Abortion protest initiates campus backlash

Abortion protest initiates campus backlash

Pro-life protestor Johnny Brekeen stands amongst the anti-abortion signs being displayed on the USM campus near the fountain on Tuesday afternoon. | Photo by A.J. Stewart

Pro-life protestor Johnny Brekeen stands among the anti-abortion signs displayed on the USM campus near Shoemaker Square Tuesday afternoon. | Photo by A.J. Stewart

In a highly conservative state such as Mississippi, there are many topics that raise tension among residents.

Currently in the spotlight is the issue of abortion, specifically of the ethics surrounding it. With such a sensitive subject, there are bound to be very vocal people on either end of the topic. The abortion protesters who frequent Shoemaker Square on campus are a good example of this.

I was walking from lunch to my dorm room when I first saw the signs. They depicted graphic images of second- and third-trimester aborted fetuses that nearly made me stop in my tracks.

Then I heard a man shouting loud enough for the entire center of campus to hear under the tree near the signs. He was quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, a Bible verse that expresses that everything has a season, and everyone has his or her time.

Everyone has the right to express his or her own opinion concerning any matter that may arise. We each have the right to peaceful protest, and we each have the right to make our voices heard. But are these protesters going about this in the right way?

“The abortion people that come on campus are going about their business all wrong,” said Skye Travis, a sophomore chemistry major. “They shouldn’t be trying to terrify the students into not aborting or whatever it is they’re trying to do. They shouldn’t be yelling about going to hell and they definitely should not have such graphic signs.”

“I think they could present it in a better way,” said Deana Edison, a senior child development major. “It really doesn’t pertain to abortion (the way they protest), it pertains to religion.”

Personally, I am a devout Catholic christian and I am in favor of the pro-life belief. However, I agree that these protesters could and should reconsider how they are going about spreading the message of God’s love and humanity’s moral duty in relation to abortion.

Advertisements, for example, have been shown to be less effective if they alienate the audience. These advertisements may get talked about, but they are often put in a negative light, which then discourages consumers from buying or partaking in the product or event.

The same principle applies here. By alienating the students that may be questioning their stance on abortion with graphic signs and shouting Bible verses, the protesters are detracting from their overall message and encouraging negative feedback.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to want to listen to them with they way they do it,” said Sunny Couch, a junior drawing and painting major.

“Most people just avoid them at all costs, so if anything, their setup is doing the opposite of what they want,” Travis said. “It drives people away and solidifies the way many pro-choice people see a lot of adamant pro-lifers: as extreme and closed-minded in their views,” Travis said.

When I spoke to one of the protesters, Johnny Brekeen, I found that his overall message was actually quite logical and non-extremist. He was more than willing to open up about his beliefs and why he is against abortion as a right.

“We are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” Brekeen said. “These are our unborn brothers and sisters. They have no voice, so we need to speak out for them. The Bible says that we are created in the image of God, and that He knew us before we were conceived. The Bible says that children are a gift from God. Abortion hurts women, destroys families and kills children,” Brekeen said.

While the conversation I had with Brekeen was relatively logical and informative, I found that the overall protest was decidedly not so. Perhaps this is the result of a disconnect between the message’s intended meaning and the route taken to voice it.

As far as more appropriate protest routes go, most students agree that the graphic images and laments about hell and damnation need to go.

“If they took away the graphic signage and tried to speak to students in a relatable way, I think they would have a lot more success in their endeavors,” Travis said.

Perhaps the protesters should consider the students’ reactions in developing an improved protest strategy. They could set up camp in a different area, take down their posters, and try speaking kind words of support instead of harsh words of damnation.

After all, as the Bible teaches us, love is a much stronger force than condemnation.

Share