Student organization Advocates for Life invited anti-abortion nonprofit Created Equal for a joint event in CSU’s courtyard to “raise awareness on abortion” and encourage students to not pass the abortion amendment this November, provoking mixed student responses on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
“Our goals are to raise awareness on abortion and show students what actually happens during an abortion,” Advocates for Life President Ilyssa Freiburger said. “We find that a lot of people actually don’t know what happens.”
Images described by Created Equal organizers to be pre-born babies at different stages of pregnancy in the aftermath of abortion were placed throughout the courtyard, some of which read “vote no on Issue 1.”
Created Equal and Advocates for Life
Created Equal, founded by Ohio native Mark Harrington in 2011, is an organization aimed at directing a young generation of pro-lifers and “preborn defenders” to challenge abortion. Their messaging is rooted in anti-racist, anti-sexist and, most of all, anti-ageist ideals.
“Not only are we anti-racism and sexism—looking at things that don’t matter or determine your value—age is also another thing that doesn’t determine your value. It’s a difference that’s arbitrary, and we say that age doesn’t determine whether someone’s valuable, whether you’re born, preborn; black, white; male, female–because you’re human, you should be protected,” Evangeline Abaffy, Created Equal Program Coordinator told The Cauldron.
Similarly, Advocates for Life believes in the injustice of abortion, focusing their efforts on “exposing abortion for what it is and what it does” as well as directing people to alternative services and resources.
“The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” also known as Issue 1, seeks to enshrine the right to “‘make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,’ including abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy” into Ohio’s Constitution. It is one of two issues that Ohioans will be voting on in the general election this November.
If Issue 1 passes, the state can still restrict abortion after fetal viability unless the pregnant person’s life or health is in danger.
Created Equal organizers urged against Issue 1, insisting that its passage would skyrocket the rate of late-term abortions. Many students disagreed.
“She was claiming that if Issue 1 passes, that people are just going to have a bunch of late-term abortions, up until the day of birth, everyone’s just going to go crazy with that,” shared Sunny, a senior English creative-writing major.
When asked how they felt about what the organizer said, Sunny answered:
“I think it’s really foolish. They say it with such authority that if you don’t know, and you’re not knowledgeable about the topic, it’s very easy to be like ‘oh, this is just fact, people are doing this,’ when in reality, that’s just not happening. That’s just not an accurate representation of what’s going on.”
Junior chemistry major Colin Clark shared similar thoughts:
“People aren’t going to be having abortion at 30 weeks. They’ve probably already given that baby a name, they’ve already gotten baby supplies and everything.”
The graphic nature of the images displayed provoked student response just as much as the messaging. Some students were uncomfortable, others not convinced by the choice of format.
“We are an urban campus in downtown Cleveland, a super blue part of the state, right? And this kind of shock and awe is not going to change anyone’s minds, it’s only going to encourage more people to come out and vote yes on Issue 1 in November,” said Cael Shaw, political science and international relations major. “I think a better way would’ve been just normal conversations.”
Even when students acknowledged their difference of opinion and the organization’s free speech, they would circle back to the images.
“As a person with a uterus, it’s kind of intrusive to see this posted all over my campus,” Rumour Cordova, first-year film major, shared with The Cauldron.
Other CSU students referred to the imagery as “excessive,” “disturbing” and “unnecessary.”
The explicit images reminded students of a larger-scale demonstration organized by The Center for Bioethical Reform in the courtyard last spring. The demonstrations featured billboards with genocidal comparisons and outdated statistics, as well as a fence between organizers and onlookers, sparking massive counterprotest and even concern from staff.
When asked about how she feels about students’ discomfort with the imagery, Freiburger shared that those who support abortion “should be okay with seeing what abortion does.”
Freiburger also advised students who felt uncomfortable to seek support from the Counseling Center and other resources on campus.
“We’re not purposefully trying to trigger students, but we do think this is a life or death situation. Millions of children are dying every year,” said Freiburger.
Another CSU student, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared their experience with being approached unprovoked and repeatedly misgendered by one of the Created Equal organizers.
“He [the organizer] had actually approached me while I was sitting at one of the tables scrolling through my phone and asked me a few questions that I gave short and simple answers to, and I’d go back to paying attention to my phone. But he proceeded with asking more questions, when I was then approached by another student when they asked me if I wanted him to talk to me. I proceeded to tell them that he asked a few questions that I decided to answer. But that’s where he proceeded to misgender me by saying, “she did this, you can’t tell her, she can do this, etc.” and that’s where I had to tell him that I may look, sound, and dress like a female but that doesn’t mean that’s what I prefer to be addressed as and that he could leave me alone now,” said the approached student.
The approached student then shared that the organizer wouldn’t leave them alone until the intervening student said something. They also said that controversial events like these should call for the presence of campus security or police in the future.
Other Student Responses
Many students were happy with the display because it initiated discourse on the issue. Conversations between organizers and onlookers ranged from civil to heated.
Created Equal also told The Cauldron that all the visiting organizers were Christians, but that they’re “not a Christian organization.” When students were informed of this, many found it questionable, others not surprising.
Free Speech on Campus
The Cauldron reached out to the administration for comment:
“The safety and well-being of our community and visitors are among our top priorities. The group who visited our campus last week followed CSU’s process for reserving campus facilities and spaces,” Dr. Flapp Cockrell, Vice President of Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion shared on behalf of the administration. “Pursuant to CSU’s Campus Free Speech Policy – 3344-02-07, ‘the university is committed to maintaining a campus as a marketplace of ideas for all students and all faculty in which the free exchange of ideas is not to be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the institution’s community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrongheaded.’ Furthermore, CSU welcomes civil discourse and intellectual inquiry and expression on campus as outlined in our Expressive Activity Policy – 3344-2-06.”