In response to the Ohio-based Created Equal organization’s anti-abortion protest on campus last Thursday and Friday.
I am a Ph.D. student here at USF, and for five years now I have seen the anti-abortion display and witnessed students’ responses to it. As an advocate for women and the rights we have over our bodies, I have never been a fan of the organization’s rhetoric. Until recently, however, I had not thought about the trauma these images inflict upon people who don’t have a choice other than to see them, and I had not understood how damaging their implied judgments regarding abortion can be.
Last year, my husband and I found out after three years of trying to conceive that we were pregnant with our first child. We were so excited. Unfortunately, we found out at 18 weeks that the baby wasn’t developing right, and after extensive testing, we learned that our baby would not live. Our doctors advised us to terminate since the baby was not going to live and my health was a concern. Both fortunately and sadly, my water broke on its own a few days later, so the choice to lose our son was made for us.
My response to this demonstration is both personal and political. My experience is unique and I know not every abortion is the result of a situation like mine, but I feel the insight I’ve gained from this experience is valuable. I teach courses on rhetoric and I understand the use of pathos the organization is choosing to employ in their visual aids, and to an extent it is effective — I experienced an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief at the sight of it.
However, I find the organization’s overall argument weak and ineffective because it fails to consider the personal — the reasons why a woman decides to have an abortion and how it could be an advocate for this woman and others instead of rallying against her. Additionally, what anti-abortion campaigns fail to recognize are the very real implications of their rhetoric. By painting this as a black-and-white picture, the campaigns judge women as immoral and minimize a woman’s decision as if she had not thought about what it would mean to have an abortion before making such a choice. The demonstrators fail to see or discuss the intricacies of the issue.
I would personally like to not have to see these reminders of a traumatic event in my life; but more importantly, this campaign only illustrates that the organization has a gross misunderstanding of the issue and an unwillingness to see women who are facing the decision of abortion as people in need of human compassion.
Brianna Jerman is a literature doctoral student and graduate assistant.