Quakers for Life, a Penn student group opposed to abortion, protested outside Van Pelt Library on Oct. 23, displaying nearly 20 graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. The group partnered with Created Equal, a national anti-abortion organization, for the protest, which attracted more than a few glances from students commuting on Locust Walk.
In an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Wharton junior Eric Hoover said the group would be holding a protest on College Green from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another statement from Created Equal sent to the DP wrote that this event was part of a "fall campus tour" that the organization is holding for 18 colleges in six states. At each of these schools, the group plans to "display large signs depicting the gruesome reality of abortion."
"We just want to talk to students about abortion, answer their questions, share what we have to say and just start dialogue on the topic," said Emma Mysko, a field assistant for Created Equal, which is based out of Columbus, Ohio. Penn students who passed by the demonstration were "pretty polite," Mysko added.
During the demonstration, counter-protesters stepped in to cover up some of the group's signs.
College sophomore Hannah Rash saw the protests after leaving Van Pelt to get lunch. Along with members of Penn for Reproductive Justice, she blocked some of the signs with her sweatshirt.
"It just made me really upset, and I can imagine if I was contemplating abortion or if I had one, how upset that would make me," she said.
College and Wharton sophomore Michael Moroz, co-director of the editorial board of College Republicans, said he disagreed with some students' reactions to the protest. He said he was particularly concerned with the behavior of the students who blocked the protester’s signs with sweatshirts, calling the behavior "immature" and "unlawful."
“That’s private property, at that point what [they are] doing is arguably illegal. It’s certainly against Penn student code of conduct about freedom of speech," he said.
Quakers for Life is not new to controversy. Various student groups criticized the group when it was formed in October 2016. In an email statement last year, board members for the Penn Association for Gender Equity expressed concern over the kind of “shame tactics” frequently used by anti-abortion groups.
“A protest or large action [promoting the pro-life agenda] can be very triggering and alienating to someone who has had an abortion or considered having one,” PAGE said.
Hoover said at the time that the group does not intend to "shame women."
Two months after their formation, the group clashed with PAGE again after they planted 600 flags on College Green to represent the abortions performed in Philadelphia over the span of two weeks.
“This group was founded by a self-described (from our understanding) cisgendered man, which in and of itself is concerning,” PAGE wrote on Facebook at the time. “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."
Following Quakers for Life's most recent protests, PAGE opened up their general board meeting on Monday evening by discussing the anti-abortion protest. College sophomore and board member Tanya Jain said the group is not focused on communication with protesters but rather speaking with concerned students.
“Our main thing is trying to create a safe space for people who feel attacked by that,” Jain said. “Instead of directly confronting [Quakers for Life] because that usually doesn’t work or doesn’t lead to a good conversation.”
Staff reporters James McFadden and Giovanna Paz contributed reporting.