As George Mason University students exited the Fairfax campus’ main dining hall on Monday and Tuesday, they were greeted by a 72-foot-long wall of graphic, poster-sized photos of aborted human fetuses.
The courtyard adjacent to the Johnson Center is where Mason sophomore Anna Maher teamed up with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to stage a “free speech demonstration.” In addition to the fetus poster wall, anti-abortion advocates milled around in T-shirts with an anti-abortion message, passing out brochures containing a small sampling of the poster-sized photos. Each poster was 4 by 8 feet, with 18 posters in total lined up in two rows, reaching approximately 15 feet high.
“The pictures are to display the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of the crime,” said Maher, who has applied for but not yet received approval to have GMU Students For Life recognized as an official student organization.
The anti-abortion demonstration sparked a pro-choice counter-demonstration on Tuesday.
Senior Gabriella Gayl, 22, said, “I understand the message and am pro life. I don’t like the images per se because they make me very sad, although I support the message with the pictures.”
Posters depicting genocide, Nazi and slavery atrocities were also woven into the poster wall.
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is an anti-abortion group that travels to college campuses around the country putting up the fetus display, said C. Fletcher Armstrong, the group’s Southeast region director. The center supplied the pictures for the display at Mason. Armstrong said he was unaware how old the pictures were and would not say who took them or where they came from, but he said they have been authenticated.
In the same courtyard on the Fairfax campus, counter-protesters held a tribute to abortion providers that have been lost to extremism.
“Today, we’re here to send a loud message about the effort to compare a woman’s right to choose to the Holocaust,” said Lily Bolourian, president of Patriots For Choice, a student organization at George Mason. “This type of inflammatory speech does not belong in the realm of public discourse.”
Maher said she received permission to hold a demonstration, instead of an event. Bolourian said Patriots for Choice may register a complaint with the university. Dan Walsch, a Mason spokesman, said the police department and the Department of University Life had phone conversations with the administration, and while there might not have been a formal application processed for Maher’s demonstration, that is not uncommon.
Maher’s demonstration was getting the attention she hoped among students.
“I heard about it before I got a chance to see it,” said Delesia Watson, 22. “By showing those little arms and feet, they really get people’s attention.... People don’t think about the fetus being a person. Although I don’t agree with the way they did it, they got people to think about it, and overall, they accomplished their goal.”