Double Protest on York Lawn

Students for Life and Planned Parenthood Generation Action Held Protests Regarding Abortion Laws

On the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 21, 1,000 bright pink flags placed on the York Lawn by the CNU Students For Life (SFL) organization grabbed the attention of students passing by. 

Each one of the 1,000 flags represented 7,300 lives lost to abortion,” said club member Jenna Gibson, freshman. 

Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022, the U.S. has been divided into differing beliefs and opinions regarding abortion. This divide has been evident on college campuses across the country. 

“The purpose of the display was to bring awareness to the atrocities of abortion and the number of innocent lives taken since the federal legalization of abortion in 1973,” Gibson said. “This display was supposed to bring awareness to the pro-life cause and be a visual representation of the magnitude of destruction abortion has caused this country.”

Along with the pink flags, signs were put up with different statistics and messages. One said, “Each flag represents 7,300 lives lost to abortion,” and another said, “Cemetery of the innocence.” SFL claims, however, the signs were stolen shortly after being put up. 

The display quickly caught the attention of students passing by as well as members of CNU’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGen) club. PPGen organized an impromptu protest in response. 

Sophomore member of PPGen Megan Munford said, “I am very passionate about reproductive justice and advocating for the basic human right to bodily autonomy, so I felt it was necessary to skip my last class and peacefully protest the display.” 

Senior Megan Johnson brought signs for protesters to hold that said “I stand with Planned Parenthood,” or “Bans off our Bodies.” 

Johnson said, “As the Vice President for PPGen, I wanted to support my club members and their wishes to do something about the matter and not stay silent.”

The display upset a lot of pro-choice students including Morgan Andrews, a junior and member of PPGen. Andrews did not participate in the protest of the display because she said, “I was very upset and I did not think it was best for me.” 

“I think it is truly insensitive to display flags in a way to represent “lives lost” when these displays have genuinely been used to people that were killed,” Andrews said. “Seeing white students put out flags on our predominantly white university in an area that is majority people of color and in a world where people of color are being disproportionately killed, just goes to show the utter ignorance of ProLife people. Real lives are being lost.”

Andrews also said, “It seems so ignorant to fight for fetuses, yet to call yourself ProLife and turn a blind eye to people that already exist and are dying.”

When asked her thoughts on the counter-protest to the SFL display, Gibson said, “My thoughts were that protesting on public property is their first amendment right just as putting up the display was our first amendment right. However, those students who stole/vandalized the display were not only disrespectful but also committed a crime.” 

“We expected that our display would be vandalized or stolen. CNU is not the first college at which this display has been set up, and, similarly, ours is not the first of this kind of display to be destroyed,” said freshman member of SFL Ryan Sweeney.

Sweeney said, “Students for Life at CNU will continue advocating on campus for an increase in respect for human life from fertilization until natural death.”

Some of the PPGen members that protested have expressed concern about being filmed by SFL who said they would be posting the video on Campus Reform, an American Conservative Website.

Their website says, “As a conservative watchdog to the nation’s higher education system, Campus Reform exposes liberal bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses.” This made those members of PPGen feel unsafe. 

PPGen was upset not only because of the message being put out by SFL but also because it was an ‘approved event’ by the university. 

“I was even more angry and confused because our club has been told that we could not do public events like that because the university wants to stay neutral regarding those topics,” Johnson said. 

Johnson and other members of PPGen have since had meetings with Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Hughes to clear up past conflicts. “Currently we are working with those old EBoard members to figure out exactly who it was denying us in the past to report back to Kevin Hughes,” Johnson said. 

Regarding this statement, Katie Johnston from the Office of Orientation and Student Involvement said, “We don’t approve or disapprove of the content of something. We help organizations host events on campus and go through the proper processes to do that. Which we are happy to do with any of our registered organizations,” Johnston said. “The only reason we would deny an event is when the space isn’t available.”

SFL chose the location of the York Lawn specifically for its high-traffic environment. “It was a central location, being near the DSU, Trible Library, and within view of the Court Yard. It was also a proper size compared to the amount of space we needed for the display,” Gibson said. 

However, Andrews had concerns with the placement of the display. “This display was put in front of a freshman residence hall. Abortion is never an easy decision for people. The people who put up these flags have no idea how many residents of York were perhaps subjected to sexual violence and had to choose an abortion. I can not imagine what a slap in the face that would be as a freshman that is just trying to find their place on this campus, and seeing this mockery,” Andrews said. 

Olivia Fallen, a freshman member of PPGen said, “I believe Students for Life should be allowed to express their opinions, but we have the right to protest against them and share ours. I believed the protest would show that there are more opinions on the matter.”

Johnson said, “I think it’s very important to let the students at CNU know that there are many others that do not agree with the statements displayed on the lawn.”

The purpose of the display was to “Bring awareness to the pro-life cause and be a visual representation of the death abortion has brought our country. We wanted students to see the truth, to see the statistics, and to understand the inhumanity of abortion,” Gibson said. 

Both organizations have demonstrated their first amendment right to public protest and have expressed that they will each continue to do so.