Chris Schulz Published

Students Protest Anti-Abortion Display At WVU

Large signs on blue tarps read "Abortion is Healthcare and "Protect Trans Folks." Two people prop up the signs on either side. The signs are held up in front of other signs, which can be seen in the gaps between the tarps, depicting what are allegedly aborted fetuses and victims of genocide. White and yellow daisies are in the extreme foreground. The entire scene takes place in front of the Mountainlair student union at West Virginia University.
West Virginia University students in Morgantown hold up signs to block graphic images of supposed aborted fetuses and genocide victims that are part of an anti-abortion display on April 20, 2023.
Chris Schulz/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Students at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown are protesting an anti-abortion display on campus. 

The anti-abortion group Center for Bio-Ethical Reform staged a demonstration Wednesday and Thursday in WVU’s free speech zone in front of the Mountainlair student union.

The organization displayed images that purported to show aborted fetuses alongside victims of lynching and the Holocaust, comparing abortion to genocide.

Jacinta Robin is a media liaison for Center for Bio-Ethical Reform events. She said the organization brought the display — titled the “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) — to WVU because the university’s “plethora of students with diverse ideas” made it a good place for public discourse.

“We seek public universities for the reason of there being a public discourse on their campus in some capacity, that we should be allowed to use as a taxpayer in this country,” Robin said. “But we still abide by the university’s protocol every time.”

She said the organization aims to sway public opinion and that their images represent the organization’s beliefs.

“Many people believe that abortion is the process of eliminating blood and tissue,” Robin said. “We’re reversing that narrative that abortion decapitates and dismembers a tiny human child.” 

Returning student Adrienne Dering called the information on the signs ”factually incorrect.”

“This is an institution of education, and people deserve to be educated,” Dering said. 

“Abortion doesn’t look like D&Cs [dilation and curettage] anymore,” she continued. “Ninety-seven percent of abortions in this country are in the first trimester, and the vast majority of them are medical abortions where women have a safe, medically monitored miscarriage in the comfort of their own home and the blood clot is the size of an olive.”

Dering said she was also protesting because the information being presented, which included comparisons of gender transitioning to genital mutilation, was potentially harmful.

“The information on that hurts people, and we need to protest against anything that is divisive and hurtful to people of all gender assignments and to human beings,” she said.

Counter-protestors started their action as early as 7 a.m. Thursday, which included handing out contraceptives as well as information about safe sex and reproductive health resources. 

Students like freshman Leah Coleman blocked the view of the display with oversized signs painted on tarps and bed sheets reading “Protect Trans Folks” and “Abortion is Healthcare.”

“By putting it in front of the Mountainlair, it’s making it look like, ‘Oh, this is WVU’s message. This is what WVU supports,’” Coleman said. “But obviously, this is not what the student body supports, or we wouldn’t be here.”

A similar display and counterprotest took place at Marshall University earlier this week.

Many of the students at the counterprotest said they have written to the university expressing their concern and confusion at the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s presence on campus. Some have asked for the group’s removal. 

The organization is considering returning Friday. Students plan to continue their protest if they do.