At 9am on Wednesday, October 25, pro-choice students at Aquinas College assembled in the middle of campus to protest Pro-Life Awareness Week. For several years, The Aquinas College Students for Life have claimed an entire week devoted to sensationalizing abortion through the erection of a mock “fetus cemetery” that is made up of rows of wooden crosses that symbolize aborted fetuses, and displaying plastic models of fetuses at various stages of development. Several students appealed to the Women’s Studies Center on campus, prior to the designated Pro-Life Awareness Week, in an attempt to gain administrative support for a more comprehensive approach to the highly controversial issue of abortion. The students requested a forum in which a discussion on the topic of reproductive rights could take place and be moderated. Even with the support of the Women’s Studies Center, the administration denied the students’ request. Two students then proceeded to organize a protest to counter the overwhelming anti-choice movement on the campus.
Over 20 students attended the protest and many more stopped by to commend the protesters for bringing a voice to the pro-choice movement on campus. Even a few of the college’s employees and faculty offered their support, either by joining the student protesters or by providing words of encouragement. However, some students were hostile, including one individual who pulled her car over to the side of the road, jumped out, and began yelling at the protesters. She accused them of being blasphemous, shameful, and anti-Catholic. A few anti-choice students called the protesters “baby killers,” and “pro-abortion.” Though the protest was originally intended to be silent in order to prevent emotional, unmediated confrontation, the protesters re-addressed the notion of the silent protest after an hour or so and agreed that their presence would be more affective if they could speak to individuals, and thereby better communicate the purpose of the protest and its significance.
Halfway through the day, Terry Marshall, the wife of one of the Aquinas theology professors, who is also a faculty member, approached the pro-choice group and implied that she wanted to create a dialogue between the pro-choice students and Students for Life. She then continued on to preach her views on the evils of abortion. The students said they felt that she was non-receptive and condescending. Later that day, two other anti-choice faculty members, Mary Clark-Kaiser and Eric Bridge, confronted the protesters but remained respectful and engaged in relatively meaningful discussion with them.
Throughout the protest, Campus Safety officers stayed near by, but did not interfere. The protesters held their signs silently unless approached and addressed by someone, and aside from a few verbal attacks, the protest went un-interrupted for the full 9 hours. A photographer and a reporter from the Aquinas College student newspaper, The Saint, were also present and they assured the pro-choice students that the protest would be covered in the next issue.