Carleton pro-life protesters abusing right of free speech


It’s a bright sunny afternoon and you’re walking down the street to get to your destination, feeling good about the day. You are often encountered by sales flyers, street performers, the homeless and even social activists who march with their signs held high.

What happens next, however, isn’t any sales representative who rather obnoxiously shoves a flyer in your face. It is a large image of a bloody fetus, juxtaposed against photos of defecated bodies murdered in the Rwandan and Holocaust genocides.

There goes that sunny day.

This is exactly what happened when five Ontario university students attempted to graphically display anti-abortion posters around Carleton University. Ottawa police took them away in handcuffs, charging them for trespassing. Prior to the incident, the school had offered an indoor area to hold the protest, citing the right of the passerby “not to be offended.” The students refuted this as censorship and decided to hold the protest in the Tory Quad, the busiest spot on campus.

Censorship is an issue many activists bring up when plying for political or social change on the streets. While I agree whole-heartedly with the theory behind free speech, I do have to consider the line being pushed when individuals use horrific, disturbing images as a tool for protest. It is not so much free speech when these pictures are being used but an effort to cause reaction rather than the desired rethink.

It is easy to understand why these students felt the need to show graphic images of bloody body parts in order to gain a reaction. The average individual is bombarded with thousands of messages each day and we are all aware of the long-standing debate over abortion.

We have either picked our side of the debate or have decided not to care. Feeling the need to get noticed, these groups attempt to be more graphic than the next person in order to get attention.

I would have to agree that sometimes, no matter how sickening the image, they can be utilized to shame or create action in individuals who may otherwise be complacent. For example, in the civil rights movements in the 1960s, pictures of blacks being attacked by white mobs pushed citizens to protest who might otherwise have stayed silent.

However, that was the 1960s and it was more of a call for action in society rather than a brazen attempt to change personal choice.

Let’s look at some scenarios. A girl who had just went through an abortion, pressured by limited finances and a lack of structural support, could be traumatized by the sight of such photos, causing a post-mortem depression.

Looking at it from a pro-life standpoint, if you are arguing for the rights of the fetus having the same rights as a person, why would you demean these children by using their mortal remains to cause a sickened reaction? Defeating your entire point, you disrespect rather than pray for the lives lost.

My entire point is not to decide today the moral conclusion of the validity of abortion, but rather it is to criticize the road these five students are taking to cause a reaction. Utilizing horrific images to get a person to change their personal choice is doing nothing but disgusting them for a few moments while they walk by. I find it more degrading for the individuals to have stooped to such a level.

These students need to understand what free speech is about. If you want to convey your opinion, to convince people to change their personal choices, shock and disgust is not the way to go in our generation. You are abusing the constitutional rights of free speech and becoming more of a joke rather than heralded as an activist of change.

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