The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform met with counter-protest on campus.
Abortion protestors who visited Liberty’s campus Wednesday were met with a counter-protest by Liberty students who opposed the drastic measures taken by the organization in order to spread their message.
Protesters from the Center of Bio-Ethical Reform propped up large posters declaring, “Abortion is child sacrifice,” along with Bible verses and large, graphic images of aborted fetuses. They positioned themselves in two public property spaces located in key spots on Liberty’s campus – the traffic circle in front of the bookstore and on the sidewalk next to the “Liberty University” sign in front of the football stadium.
Liberty junior Kara Gullie was on her way to the White Hart Cafe in downtown Lynchburg when she saw the protestors standing on the traffic circle with their signs. She headed back to her dorm room and created a poster that said, “Jesus loves Planned Parenthood workers! Women who aborted! Women who did not! His children! You! Me!”
Then Gullie headed back to the traffic circle to stand in front of the protestors with her sign.
“I saw the response from students towards the (protestors) … the way that they were approaching their message,” Gullie said. “I didn’t feel like it shined the light of God or brought people closer to a relationship that can heal people in a situation like that.”
The Center of Bio-Ethical Reform was founded in 1990 and has been protesting abortion on secular college campuses since 1996.
Jane Bullington has worked with the Center of Bio-Ethical Reform since 1999. She said that over the last four years the nonprofit has started to hold abortion protests regularly at Christian colleges.
“Our own believing community has gotten caught up in the lie of Satan that abortion is the only way out, and most of us attend a church where abortion is not talked about,” Bullington said. “So the women who are sitting there in the church- even the men who are sitting there -who have participated in abortion, in our opinion, feel like it’s the unpardonable sin because nobody is talking about it.”
Liberty University was the first Christian university campus where the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform staged a protest. In November 2009 the nonprofit arranged for an airplane to fly above Liberty’s campus and other parts of Lynchburg. The airplane towed a banner displaying an image of the hand from a human fetus lying on top of a dime.
Wednesday’s protesters handed out pamphlets about their organization along with a letter addressed to President Jerry Falwell Jr. The letter stated that the protesters were on campus with two objectives: to challenge students to become “leaders who mobilize the Church against child sacrifice,” and to encourage the development of programs at Liberty that will provide that training.
“Our cry to the church is to please re-engage with the issue,” Bullington said. “There may be plenty of teaching here to your students …(but) I haven’t gotten that impression from most of the students we’ve talked to. They say there’s only two classes that focus on (abortion) but the others don’t talk about it.”
Weston Sabattus is a Liberty student who stopped to talk with Gullie as she held up her poster in front of the protesters. Sabattus agreed with Gullie that the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s method of sharing their pro-life message is more disparaging than healing, especially for women who have had an abortion.
“Say you’re someone who has had an abortion and you see this, how are you going to feel? Are you going to feel hate, like, God hates you? Or like God loves you?” Sabattus said. “If I had an abortion and I saw (those signs), I would feel unforgivable.”
Megan Kehoe is a Liberty student who stopped to talk with the protesters and joined Gullie in holding up her handwritten poster.
“I love the children who (are aborted), but I also love the women and understand their situation,” Kehoe said. “If I was in their situation I know what I would do, but I would do that exclusively because of what I believe, and I’m not going to demonize them for making a choice that they believe to be the best.”
One abortion protester with the Center of Bio-Ethical Reform said that the graphic images on the signs are necessary in order to communicate the evils of abortion.
“Look at … the German work camps. Even local people weren’t aware of it until they were marched in there and saw what was happening … they were aghast … they went in with smiles and came out with tears,” The protester said. “I think if people see what abortion really is, maybe they won’t just think it’s just an insignificant blob of tissue.”
Bullington believes that the graphic signs will enlighten women who have had an abortion or are considering having an abortion about the reality of their decision. She hopes that ultimately that realization will prompt them to repentance.
“When they do understand, it’s difficult. But … we’ll probably keep them from having a second abortion,” Bullington said. “And it should, and most often does, take them to the cross.”
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform tried to contact Lifeline, Liberty’s pro-life club, in order to reserve a public space on campus for the protest but received no response.
Lifeline denied any affiliation with the group of protestors.
“This group is completely independent of Lifeline, and we in no way associate with or condone their actions,” said Nathan Wehrly, Lifeline’s social media director. “Lifeline’s mission is and will continue to be, creating change through empowering and encouraging women to protect and cherish life.”
Lifeline has a ministry they call sidewalk counseling, where members of the club stand outside of abortion clinics to pray and hold signs sharing pro-life messages.
Kyle Eisenhuth, Lifeline’s club president, said he thinks that the club’s method of encouraging women to choose life is more compassionate and effective than graphic signs when it comes to the pro-life movement.
“(The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is) just trying to be provocative and it is not helpful to actually advancing the pro-life cause … they use emotion in ways that are not appropriate for children and those who have had an abortion,” Eisenhuth said. “Liberty, and the world for that matter, needs more compassion and less condemnation.”
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform returned to campus Thursday to continue their protest.
Stiner is a Lynchburg News Editor