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Credit: Avalon Morell

A pro-life protest outside College Hall last week was condemned on Friday as an attempt to “traumatize and shame” people who’ve had abortions, according to a statement released by the Penn Association for Gender Equity, a group that advocates for women’s rights.

The group planted 600 flags on College Green to represent the abortions committed in Philadelphia in the two weeks before the Dec. 2 protest.

In a statement posted to Facebook, PAGE blasted the protest, which was organized by Quakers for Life, a group founded by Wharton sophomore Eric Hoover.

“This group was founded by a self-described (from our understanding) cisgendered man, which in and of itself is concerning,” the statement read. “Abortion rights respect the dignity and autonomy of people with uteruses to choose what happens with their bodies. We’re honestly tired of the continued attempts to legislate bodies, period.”

The statement went on to say Quakers for Life misused the term “pro-life” because they did not actively support making healthcare, food subsidies, early child development and universal birth control available for low-income mothers. The protest does come amid immense fear among pro-choice advocates over the future of access to birth control under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. Trump has previously said he would offer “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, before later backing off from that position.

“What we seek to do is protect human life. You’re not allowed to use your body to harm another human being,” Hoover said in an interview on Friday night, adding that he considered abortion a “human rights violation.”

“We don’t say things like ‘bodily autonomy’ when it comes to murder outside the womb,” he said.

PAGE Chair and College and Wharton senior Megan Yan, a former Daily Pennsylvanian business manager, said the science on the beginning of life had not been completely settled. Rather than engaging Quakers for Life in a debate on the issue, which she said is not “out of the question,” PAGE will devote its time to catering “to the people who need our support.”

Quakers for Life responded to PAGE in a Facebook post late Friday night, disputing that the group attempted to shame women.

“It is not our intent to shame anyone who is facing an unplanned pregnancy - in fact, we strongly believe that to shame anyone in such a situation would be morally wrong,” the statement read. “We seek to reach out to such women, and connect and provide them with the resources they need.”

As for the issue of birth control, Hoover said the group holds no official stance, as some members are uniformly opposed to all types of contraception for religious reasons. He personally is opposed to only the forms of birth control that induce abortion.

“We don’t think any birth control methods that induce abortion are morally acceptable,” he said.

At the group’s College Green protest, counter-protesters held signs saying, “Anti-Choice, Anti-Women” and “Every flag represents a woman who got safe + legal care. You are brave.”

PAGE reiterated these points in their statement, noting how abortion will occur regardless of its legality and arguing that the pro-life movement merely works as a way to legislate women’s sexual freedom.

“We would like to reiterate that often at its core, anti-choice advocates are primarily upset about the concept of sex without consequences,” the statement read.

Hoover, who said his stance was reflected in the “science of embryology,” affirmed his desire to dialogue with PAGE and other groups, either in a panel discussion, debate or private meeting.

PAGE also said it would be in favor of a dialogue, but added that “if this group is interested in solely shaming people and seeking legislation against abortion, we don’t believe we have any efficacious response. Instead, we’d like to focus our time on ensuring the safety and community of our constituents on campus, especially those who may feel unsafe given the forming of this group.”

Senior News Editor-elect Sydney Schaedel contributed reporting.