Visual choice should be extended to all

A group of impassioned anti-abortion activists stunned USF students this semester with larger-than-life photos of dismantled fetuses. The protesters were contained in the perimeter of a three-foot tall metal fence, while police stood by anticipating any violent behavior.

Only a handful of the activists were willing to talk to viewers who had inquiries and comments.

Eventually, pro-choice advocates skirted the boundaries of the fence, some handing out flyers and others just holding up a simple sign of proclamation. The people involved were diplomatic in nature, and physically, there was little aggression.

Yet with the unavoidable sight of the gargantuan posters portraying mangled fetal body parts doused in amniotic fluid, the reactions were inevitable. Some students covered their eyes, while others shuddered at the despicable sight. The sidewalks were lined with people just waiting to voice their opinions to the intrigued passerby, but the instinctive reaction was to rush by and evade the visual experience entirely.

The display was erected near the heart of USF academia – the Library – not to mention near such heavily used neighboring buildings as the Education Building, Cooper Hall and the Business Building. For any full-time student, it is needless to say that this area is a channel for a lot of pedestrians traveling to and from class. Conditions were perfect for conjuring up a storm with a large number of students available to respond to an issue that normally affects only a few students directly.

If an ordinary picture speaks a thousand words, the jumbo-size fetal abortion photos spoke millions. Obviously, this project was designed to create interest in the topic of abortion; however, there is a delicate line separating the act of educating people and repelling them. In some aspects, the display failed to fulfill its goal – even with such tactics – as it drew some students to advocate their pro-choice views and others to turn a blind eye, or an eye they had wished to be blind to the revolting images.

“I think activists for both sides are over the top,” freshman Sarah Rasheid said.

Despite the raised awareness levels on campus, the methods used to achieve that reaction were blatantly repulsive and unnecessary. When walking back from lunch at Subway, nothing turns a stomach more effectively than a gooey detached limb. Although there were people on site available to answer questions, most students just walked by quickly in order to avoid gagging.

Whether abortion should be considered legal or illegal, a walk to class infiltrated by such posters as the ones that blanketed the skies near the Library is not something that anybody on campus should have to face without warning.

Anti-abortion activists may believe that women shouldn’t have a choice over a baby’s life, but the choice to see these disturbing images should be left to the student. Despite warnings of graphic images posted around the area, the size of the posters made it so that seeing these pictures was not a choice, but a direct invasion into one’s field of view.

Another way to allow students to opt into the viewing of such pictures would have been to make the posters smaller. The protesters could have limited the size of the photos so that a passer-by could have a chance to ignore them. The colossal dimensions of the photographs were what really converted the event from a healthy act of free speech to a seizure of attention.

Everyone has choices in life. Choosing whether or not to support the act of abortion is up to each individual person. Forcing students to view mammoth, brutal photos is not going to force the choice of support; it just takes away the choice of what to set their sights on.

Ellen Kramp is a mass communications student.