On Wednesday, Sept. 4, the anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn was at Northern displaying blown-up images of bloody, aborted fetuses and distributing pamphlets that likened abortion in the United States to the Holocaust.
According to Dean of Students Christine Greer, the Milwaukee, Wis.-based group started their protest around 9 a.m. and finished by 12:30 p.m. The university had no prior knowledge of the content that would be used.“We have to be content neutral,” Greer said. “That’s what the law says, so we can’t ban anybody just because we don’t like what they’re going to say.”
Missionaries to the Preborn, which travels to different schools and locations around the Midwest, had gotten permission from the Dean of Students Office to be on campus. Greer said initially, the group was on campus without the knowledge of anyone from the university.
“They were not registered, and so I called Public Safety,” Greer said. “Public Safety went up there and said they had to shut down and someone had to come register.”
The representative from the group seemed surprised that he had to register, according to Greer.
“His argument was that ‘you’re a state school so you have to let us on,’” Greer said. She said groups have to give contact information so that the university can follow up if there are issues.
The Dean of Students Office did get some complaints that protesters were yelling at students, which is against the rules that the group agreed to upon signing the speaker registration form.
“Public Safety didn’t witness [the yelling at students], and nobody told us about it at the time,” Greer said. “This is afterwards. If we had witnessed it, or someone had come over, we would have escorted them off campus.”
Missionaries to the Preborn protested in several locations on campus, and Greer said this was part of the problem. While the man who signed the speaker registration form knew the rules, he may not have communicated that to the rest of the protestors.
“We don’t tell them where they have to be,” Greer said, mentioning that this has led to lawsuits against other universities in the past.
According to Greer, the group stopped at Lake Superior State University before they came to NMU, and after they left campus, they were downtown and by the Marquette Senior High School. They also made their way to Michigan Tech once they left Marquette.
Missionaries to the Preborn clearly explains their objective through the publications and pamphlets they distributed at the protest.
“We come together as a last line of defense on behalf of those babies taken into America’s abortion clinics,” reads the mission statement of Missionaries to the Preborn, as seen on the pamphlets they handed out during the demonstration. “We will speak up for our preborn neighbor, and offer help to the mothers and fathers who bring their sons and daughters to these death camps.”
According to Missionaries to the Preborn’s website, they display pictures of aborted fetuses to expose what abortion really is because it has been ignored by traditional media.
The reaction from the student body was strong; generally, students were alarmed and horrified by what they saw.
“We had phone calls and emails from students who were upset about the visual images,” Greer said. Greer said she plans to write to the group to inform them of the complaints against their content.
Sophomore clinical laboratory sciences — diagnostic genetics major Skylar Durand said she considers herself completely anti-abortion, but thought the pictures used by Missionaries to the Preborn were inappropriate.
“There were pictures of dead babies and stuff,” Durand said. “That’s not the way I would go about it, you know? I feel like it’s kind of embarrassing [the aborted fetuses].”
Durand said the group was within their rights to voice their opinions but, as a community, anti-abortionists should go about their mission in a different way.
“Our goal shouldn’t be to bring them down,” Durand said. “That’s just going about it completely wrong. I feel like our goal should be a shoulder to lean on. Let them know there’s more options (than Planned Parenthood). Just be caring.”