re doing that campaign,” Kargon said. “Personally, I believe that women should have a choice, and good information would prevent many unwanted pregnancies and many abortions, which is always a heavy decision to make,” Kargon said.
Although Darnel said he had not seen the VFC display, he was familiar with the message of the national campaign.
“Pointing out how many people have had the abortions... might change people’s perception of it,” Darnel said. “Ultimately, I do not believe it to be a justifiable reason because if a million people believe a wrong thing is right, it’s still a wrong thing.”
Kumar wrote that she would be interested in hosting the 1 in 3 Campaign again and that VFC will continue to plan events to share information about abortion.
“I think it’s great to have continuity and to keep reducing the stigma,” Kumar wrote.