Anti-abortion demonstration sparks counter protest on K

Jacob Hansen and Alton Northup

Dozens of students clashed with anti-abortion advocates on Risman Plaza Tuesday.

Members from the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, an anti-abortion organization, set up large, graphic displays allegedly depicting aborted fetuses on the K. The group, which travels the country with its displays, was on campus just a day prior – but there were few counter-protestors compared to Tuesday’s demonstration.

Jacinta Robin from the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform said the group was there “to show what [abortion] does to the public.”

“Our message is that abortion decapitates and dismembers a small child and that is wrong,” Robin said.

Members of the Center of Bio-Ethical Reform display graphical banners depicting the results of abortion at Risman Plaza on April 25, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Robin and the group of members set up around 11 a.m. and shortly after, abortion-rights protesters started gathering. Some counter protestors carried black umbrellas to block the bloody images on display, while others carried signs or shouted at the anti-abortion group.

The demonstration overlapped with a weeks-long mobilization by Protect Choice Ohio to gather signatures for a reproductive rights amendment to the Ohio constitution.

“We’ve been coming here for about five weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday, we’ve been here and we’ve not really seen anything like this at all,” said Kelly Clary, a member of the group handing out signs and asking for signatures. “I knew that something like this was going to be here, but I’m proud of the kids for standing up. They’ve been very engaged so far.”

Sophomore biology major Sophia Walker and freshman zoology major Hannah Landrum said they were two of the first counter protestors there.

“We saw the stand and then took one of these [Protect Choice Ohio signs] and then came over here and people started joining and people started chanting,” Landrum said. “It was really nice to just watch it grow.”

As the demonstration went on, some counter protestors, including senior political science major Dale Chalfin, began chanting phrases such as “racist, sexist, anti-gay, pro-life biggots, go away!”

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and what their opinion is doing is causing harm and taking away from other people’s lives,” Chalfin said. “Really, what does it take away from them by allowing people to have their choice and that was what my rebuttal was.”

Robin said the counter protests “don’t have an argument.”

Abortion-rights protesters use umbrellas and bedsheets to block the banners displayed by anti-abortion protesters at Risman Plaza on April 25, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

“The counter protesters are frustrated with what we’re showing the public, we are showing decapitated, dismembered children and they’re frustrated that the truth of abortion is being exposed,” she said. “They get really loud and they try to cover our questions.”

As tensions grew, multiple Kent State University Police officers and university staff gathered to observe the protests. At one point, a student said, university staff asked the two groups to move further from each other.

Chalfin relayed the message to the counter protestors.

“‘Hey, guys with the umbrellas, you guys gotta take two steps away from them,’” she said. “‘They are scared, but we’re also human. I know they don’t act like it, but we have to be better than them. They might not think our opinion matters, but we have to respect everyone.”’

Jacob Hansen is sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].
Alton Northup is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]