Images of aborted fetuses and Holocaust victims accosted students in front of the Library Wednesday as the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), a pro-life organization that travels around the country protesting abortion.
Simultaneously, the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, a pro-choice organization, held a counter-protest across from the GAP protest between the library and Cooper Hall, holding informative signs, and distributing free condoms and compliments to students passing by.
GAP, which has traveled around the country since 1997, often uses large, graphic photos of aborted fetuses, victims of lynching, Holocaust victims, genocide victims and images of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Rebecca Killik, president of the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom (SYRF) at USF, said the visit marks the third time GAP has come to the USF campus since 2007. The group generally protests at USF every two to three years, Killik said.
GAP uses shock methods to grab peoples attentions, Killik said. By using horrible images, they try to liken abortion to the worst thing in their minds. This is extremely disrespectful to the victims of real genocides and terrorist attacks.
Nicole Cooley, project director for the GAP, said the images of genocide and terrorism are meant to compare abortion to systematic mass murder.
We see the same things happening with abortion that we see from historical genocides, Cooley said. First is denial of personhood … Second is dehumanizing language, such as using the word fetus. Finally, the killings are believed to serve a higher purpose, like ensuring that every baby born is actually wanted.
But the protestors for the most part focused on the students passing by rather than each others differing views.
Debbie Picarello, a volunteer with Deeper Still, an organization for post-abortive women and men, sat at a table separate from the GAP displays.
Some people are afraid to approach the GAP volunteers, Picarello said. Im also pro-life, but my focus is on helping those who have already had abortions.
Picarello said Deeper Still offers free healing retreats for both women and men involved in abortions.
Men hurt too, Picarello said. Most people dont realize that.
Cody Porter, a junior majoring in microbiology, said he found the GAP protest disturbing.
That is not a good way to encourage a woman to keep her baby, Porter said. In fact, its atrocious. Its better for people to prevent pregnancy from happening in the first place. I find it appalling that people use such graphic images to promote something that is not their choice. A womans body and what she chooses to do with it is her own decision.
Both protests will continue today.