Activists associated with the anti-abortion group Created Equal visited the University of Cincinnati (UC) on Thursday, transforming McMicken Commons into the latest debate stage for one of America's prominent culture wars.
The group set up posters with gruesome imagery of body parts, all displayed for the student body. One word loomed right above the scene in bold lettering: Abortion.
Created Equal – an anti-abortion group from Columbus whose members are known for staging demonstrations on college campuses and other public venues – made themselves known among UC's student body, condemning abortion as "mass murder" and an act comparable to slavery. They distributed pamphlets to passersby, calling for readers to "help end age discrimination against the preborn."
Alongside them were students from St. Edmund Campion Academy, a Catholic school in the Cincinnati suburbs. The students passed out anti-abortion literature and discussed the issue with their pro-choice counterparts.
These claims were met with doubt and skepticism from some student body members, with counter-protesters swiftly arriving, carrying placards labeled "get out of my uterus" and "my body, my choice."
Amid calls of "get off our campus" from counter-demonstrators, the anti-abortion protesters left the premises.
Lisbeth McCulfor is an executive assistant at Created Equal and spent the protest talking to students about what she considers abortion's immorality, saying, "human babies are being killed every day in the U.S."
She claimed "91% of people who see abortion pictures" eventually changed their mind about supporting the practice, citing the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform as her source for these statistics. The center is also an anti-abortion activist group. Its president, Nick Rosendal, boasts of completing "a management degree, majoring in accounting," but shows no background in pathophysiology or epidemiology.
Any reference to McCulfor's cited statistics could not be found on their website.
Confronted by the argument that anti-abortion laws took away women's reproductive rights, McCulfor responded that "abortion is taking away all these babies' rights."
UC psychology student Lexi Mars disagrees. She's one of the pro-choice demonstrators' and held a sign when confronting Created Equal's representatives on multiple occasions. When asked why she came to the rally at all, Mars said, "because I believe in standing up for what you believe in."
She added, "If it's a woman's body, it's a woman's choice," stating that removing said right was "wrong morally, socially, all types of wrong."
At today's rally, the key spokesperson was the vice president of Created Equal, Seth Drayer. He believes his actions and the actions of others like him are not only morally right but fit into the larger discourse over human rights. "Our group's belief is that all humans are created equal," he said.
Lexie Hall, Created Equal's external affairs assistant, echoed Drayer's comments. She said she began working with Created Equal two years ago and that she believed it was "always wrong to kill an innocent human being."
Hall is unshakable in her belief, saying abortion even in cases of rape and incest should be prohibited. "I think rape is an awful, traumatic thing," Hall said, before continuing, "I don't believe a child should be given the death penalty for their father's crimes."
Hanging over the rally was Texas' abortion bill. The Texas Heartbeat Act was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 19, but it didn't go into effect until Sept. 1. The bill bans abortions after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest and allows private citizens to not only sue abortion providers but anyone they believe to be "aiding and abetting" violators. Left unchallenged by the Supreme Court, many fear copycat bills will crop up in states across the country and possibly spell the end for Roe V. Wade.
These fears are held by some of UC's students as well. Marketing student Hanna Zandvakili is an active participant in the campus community. She felt today's protest was too important to ignore.
Standing alongside a group of her friends and peers, Zandvakili explained why she felt the issue of reproductive rights was so important. One of her friends commented on the Texas Abortion bill, calling it "really, really, horrible," and claimed Texas's bill would only put women at risk as available doctors become harder to find and less reputable.
Hall was far less worried by Texas' abortion legislation, believing instead that it may lead to Created Equal's ultimate goal, overturning Roe V. Wade. She thinks that if "Roe V. Wade was overturned, the states would get the opportunity to determine if abortion was legal or not."
When asked whether she thought such a thing was possible in modern times, Hall said, "we hope so."