Anti-abortion group bringing graphic signs to UF campus
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.
For 2½ years, Mark Harrington has been barnstorming the country with his anti-abortion message, using large graphic posters depicting abortions and fetuses to draw attention to what he calls a great American tragedy.
Harrington, the executive director of Created Equal, a Columbus, Ohio-based foundation, will bring those images to the University of Florida’s Turlington Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday. He said his goal is to grab students’ attention with the shocking imagery.
“You need to see these images to understand the atrocity,” Harrington said by phone.
UF has free speech zones around campus, the two biggest of which are Turlington Plaza and the Plaza of the Americas. While UF can’t regulate what people say on campus, it can regulate the time, place and manner of speech to assure that campus activities and work are not disrupted and that no laws are broken.
Kylie Lacusky, president of the UF chapter of VOX — Voices for Planned Parenthood, said her group wasn’t prepared to stage a counter-demonstration, “but I will try to make my group available as a resource for accurate information and also to talk with anyone who may be upset by the images.”
Harrington said he gets actual images of abortions and fetuses from abortion clinics under nondisclosure agreements. Though pro-choice and some anti-abortion groups have criticized the graphic images as too disturbing, he said he does it “because it works.”
His proof is mainly anecdotal. As the former Midwest director for the Center for Bioethical Research, Harrington spent years touring campuses as part of the Genocide Awareness project, which used graphic, wrenching images of lynchings, Holocaust victims and abortions to get people talking about bioethical issues including abortion and stem cell research.
Created Equal also has a video of abortions displayed on a Jumbotron screen on a trailer pulled by a pickup truck. The video was first shown over the summer in Fountain Square in Cincinnati and in Market Square in Pittsburgh. He will roll it onto a university campus for the first time Monday at the University of South Florida in Tampa. It won’t be brought onto the UF campus this trip, but he said he might bring it to campus when his group returns in March for its annual Justice Ride.
This is not Harrington’s first visit to UF with Created Equal, he said. He has been here twice before and said he gets a mixed reaction, the kind he’s come to expect.
Harrington said his target is the students who have no strongly formed opinion on either side of the abortion debate.
“Those are the ones we are trying to reach out to,” he said. “I call them the mushy middle.”
Most of the time, students are civil, he said, but there are the occasional disruptors.
Last year, for instance, a student rode by on a bicycle and knocked over some signs, Harrington said.
“It’s part of the territory,” he said.