MU students heading to class today will likely be confronted by several posted signs reading, “Warning: Genocide Pictures Ahead.”
The signs are designed to prepare students for an exhibit that opens today outside Kuhlman Court. The controversial display is a two-story billboard-size photographic exhibit that includes individual panels showing aborted fetuses and human embryos.
Mizzou Justice for All: Students for Bio-Ethical Equality raised $12,000 to bring the exhibit to MU. The exhibit was created by the national JFA organization and has appeared on several other Big 12 campuses, including Baylor University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.
The exhibit will be on display from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. through Wednesday.
The arrival of the 18-foot exhibit has angered student abortion-rights groups. Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, the undergraduate chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations are sponsoring a “Peaceful Presence” in Speaker’s Circle where abortion-rights advocates can voice their opposition to the display.
Mizzou’s JFA was founded this spring but is not affiliated with the national JFA organization. Students have been working for more than a year to bring the exhibit to campus, with most of the $12,000 coming from students and their families and friends.
“We are definitely not anti-choice, we are pro-life and believe in dignifying women with information to make an informed choice,” said Jonathan Block, public affairs coordinator for Mizzou JFA. “The fundamental question we want answered is what are unborn children and are they human?”
David Lee, executive director of the national JFA, said responses to the displays on other campuses have been tremendous.
“It creates lots of dialogue… Abortion tends to be an old discussion, and many have grown up with their point of view,” Lee said. “Most relevant to a college student is what do I do with this unwanted pregnancy?”
Along with the national JFA support staff, members expect more than 100 Mizzou JFA members on site to answer questions.
“We are expecting a very healthy dialogue,” Block said. “We’re just there to talk.”
In response to JFA’s efforts, abortion-rights advocates are passing out fliers and buttons, writing letters to editors and creating alternate routes for students to bypass Kuhlman Court. The groups will have a table in Brady Commons where students can get information on reproductive freedom.
“We recognize that not everyone here has the same views,” said Liz Diebold, an ACLU officer.
Members of Mizzou’s JFA say they look forward to the opposition and expect it to create a healthy dialogue about abortion. For students who want to discuss abortion with a neutral party, MU’s Counseling Center will have tables set up near the exhibit and Speaker’s Circle.
MU released a statement reading, “Justice for All, one of Mizzou’s recognized student groups, has followed prescribed policies to arrange this event. University personnel are working with the campus community to assure that the event remains a peaceful exchange of ideas.” The statement also mentions that MU is a public institution that protects and supports everyone’s right to free speech.
“We know this is an emotional issue, and it’s an emotional issue on both sides,” said Kathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs. “We need to make sure all students are safe and that everyone has the chance to be heard.”