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Exposing the Genocide Awareness Project
The following is our full collection of articles about the Genocide Awareness Project, in chronological order:
- "Genocide Awareness Project" Stopped by UBC (Pro-Choice Press, Autumn 1999)
- It's Not Abortion that's Offensive: It's So-called "Pro-life" People (The Ubyssey, September 17, 1999)
- GAP Display Destroyed at UBC (Pro-Choice Press, Winter 99/00)
- Anti-Abortion Tactics Were Designed to Incite Trouble (Vancouver Sun, February 24, 2000)
- GAP's Vengeance (Pro-Choice Press, Spring 2000)
- No, Virginia, Abortion is NOT Genocide (The Humanist, July/August 2000)
- Litigious GAP Threatens Pro-Choice Action Network (Pro-Choice Press, Summer 2000)
- GAP Returns to UBC: Threat of Lawsuit Stifles Free Speech, Hurts Women (Pro-Choice Press, Autumn/Winter 2000)
"Genocide Awareness Project" Stopped by UBC
by Joyce Arthur, Pro-Choice Press, Autumn 1999
A radical anti-choice group from California was prevented by the University of BC in September from displaying grotesque images of aborted fetuses juxtaposed with Jewish holocaust victims and black lynching victims. The objective of the display, called the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), was to label abortion as genocide. The group responsible for the display, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR), is an organization of anti-choice lawyers who were invited by UBC's anti-choice student group, the AMS Lifeline Club.
The GAP display has been to nine universities across the United States, and UBC was the group's first attempt to establish a presence in Canada. UBC cited safety and security concerns as reasons to impose a number of conditions upon the group's presence, including payment of $10,000 a day in security costs, which CBR called outrageous and refused to pay.
GAP's Shocking Pictures
The GAP display consists of 6' by 14' billboards set up in a large circle with GAP staff standing inside the circle with a barricade to separate them from protestors. Each billboard is a panel of two or three pictures. For example, one billboard reads: "The changing face of choice" and the first panel shows the bodies of Holocaust victims and the Nazi swastika with the caption "Religious Choice." The second panel shows a lynched black man with the caption "Racial Choice" and the third panel shows an aborted fetus with the caption "Reproductive Choice". One billboard directly compares Planned Parenthood to Nazis.
Stephanie Gray, head of the AMS Lifeline Club at UBC, the group that invited GAP, defended the use of genocide pictures and aborted fetus pictures, saying in the Vancouver Sun, "...we have the right to show them, because they're the truth." Gray also used this argument in the BC Catholic, where she said, "While graphic pictures are emotional, we mustn't forget that they are TRUE." There are two major problems with this premise.
First, just because something is true (like the horrors of the Holocaust) doesn't mean that it must therefore be presented graphically in public. For example, it's true that child pornography is made and distributed, but that doesn't mean it's OK to protest against it by displaying large photos of child porn. And it's a safe bet that CBR staff themselves would never tolerate protesters standing outside their offices with large, TRUE pictures of, say, dead women lying in a pool of their own blood from botched, illegal abortions. Second, many aborted fetus pictures are NOT true---they are distorted misrepresentations or outright lies. Most show late-term abortions, which are rare and unrepresentative of abortion. Also, most of these pictures cannot be authenticated and are of dubious origin. A recent book (Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars, by Cynthia Gorney, 1998) has documented that many aborted fetus pictures used by anti-choice groups have been carefully staged by clever anti-choice photographers using stolen body parts. Some may actually depict natural miscarriages or stillbirths, and others are so old that they date back to the days when abortion was illegal. It is ironic indeed that the anti-choice want a return to the very thing that their pictures are supposed to be protesting!
GAP's Real Agenda
GAP purports to be an educational forum, but the display is not meant to foster debate; rather, it's designed to shock, horrify, and brainwash through a twisted psychological game. GAP exploits the real oppression of many different peoples for its own agenda. Comparing other peoples' suffering to the life-saving blessing of legal abortion is an insult to the real victims of genocide, including the 70,000 plus women who die every year from illegal abortion. According to Erin Kaiser of UBC Students for Choice, equating abortion with genocide puts women on the same moral level as Nazis, the KKK, and other groups that commit atrocities and genocide. "GAP's actions are inciting hatred against women and it's absolutely disgusting," said Kaiser. "It's no different than putting up posters implying that blacks are like apes."
CBR's exploitation of the Jewish Holocaust and black lynchings is a calculated attempt to aggravate and provoke Jewish and black students. In fact, CBR deliberately organizes their campus appearances to coincide with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
At the University of Kansas, an African-American male was so enraged by the display that he rammed his truck through it. Another student vandalized the display and tried to attack a GAP staff member. CBR's executive director Gregg Cunningham has never made any apology for the comparison between abortion and the Holocaust. In a media statement last year, Cunningham said: "Frankly, I'm weary of genocide snobs who focus solely on their causes."
In response to any violence brought on by their shockingly insensitive and racist presentation, CBR ruthlessly presses charges against students and sues the university. They also feed off the negative publicity, trying to wipe the stench off themselves by pointing fingers of blame at "violent" pro-choicers, and condemning anyone who is reluctant to allow them their "freedom of speech rights."
It is ominous that CBR staff who work at the GAP display routinely photograph and videotape pro-choice opponents. We can only wonder if they are actively identifying the pro-choice movement and its leaders, and sharing this information with other anti-choice groups who may espouse violence.
What Happened at UBC?
In their dealings with UBC, CBR's behaviour can only be described as aggressive, threatening, callous, and extremely arrogant. They began by writing a letter, then meeting with UBC lawyers, demanding free access to the university. They insisted on their freedom of speech rights by brandishing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms like a club. They announced unilaterally where they were going to set up their display, when, and for how long. And to protect their own staff from angry students, they ordered UBC to provide them with free campus security.
Justifiably concerned about GAP's track record of inciting confrontation and violence wherever they went, and offended by their belligerent manner, UBC imposed certain reasonable conditions on GAP's presence, in the interests of public safety. GAP organizers could set up in McInnes Field, but not on the main plaza outside of the Student Union Building because students would not be able to avoid the display there. They had to keep their display away from areas where children might be exposed to it. They must put up appropriate warning signs along traffic paths to the display. They could stay for two days, not four days, so as to minimize disruptions to university operations and students' classroom activities. And they had to pay for their extraordinary use of UBC's security---$10,000 a day, plus a $5,000 damage deposit.
UBC also refuted CBR's claim that they had a constitutional right to be on university property, explaining that the University Act gives UBC the power to manage, administer, and control its property, including the right to terminate a licence to occupy. (The university is private property, owned outright by UBC.) "We're not trying to keep them off campus," explained UBC vice-president Brian Sullivan. "This is not an issue of freedom of expression. It's a concern around safety." He noted that UBC was charging the actual cost of security, as they routinely do for any other event held by a non-student group.
What was CBR's response to these conditions? An intimidating "F--- you"-type message left on an answering machine that flatly stated that GAP was coming onto campus, and they had no intention of obeying any of the restrictions. They would go wherever they wanted, stay as long as they wanted, and do whatever they wanted. As for any possible trouble that the incendiary GAP display might provoke, the executive director of CBR, Gregg Cunningham was quoted in the Ubyssey (UBC's student newspaper) as saying, "We will make an example out of lawbreakers."
Now angered at CBR's confrontational and uncompromising attitude, and alarmed by the growing threat to public safety (which CBR absolutely refused to mitigate), UBC was forced to quickly apply for an injunction to keep GAP off campus. UBC had learned that some students (not members of UBC Students for Choice) were so upset with CBR's irresponsible behaviour and the coming GAP display that they reportedly planned to overturn cars, throw paint on the fetus photos, and burn the American flag.
At the last minute, realizing they were going to lose out to the injunction, CBR decided to delay their visit to UBC until they could re-negotiate UBC's conditions. At the same time, Cunningham threatened to launch a lawsuit against UBC, on the grounds that UBC had violated CBR's freedom of speech rights by demanding unreasonable security fees. Despite the strong opposition on campus, Cunningham says he will do whatever is necessary to force the large fetus photos down the throats of UBC students. "These images will be shown on this campus," he vowed.
In the meantime, UBC Students for Choice had organized a peaceful rally to demonstrate against GAP, as well as an information fair. The rally went ahead on Sept. 29 at noon outside the Student Union Building, without the presence of GAP. It was attended by 500 to 600 students and local pro-choice and anti-choice activists, plus CBR's Gregg Cunningham. Speakers included Medical Students for Choice, the Pro-Choice Action Network, Democracy Street, and MLA Joy MacPhail, among others. Many of the speeches focused on the connection between anti-choice groups and violence, highlighting their associations with white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups, and their reliance on hypocrisy, lies, hatred, and intolerance.
In spite of their failure to set up their display, CBR was able to host an indoor meeting at UBC the evening of the pro-choice rally. Although billed as a "debate," no pro-choice advocate spoke. In fact, CBR generally has great difficulty finding pro-choicers willing to debate with them, because most pro-choicers rightly refuse to publicly debate someone who advocates biological slavery for women. Their forum was disrupted by pro-choice protesters who hung coat hangers on Cunningham's microphone and pulled the fire alarm.
Throughout the UBC debacle, Cunningham and his GAP organizers (all of them fundamentalist Christians) never showed the slightest concern for the safety or sensibilities of students or for the possible trauma that children could suffer if they saw the display. They were perfect models for a fascist autocracy, never having heard of the words compromise, tolerance, or goodwill. Their only selfish interest throughout was protecting their "freedom of speech rights" at any cost. Of course, freedom of speech is never absolute. In Canada, it can be justifiably restricted to protect public safety and vulnerable groups. Canada also has hate crime laws to protect minorities like Jews and blacks, and anti-discrimination laws that protect women as well as minorities.
CBR's complete indifference to the rights of students and children, their deliberate incitement of student violence on campuses, their callous exploitation of blacks and Jews, their blatant misogyny, and their underhanded encouragement of hatred and violence against abortion providers, make it safe to say that CBR doesn't give a damn about "unborn babies"---they are intent only on a vicious, hateful crusade against the pro-choice community.
It's Not Abortion That's Offensive: It's So-called "Pro-life" People
by Joyce Arthur, The Ubyssey, September 17, 1999
So the American-based Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) is coming to UBC to display pictures of aborted fetuses, black lynching victims, and Jewish Holocaust victims - all to convince people of the "genocide" of abortion.
You can be sure that CBR's graphic display will feature no gory pictures of dead women lying in a pool of their own blood after a botched illegal abortion. There will be nary a whisper about the 80,000 women in the world who still die every year from unsafe, illegal abortions, and the hundreds of thousands more who are maimed or injured. Also, don't expect them to acknowledge that their 19th century Christian forebears used the bible to vigorously defend slavery, or that Hitler was a professed Roman Catholic who was also "pro-life." Such pesky facts are irrelevant to anti-abortion activists.
Instead, most anti-abortionists operate under the delusion that fetuses are far more important than any fundamental human value, including the lives and rights of women, the alleviation of human suffering, freedom of conscience and religion and of course, truth itself. That's why most anti-abortionists look the other way when doctors are shot dead by extremists in their movement It's why they're indifferent to the plight of desperate women who risk their lives to get an abortion. It's why they're oblivious to the suffering of millions of abused or neglected children throughout the world. It's why they pass moral judgment on anyone who doesn't conform to their narrow mould. It's why they spout hatred, lies, and misinformation about abortion and its practitioners. And it's why they think nothing of exploiting and trivializing the tragic history of Jews and blacks for their own agenda.
In fact, you can bet that CBR and the organizers of this tasteless demonstration are entirely unaware of the sheer insensitivity and offensiveness of their actions. Of course, they want people to be offended, and people certainly will be, but not because of any aborted fetus pictures. Jews and Blacks will be insulted at the ignorant comparison between their peoples' horrendous suffering and the life-saving blessing of legal, safe abortion. Women will be angered by the complete negation of their lives, their freedom and their humanity.
Don't let these anti-abortion demonstrators fool you with their spin on ethics and genocide. To them, women's suffering is simply invisible, their lives expendable, and their rights inconsequential. It's no coincidence that the same can be said about the slaveholder's attitude to blacks, and the Nazi's attitude to Jews. Because underneath anti-abortion rhetoric lies fascist disrespect for the human rights of a large part of humanity.
GAP Display Destroyed at UBC
by Joyce Arthur, Pro-Choice Press, Winter 99/00
A student-sponsored version of the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) made an unexpected appearance at UBC on November 23rd, but the display was torn down almost immediately by angry pro-choice students.
The GAP display, designed by the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR) of California, attempts to equate abortion with genocide by featuring large, graphic billboards of aborted fetuses next to holocaust and slavery victims. GAP has been to numerous campuses across the United States, often leaving a trail of violence and lawsuits in its wake. This is because of the extremely shocking and hateful nature of the display, coupled with CBR's bully tactics and disregard for public safety.
In September, UBC had imposed conditions on GAP's presence on campus, including limits on location and length of stay, and a requirement to pay a $5,000 damage deposit plus security costs of $10,000 a day. GAP had demanded that UBC provide free security for its staff, but UBC's policy has always been to charge non-student groups for any security costs. CBR refused to pay and threatened UBC with a lawsuit, claiming that its freedom of speech rights were being violated. Meanwhile, the GAP display was effectively prevented from coming onto campus, the first time in North America this has ever happened to the Center for Bioethical Research. A large part of this success was due to the efforts of UBC Students for Choice, who organized an educational campaign about the true nature of GAP, and held a pro-choice rally that drew several hundred students on Sept. 29.
Then, without warning, a modified GAP display, organized and staffed by UBC's new Students for Life group, went up on the morning of Nov. 23, in front of the statue of the Goddess of Democracy at the Student Union Building. This central location had previously been denied to GAP because students are not able to avoid the display there. Apparently, Students for Life received permission from UBC to mount a one-day, scaled-down display using smaller posters. It is believed that this deal was reached in exchange for CBR dropping its threatened lawsuit against the university. Unfortunately, UBC and Alma Mater Society officials failed to inform anyone that the display was about to go up. UBC counselling offices were caught severely understaffed the day of the display. At least two dozen angry, traumatized women sought help, with an unknown number also seeking support from off-campus support groups.
Even more shocking, no security at all was provided for the mini-GAP display. As noted by a Ubyssey guest editorial, this indicated GAP's complete disregard for public safety, especially in light of the incendiary discord that CBR/GAP had incited on campus over the previous two months.
As soon as the display went up, word spread quickly. Within two hours, in a fit of rage, three pro-choice students destroyed the display, overturning tables and ripping up posters. The students were Erin Kaiser, founder of UBC Students for Choice, Jon Chandler, and Lesley Washington. The entire incident was videotaped by one of the Students for Life, a technique learned from GAP staff, who regularly videotape their opponents in order to identify local pro-choice leaders. They even videotape vehicles and licence plate numbers -- in fact, such footage was on the tape of the incident later shown to authorities.
After the destruction of the display, Students for Life salvaged what they could and set up some of the signs again. Other members of Students for Choice, joined by passers-by, then peacefully picketed the display for several hours.
Personally, Erin Kaiser was deeply offended and angered by the display. She emphasized that she does not object to debate on the issue of abortion, but that the GAP display constituted hate propaganda that she felt was targeted at her personally. As she explained on CKNW's Rafe Mair show (Nov. 23): "Not only am I a woman who had an abortion last month, but I'm also a Jewish woman. If my grandfather were alive today, as a Holocaust survivor, to see the Holocaust being exploited so that his granddaughter would be accused of being a murderer, on her own campus, there would have been more than overturning tables. They're calling me a murderer. I'm the same as the Nazis who killed the Jews? I'm the same as the KKK who killed the black people in the United States? I'm the same as them because I chose to have an abortion? I don't think it's a matter of freedom of expression. I consider this hate. I consider it hate literature." Kaiser was also angered by the unannounced appearance of the display after she had worked so hard to educate the university on GAP's hateful and hostile agenda.
Students for Life threatened legal action against the pro-choice students, as well as academic discipline and student court. The group went before the student council to call for disciplinary measures against the pro-choice students, but a motion to refer the case to student court was defeated. The council stated the incident had nothing to do with the Alma Mater Society, since the students were acting as individuals, and not on behalf of AMS. The AMS had previously voted against the presence of GAP at the Student Union Building due to public safety concerns.
Students for Life then approached the RCMP, who are currently investigating. UBC brass have also scheduled a disciplinary hearing against Kaiser in March. Meanwhile, Kaiser is filing a complaint with the BC Human Rights Commission against GAP itself, as well as with the campus equity office. Kaiser says the GAP display discriminates against women.
Anti-choice groups decried the destruction of the GAP display as an act of violent vandalism, and are using the incident to try and paint BC's pro-choice movement in a damaging light. However, the Pro-Choice Action Network has never advocated or condoned violence of any sort (in spite of libelous rumours to the contrary); in fact, we voiced cautions and concerns to UBC Students for Choice over the potential for violence, and stressed the importance of non-confrontation even when provoked. Although we regret the actions of the UBC pro-choice students, we cannot assign blame to them. In putting up the display, GAP/Students for Life showed such poor judgment that they bear culpability for what happened. They erred in putting up the display unannounced, which directly fuelled the anger that caused the incident. They failed to ensure adequate security with the full knowledge that their display would inflame people. And finally, they were foolhardy in putting up the display at all, knowing that at UBC at least, the posters were widely viewed as hate propaganda.
In defending GAP, the anti-choice movement has very cynically cloaked themselves in the mantle of freedom of speech to defend their "right" to display offensive signs. First, they don't understand that with rights come responsibilities. Just as one must never yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, so the GAP sponsors should not have so irresponsibly displayed obscenities that are profoundly intolerant of the rights of half of humanity. Second, if the shoe was on the other foot, and we lived in a country controlled by an anti-choice majority with laws against abortion, you can be sure there would be no such thing as freedom of speech -- because the anti-choice secretly abhor it. Any pro-choice dissent would be quickly quashed, with "offenders" likely jailed.
Anti-abortion Tactics Were Designed to Incite Trouble
by Judy Hecht and Joyce Arthur
Published in the Vancouver Sun, February 24, 2000 (Forum)
We are a pro-choice organization that supports a woman's right to choose an abortion. We also support the right of others to express their opposing views. So we are very disturbed by the Sun's article and editorial about UBC's anti-abortion group. (Anti-abortion students sue over attack on their display, Feb. 15; and Whose freedom of speech is it, anyway?, Feb 16) Your writers apparently didn't do their homework, as the controversy at UBC is certainly not about freedom of speech, or even the morality of abortion. It's about public safety and the spread of hate propaganda.
Why? Because an extremist anti-abortion group bullied their way onto campus using threats and intimidation, openly displayed obscene and offensive materials, and deliberately provoked anger and violence. Then, they blamed everyone but themselves for the ensuing chaos.
Here are the facts. The Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) is a travelling display created by an organization of anti-abortion lawyers from California - the Center for Bio-ethical Reform. The display consists of large colour billboards of Holocaust victims, black lynching victims, and other victims of mass murder, next to pictures of aborted fetuses. The implication is clear - women who have abortions commit acts of murder akin to the KKK and Hitler.
This is not free speech. It's hate propaganda against women. We women are responsible moral agents, capable of making decisions about our lives and our families without the interference of the state or any party. To compare abortion to atrocities in Rwanda, or to racist lynchings in the South, or to gas chamber exterminations under Hitler, is beyond reprehensible. The graphic message of these pictures has nothing to do with the truth.
The GAP display has visited several American universities over the last year, often scheduled to appear in conjunction with Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
At the University of Kansas, an African-American student rammed his pickup truck into a sign, almost hitting one of the GAP staff. Another student physically assaulted a GAP staff member and vandalized the display. But is it any wonder that some people get angry? After all, we live in a civilized society where survivors of the Holocaust live in harmony with descendants of slaves, and where caring human beings use words of compassion, not pictures of hate, to communicate and heal old wounds.
The GAP sponsors weren't interested in compassion or civility. The Center for Bio-ethical Reform immediately filed a lawsuit against the University of Kansas, and had the students arrested on criminal charges.
In fact, that is the real, unstated purpose of the GAP display - to incite controversy and violence on university campuses, and use the resulting lawsuits and publicity to turn the tables on pro-choice supporters. And that's exactly what happened at UBC, too.
After learning of GAP's history, UBC gave permission to exhibit the display on campus under certain reasonable conditions. For example, GAP's sponsors would have to locate the display where children wouldn't be exposed to it, limit their stay to minimize disruption to the university, and pay $10,000 a day in security costs (UBC charges expenses at cost to all non-student groups).
But GAP refused to abide by any of the conditions and threatened to sue, claiming their "freedom of speech" rights were being violated. Many student groups were planning to peacefully counter-protest during GAP's stay, but apparently, that is not the free speech GAP is talking about, because they took the coward's way out and didn't show up on the scheduled day.
Weeks later, a modified GAP display (with smaller posters) suddenly went up at UBC unannounced, "courtesy" of UBC's anti-abortion club, AMS Lifeline. Within hours of the display going up, three pro-choice students destroyed it. These students were personally outraged by GAP's hate propaganda - their actions came from the heart, not from any conspiracy. Though we don't condone such violence, we strongly condemn GAP's deliberate incitement of it.
As a result of all this, Lifeline is now suing the Alma Mater Society (AMS) for "breach of contract, negligence, and conspiracy to commit unlawful acts". Of course, there was no breach of contract. The AMS Council barred the GAP display and Lifeline's planning meetings from the Student Union Building to protect public safety, which they have the authority to do.
Yes, there was negligence, but not by the AMS. It was Lifeline that was negligent in displaying offensive materials in public, knowing that the GAP posters were widely viewed as hate propaganda on campus. And UBC was negligent in allowing the display to go up with no security in place at all.
Yes, there was a conspiracy - two of them, in fact - but neither involved the AMS. First, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform conspired to bring hate propaganda against women into Canada and onto UBC's campus by any means possible [see footnote]. This included a take-no-prisoners style of negotiating, threats of lawsuits if they didn't get their way, and a vow to press criminal charges against anyone they successfully provoked into violence.
The second conspiracy was between UBC officials and Lifeline, who colluded to put up the modified GAP display without even telling anyone. The ugly surprise resulted in dozens of shocked and traumatized students seeking help at understaffed counseling offices. It also led to the destruction of the display by angry students who felt betrayed by UBC. Given GAP's track record of violence at previous exhibits, this deliberate secrecy was a gutless and irresponsible act on the part of UBC and Lifeline. So why did they do it? The most likely explanation is that Lifeline, while trumpeting their own right to freedom of speech, was afraid of any challenge to their distorted viewpoint.
On one level, this incident does involve the issue of freedom of speech - specifically, the abuse of that right by AMS Lifeline members, aided by the Center for Bio-ethical Reform. They basically yelled "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, then hid under a cloak of "freedom of speech" while condemning the panicked crowd for breaking down the theatre door.
But with rights come responsibilities, a lesson that most of us learn in elementary school - except for bullies, of course.
CBR was not committing illegal activities by bringing hate propaganda against women into Canada. Canada's federal hate crime laws do not criminalize hate propaganda against women, only against ethnic groups such as Jews and blacks.
by Joyce Arthur, Pro-Choice Press, Spring 2000
Lawsuits, criminal investigations, disciplinary hearings, and injunctions. Ever since their anti-abortion display comparing abortion with genocide was trashed by three pro-choice students in November, UBC's Lifeline club has been pursuing these legal remedies with great fervour, self-righteousness, and a trumpet blast of publicity. You would almost think the pro-choice students were guilty of shooting somebody. But in reality, we're talking about a petty act of vandalism, brought on by Lifeline's "let's shove-it-down-their-throats" display of hate propaganda against women.
Briefly, some background: The California-based Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) travels to university campuses and displays huge colour pictures of Holocaust victims, black lynching victims, and other disturbing victims of real genocide, juxtaposing them with pictures of aborted fetuses. Their stated goal is to make people think about abortion differently. Judging by their actions, however, their hidden goal seems to be to anger and offend people, then if any trouble ensues, threaten to file lawsuits, and use the publicity to make pro-choicers look bad. At the University of BC in September, GAP was prevented from coming onto campus by the university's conditions, in order to protect public safety. However, UBC's anti-abortion Lifeline club apparently got permission to put up a mini-GAP display in November, using smaller posters. There was no prior warning and no security. The display was quickly attacked by angry pro-choice students who felt betrayed by the university.
In the aftermath, Lifeline filed a civil lawsuit against the pro-choice students, tried to press criminal charges, and pushed for a university disciplinary hearing in hopes of getting the students expelled or suspended. The lawsuit and disciplinary hearing are still pending, but in March, the Crown decided not to press criminal charges, saying the incident was not serious enough, and that it was not "in the public interest" to lay charges. Outraged, Lifeline president Stephanie Gray complained to the media that the Crown was declaring "open season on pro-lifers". Gray should consider this: Since 1995, BC has had a bubble zone law to protect abortion clinic staff and patients from physical harassment, but only a handful of charges have been laid out of several hundred violations. As for the "open season" claim, what about the 7 murders and 16 attempted murders of doctors and clinic workers in North America, and the hundreds of bombs and arsons of clinics over the past 20 years?
Gray's insensitive comment reminded me of a two-page article in the January issue of the national anti-choice newspaper, The Interim. The article described every alleged incident of violence by pro-choicers against anti-choicers that had ever supposedly happened, anywhere. Now if I were to write up similar descriptions of just the proven incidents of violence by the anti-choice against abortion providers, just how long do you think my article would be? Right - not two pages, but two volumes, encyclopedia style. The Interim's article was nothing more than an excuse for anti-choice violence.
But I digress. In response to all this legal retaliation by Lifeline, the pro-choice students have launched their own counter-suit against UBC - on grounds that it dropped most of its public safety conditions and allowed a mini-GAP display with no security or advance notice. Erin Kaiser, one of the students who attacked the display, and founder of UBC Students for Choice, has also filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Commission alleging that the GAP display is discriminatory because it promotes hatred against women, as well as abortion providers.
On February 23, another mini-GAP display went up at UBC, but not before Lifeline went to court to get an injunction to stop a pro-choice counter rally, on the grounds that pro-choice students would again resort to "violence". (One might ask who's really trying to suppress freedom of speech here?) Lifeline failed to get the injunction because the judge said there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that violence would occur again. Erin Kaiser had expressed remorse to the judge, saying what she did was "absolutely the wrong thing", and vowed never to do it again. The one-day GAP display and counter rally went ahead peacefully.
One week later, anti-choice students at Simon Fraser University mounted a mini-GAP display of their own for a day. In response, pro-choice students and supporters stood nearby and quietly handed out leaflets that countered GAP and their anti-abortion message.
Meanwhile, the Genocide Awareness Project's sponsors (Center for Bio-ethical Reform, of California) are planning to take their display to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Toronto, and Western University in London, probably in the fall. This coincides with increased anti-choice activity at many Canadian campuses. The National Campus Life Network was established in 1997 and it supports and links together more than 20 university anti-choice groups across the country.
No Virginia, Abortion is NOT Genocide
by Joyce Arthur, The Humanist, July/August 2000
Anti-abortion groups are fond of saying that abortion is a form of genocide, comparable to the Nazi Holocaust and other atrocities. This dubious proposition, offensive to many, outstrips even the more common anti-choice claim that abortion is murder. What is the underlying logic behind this outrageous "abortion as genocide" claim? Do those who make the charge really believe it? And what does it tell us about their view of women?
An Example of the Anti-Choice "Abortion as Genocide" Campaign
Let's begin by looking at the tactics of a particular anti-abortion group, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR) in California, founded in 1990 and headed by attorney Gregg Cunningham. CBR appears to be the leading promoter of the "abortion is genocide" mantra, and has sponsored a high-profile campaign to educate North American young people about this new "truth."
Since 1998, about two dozen university campuses in Canada and the United States have been visited by CBR's controversial Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), a travelling roadshow. The GAP display consists of graphic 6' x 13' color billboards of Holocaust victims, black lynching victims, and other victims of real genocide, juxtaposed with pictures of aborted fetuses. For example, one billboard reads: "The changing face of choice," with the first panel showing the bodies of Holocaust victims, the Nazi swastika, and the caption "Religious Choice." The second panel shows a lynched black man with the caption "Racial Choice," and the third shows an aborted fetus with the caption "Reproductive Choice." One billboard even compares Planned Parenthood to Nazis.
The stated goal of the GAP display is to make people think differently about abortion. But judging by what happens, the unstated goal is apparently to anger, to offend, and to incite violence---then use the publicity to make pro-choicers look bad. Many people find the graphic depiction of historical atrocities to be an extremely offensive way to advance an anti-abortion agenda. Indeed, CBR's own website at www.cbrinfo.org/gap.html features photos of angry, distressed, and traumatized students viewing the display---though CBR insists it's solely the "horror" of abortion that's causing the upset.
The GAP display has also been met with pro-choice counter-protests at almost every campus where it has appeared. On at least five campuses, violence and vandalism have occurred, with students attacking the displays or GAP staff members and volunteers. At Ohio State University, about 30 protesters charged the display in an incident that Associated Press termed a "riot." A female student at Ohio State was arrested after trying to slash a poster with a knife. At the University of Kansas, an African-American student rammed the display with his truck, and a female Jewish student physically assaulted a GAP staffer. Both were arrested. As CBR Executive Director Gregg Cunningham vowed at one campus, "We will make an example out of lawbreakers."
In clear anticipation of such violence, CBR erects barricades to surround the display and shield its staff and volunteers. Incredibly, CBR demands that universities supply these steel fences as well as pay for the extraordinary cost of a campus police squad to stand guard. If the university balks at the expense, CBR threatens to sue, as happened at the University of British Columbia. In fact, CBR often announces its willingness to litigate. Indiana University is currently under just such a threat simply because it is trying to restrict the GAP display to the campus' designated free speech area. And before the group even comes to a university, it sends what some call a "bully letter" to the administration spelling out CBR's constitutional rights. As Cunningham himself stated in the Spring 2000 issue of CBR's newsletter In Perspective, "any university which attempts to interfere with the exercise of CBR's First Amendment rights will be sued."
Once on campus, CBR gathers evidence for potential lawsuits and criminal investigations by routinely videotaping and photographing students at the display, especially pro-choice protesters. They have even been known to take photos or videos of vehicle licence plates. Then, whenever violence or vandalism does occur, CBR is well equipped to sue or press charges. CBR also milks favorable publicity out of any negative incident, condemning universities and pro-choice students for trying to restrict CBR's free speech rights.
Abortion Is Not Genocide
Despite CBR's tactics, we still have CBR's basic claim to consider. But is abortion genocide? Most people find this question absurdly offensive on its face. Yet when I surfed the Internet to find pro-choice responses, I found almost nothing. The reason, I suspect, is that most reasonable people can't be bothered to refute something so obviously preposterous---and don't wish to dignify it with a reply. Or perhaps it's because, as Mark Twain said, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." In any case, given CBR's activism, I'm convinced that a rebuttal is long overdue.
To start, it must be said that to compare abortion to the real genocide of real people is highly insulting to the relatives and descendants of slaves and Holocaust victims. Genocide is a violent and intolerable act of hatred against a particular community of people. It is an inexcusable crime. Abortion, by contrast, is an essential, legal medical procedure that women desperately need, not only to give them control over their bodies and lives but to preserve and improve the lives of their families. Women have abortions not out of hatred or selfish convenience or because they're coerced into it, but generally because they want to be good mothers to their existing or future children.
However, in CBR's twenty-eight-page pamphlet, Why Abortion is Genocide --- available at GAP displays and, in slightly edited form, on the CBR website at www.cbrinfo.org/abortion.html, Cunningham argues that the definition of genocide is broad enough to encompass fetuses and that unwanted fetuses are a dehumanized group comparable to black slaves, interned Jews, and Cambodian Killing Field victims.
But the definition of genocide can only apply to actual people living as part of a human society. It can never refer to unseen fetuses that are not yet legal members of a society, and that don't have---and can never have---undisputed personhood. Clearly, the supposed personhood of a fetus is a matter of subjective opinion which can't be conclusively agreed upon by law, science, or society in general. This is why only born babies should have full human rights under the law, and why we must leave the abortion decision up to the individual woman's conscience.
Paradoxically, Cunningham himself unwittingly draws attention to the subjectivity of fetal personhood when he notes with shock and horror that Peter Singer, author of the book Practical Ethics, advocates the denial of personhood until one month after birth. Perhaps Cunningham, a devout Christian, should have noticed that the god of the Bible seems to hold the same opinion. When Moses conducts a census, God instructs him in Numbers 3:40 to count only those "a month old and upward," implying that those younger aren't true persons. Of course, we could say this is only a subjective opinion, shared by Singer and God, but why should we grant any more credence to the opinion at the opposite extreme---that personhood begins at conception?
Indeed, a major flaw in the argument that abortion is genocide is the shaky premise that fetuses are full human beings with the same status and rights as you and me. This fails to recognize that fetuses are completely dependent on a woman's body to survive and that the fetal mode of growth and survival fits the technical definition of "parasite"---notwithstanding Cunningham's opinion of that word as a dehumanizing slur. It also fails to recognize that pregnant women would be forced to forfeit their own human rights in exchange for fetal rights. In Cunningham's view, fetuses are vulnerable persons being exterminated because they've gotten in the way of selfish "women's liberation" (Cunningham's quotation marks).
This brings to light a second major flaw in the argument---it completely ignores the serious infringement on women's human rights if safe, legal abortion were to be taken away. If anti-abortionists could stop the legal "genocide" of abortion, what would be left? A double "genocide"!---the genocide of countless women undergoing unsafe, illegal abortions, accompanied by only a small decline in actual abortion rates. Most "unwanted babies" would go right on being aborted, and there's nothing that Cunningham or any other anti-abortion advocate could do about it. Abortion is a universal practice, occurring in every society and throughout history, regardless of laws. Therefore, the anti-abortion side's naive opposition to it may be a far stronger indication of misogyny than of a concern for "unborn babies." And abortion being illegal doesn't just kill women, it also negates their moral autonomy, cripples their economic independence, criminalizes them for their biology, and generally turns them into all-around second-class citizens.
On the positive side, Cunningham does briefly reference in his pamphlet the history of women's oppression, including rape, to show that women have been victims of genocide, also. But in the context of abortion, he mentions women only twice---once to call them "victims" of abortion who nevertheless must be deeply "ashamed of their conduct," and once to label them "narcissistic" and "spiteful" for having abortions instead of putting their babies up for adoption. What shocking disrespect and lack of compassion for both women and babies! Why are women who have abortions automatically thought of as shame-filled victims instead of independent moral agents? Why are women's concern and anguish for the children they give up so irrelevant? And since when are babies commodities that women should produce for the consumption of others? In fact, underlying the entire abortion-as-genocide mentality lies a deep-rooted sexism. Cunningham and most other anti-abortion activists seem to be largely unconscious of it, but the following thought experiment should help bring it to light.
"Abortion-as-Genocide" Indicates Anti-Choice Misogyny
For argument's sake, let's say the Genocide Awareness Project is correct in saying that abortion is genocide. This begs the obvious question: who bears the responsibility for this genocide? Who should go on trial for crimes against humanity? The answer depends on how you view the nature and status of women.
Most people in our society believe that women shouldn't be limited by law or tradition to the sole role of bearing and raising children. They believe that women deserve equal opportunity and respect in the public sphere. They believe that women are autonomous beings with the brains and the right to make their own decisions about their lives. If one believes these things, then women bear full responsibility for the abortions they choose to have. If abortion is genocide, then women must be genocidal murderers. That is why many people, including myself, consider the GAP display to be hate propaganda against women.
But do anti-abortionists, in fact, blame women for abortion? Not generally. In spite of all their rhetoric about abortion being murder, they rarely blame the "murderers"---instead they attack doctors and clinics and dump their condemnation at the doors of Planned Parenthood, politicians, judges, evolution, humanism, and our "culture of death."
Partly, this is just practical---women are an impossibly large target---we're half the population. The anti-abortionists can't very well throw tens of millions of women into jail. But should we really let people off the hook for "committing genocide" just because there are too many of them? (We can't cop out by comparing women to the German people during World War II who stood by and did nothing while the Nazis built and ran the death camps. In the case of abortion, it is women themselves who are doing the "dirty deed".)
Does the anti-choice willingness to overlook women's responsibility for abortion stem perhaps from a deep compassion for women? No. Those against legal abortion aren't really interested in helping real women live real lives---their main goal is to outlaw abortion again. And we know all too well the tragic toll of illegal abortion on women's lives, health, and rights. Yet anti-abortionists think that by stopping abortion they will actually be helping women. This apparent contradiction is easily resolved with the realization that anti-abortionists truly believe that women are victims of legal abortion.
Here's where another view about the nature and status of women comes in, a view that seems to be held by most anti-choice people. They believe that women's natural, primary role is to have and raise children. (Many may even believe that women who want something more or different than having a family are deviant). They believe that women are easily victimized by circumstances and easily led by people around them. They believe that women aren't ultimately responsible for their actions because, like children, they need direction and moral guidance. If these beliefs are true, women do not bear responsibility for their abortions. They have been misled into having them by the society and people around them (except for those "deviant" women, of course!). Society itself becomes the genocidal murderer, with abortion providers and pro-choice politicians serving as scapegoats.
Obviously, people who hold such a patronizing and traditional view of women's nature would have difficulty empathizing with the horrible, gut recognition of others that the Genocide Awareness Project is actually hate propaganda against women. Anti-abortion students who invite GAP onto their campuses are a case in point since they don't seem to understand what all the fuss is about. What makes this especially sad is that many of these students are women themselves. I can only conclude that such young women don't really believe in their hearts that women are entitled to, able to, or want to make important decisions about their lives.
Anti-Choice Women Can't Take Responsibility for Their Abortions
This insight into the anti-choice view of women's nature helps explain a strange phenomenon that regularly plagues abortion clinics: anti-abortion women having abortions. Planned Parenthood of America estimates that about 15 percent of abortions are performed on conservative Christian women---many of them anti-choice. I've been collecting stories from abortion providers across North America that describe the antics and rationalizations of anti-abortion women who need abortions. Some clinics actually have a policy of refusing, for liability reasons, to perform abortions on anti-abortion women. This is because these women tend to have great difficulty taking ownership of their abortions, and often place the "blame" on anyone but themselves, usually the doctor or clinic. This can result in repressed emotions that manifest themselves later in the form of lawsuits against the clinic. Sadly, these women have bought into the sexist (and neurotic) notion that they're not personally responsible for their actions.
Here's one example, in a clinic director's own words: "We saw a woman who, after four attempts and many hours of counselling both at the hospital and our clinic, finally, calmly and uneventfully, had her abortion. Four months later, she called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that she was not and never was pro-choice and that we failed to recognize that she was clinically depressed at the time of her abortion. The purpose of her call was to chastise me for not sending her off to the psych unit instead of the procedure room."
Most clinics do perform abortions on anti-abortion women because they feel it's their obligation to help all women. However, much more thorough counselling is provided to ensure that they understand their decision and take responsibility for it. As a result, some anti-abortion women do make peace with their abortions, and a few even become pro-choice, or at least more compassionate towards women who seek abortions. Unfortunately, many others rationalize their decision by convincing themselves that theirs is a unique case---not like those "other" women---even though they have abortions for the same sorts of reasons. Still others demand special treatment: for example, they ask to be let in the back door to avoid being seen by fellow protesters; they reject counseling because no-one could "possibly understand" their situation; and they refuse to sit in the waiting room with those "slutty" women. Finally, some are delighted to have the opportunity to inform clinic staff and doctors that they're a bunch of "murderers," although they usually wait until their abortion is over to say it.
Do the Anti-Choice Really Think Abortion is Genocide, or Even Murder?
On some level, a few anti-abortion activists do seem to recognize that women are responsible for their abortions. Some ultra-extremists are, in fact, quite willing to throw millions of women into jail, if necessary. Others, notably some anti-abortion counselling agencies, are known to instill tremendous guilt in women for "killing their baby." However, since women's accountability for abortion obviously isn't a major stumbling block for most in the anti-abortion movement, this highlights something else besides their narrow view of women's nature: anti-abortionists don't really believe that abortion is murder, let alone genocide. If they did, surely they would be far angrier at those responsible. Indeed, anti-abortion words often speak louder than actions. Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, even felt forced to spell it out to his followers: "If you believe it's murder, act like it's murder!" A few followed his advice but most never did.
And if the anti-abortionists really believed abortion was genocide, and really believed their own proclamation that doctors are responsible, they wouldn't hero-worship a former abortion doctor like Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Now anti-choice, Dr. Nathanson gets paid to speak at "pro-life" dinner parties about the 70,000 abortions he performed at his New York clinic in the 1970's. But surely genocide is an unforgivable crime, regardless of the perpetrator's remorse and repentance. Would the Nuremberg Trials have let Adolf Eichmann off the hook if he had apologized for engineering the Final Solution?
Clearly, the anti-abortion side is far too quick to forgive and forget. This can only mean their "abortion as genocide" campaign is just cynical public relations. Based on faulty logic, a misogynist view of women, and profound disrespect for real victims of genocide, the Genocide Awareness Project, in my view, is nothing less than an attack against human intellect, dignity, and ethics.
Litigious GAP Threatens Pro-CAN
Pro-Choice Press, Summer 2000
In April, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform of California (CBR), creators and sponsors of the notorious Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), threatened the Pro-Choice Action Network with a lawsuit unless we provided a "full and unequivocal" retraction of alleged "defamatory statements" made in two articles we wrote about them: "Anti-abortion Tactics Were Designed to Incite Trouble" by Judy Hecht and Joyce Arthur, published in the Vancouver Sun on February 24, 2000; and "Genocide Awareness Project Stopped by UBC" by Joyce Arthur, published in the Autumn 1999 issue of the Pro-Choice Press. Both articles are on our website.
CBR/GAP is currently engaged in a campaign to force their "abortion is genocide" view onto all North American university students, by coming onto campuses and displaying graphic billboards depicting historical atrocities next to pictures of aborted fetuses.
Ironically, just before we received GAP's lawsuit threat, we had just written an article (Spring 2000) that focused on the litigious nature of GAP, which regularly uses threats of lawsuits as a bully tactic whenever they don't get their way. They even brag about it on their website.
Through their lawyer, CBR cited so many statements in our articles that they considered defamatory, that their demand for retraction basically amounted to a retraction of the entire articles. Since CBR made it impossible for us to comply with their demands, we were left to surmise that CBR was so rattled over our unflattering portrait of them, and so worried about our perceived power and influence, that they must have felt compelled to try and silence us the only way they know how.
Nevertheless, to avoid the risk of a potential lawsuit, we are publishing a retraction on one point and two minor clarifications to the Pro-Choice Press article. As for the Vancouver Sun article, we have sent a letter to the Sun with the same retraction and one minor clarification.
The Pro-Choice Action Network would like to retract the claim that Genocide Awareness Project staff or volunteers yelled racial epithets through bullhorns. Although we had what we believe are reliable second-hand sources from two universities reporting these claims, we have been unable to substantiate these reports with direct eyewitnesses. We apologize sincerely to the Center for Bio-ethical Reform for any harm our unsubstantiated claim may have caused them.
Re the sentence: "A rude 'F--- you' message left on an answering machine that flatly stated that GAP was coming onto campus ..." Has been changed to: "An intimidating 'F--- you'-type message left on an answering machine that flatly stated that GAP was coming onto campus..."
Re the sentence: "At the same time, Cunningham launched a lawsuit against UBC..." Has been changed to: "At the same time, Cunningham threatened to launch a lawsuit against UBC..."
Meanwhile, Pro-CAN will continue its efforts to refute GAP's hateful propaganda and expose its intimidation tactics. We are pleased to announce that the American magazine The Humanist has published an article by Joyce Arthur exposing GAP. The article (July/August issue) also refutes the insulting notion that abortion is genocide. Further, UBC Students for Choice, with our help, is publishing a campus handbook for student groups to help them organize against GAP visits.
GAP Returns to UBC
Threat of Lawsuit Stifles Free Speech, Hurts Women
Pro-Choice Press, Autumn/Winter 2000
An Oct. 25 pro-choice protest against the Genocide Awareness Project’s anti-abortion display at UBC was thwarted due to lawsuit threats by Lifeline, UBC’s anti-abortion club.
The California-based Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) travels to university campuses and displays large colour billboards of actual genocide victims, including corpses of Jews in Nazi death camps and lynched blacks hanging from trees, as well as other inexplicable grotesque images of animal experimentation and cancerous breasts. These images are then juxtaposed with pictures of aborted fetuses to create a demented and revolting art exhibit, of sorts. The intent is to make people feel appalled by the "genocide" of abortion, but it more often results in people being appalled by GAP. The display is widely considered to be hate propaganda against women, and a racist insult to ethnic minorities whose peoples have been real victims of genocide. At UBC, the campus anti-abortion club Lifeline, has sponsored three "mini-GAP" displays since Nov. 1999, using smaller pictures. (See GAP's grotesque pictures for yourself on their website.)
UBC Students for Choice had planned to create a ten-foot buffer zone in front of the latest mini-GAP display using large banners saying "It's your choice." The purpose was fourfold: 1) to allow anyone to go inside the buffer zone to view the display if they chose to; 2) to defend everyone’s free speech rights and right to protest; 3) to protect students passing by who might be traumatized or upset by having the display forced upon them; and 4) to prevent violence or vandalism (such as the incident in November 1999 when three pro-choice UBC students trashed a GAP display that was erected without any advance notice or security). In other words, Students for Choice was attempting to compensate for the irresponsibility of both Lifeline and the UBC administration, who should have taken these protective actions instead.
However, Lifeline got wind of the buffer zone plans, and their lawyer, Craig Jones, President of the BC Civil Liberties Association, sent a threatening letter to UBC Students for Choice and to the Pro-Choice Action Network (even though we were not involved in the counter-protest). Jones said Lifeline would sue if the display couldn't be viewed from a distance, and stated "Such ‘shrouding’ [of the display] would in our view constitute an unlawful interference with our clients’ contractual, common law and constitutional rights. Should it occur on the 25th or at any other time, we will seek instructions to commence legal proceedings for damages, including exemplary and punitive damages, against the individuals involved without further notice."
GAP and its sponsors are legendary for their bullying and intimidation tactics. They routinely threaten lawsuits whenever their ability to force the GAP display fully down the throats of students is hindered in any way, with loud rhetoric about their "free speech rights" being violated. Of course, free speech doesn't just mean the right to say whatever you want in public, it also means exercising responsibility in your delivery of it, and allowing the listener to choose not to see or hear it. Forcing your message onto a captive and largely unwilling audience is not free speech, it's tyranny.
Our lawyer advised that Lifeline had no grounds to sue anybody, provided students weren’t actually blocked from seeing the display (which was never the intent). Also, private groups and citizens cannot be sued under the Charter of Rights, which is solely the government’s obligation to abide by. This meant that Jones’ letter was pure bluff and bluster, or possibly, just outright stupidity.
However, on the day of the protest, UBC Security officials breached their verbal contract with Students for Choice, informing them they had to stay sixty feet away from the GAP display, instead of the ten feet that Security had previously permitted, or they would be arrested. Why? Because Jones had also sent a threatening letter to Brian Sullivan, Vice President of Student Affairs at UBC, and when Sullivan notified UBC Security, the boys in blue got spooked.
As a result, Students for Choice could not protect vulnerable students from seeing the display as they passed by. Once again, UBC counseling agencies were unable to deal with the volume of students seeking counseling, forcing some to go off-campus, if they could find help. UBC Students for Choice did their best to cope with the onslaught of outrage. They comforted students, reduced the risk of violence against the display by defusing anger, corrected GAP’s lies and misrepresentations, and referred students to counseling. The display is especially traumatic for women who have recently had abortions, often causing tremendous anxiety, guilt, and anger, because of the tacit message that women who have abortions are murderers comparable to Nazis. However, some Jewish students were also extremely offended at GAP’s self-serving exploitation of the Nazi Holocaust.
Sullivan (VP, Student Affairs), was even quoted on television praising the Students for Choice banners for helping warn people about what was ahead. Here was an admission by a university official that women need to be pre-warned about the GAP display. His statement also implied that Lifeline was negligent in not doing so themselves. Two days prior to the GAP display, Students for Choice had also taken responsibility for preparing students for the display by holding a pro-choice rally, since much of the risk of violence that the display engenders is caused by students taken by surprise and goaded into impulsive action.
To add insult to injury, Lifeline’s lawyer Craig Jones later sent a second letter "congratulating" Students for Choice on their "peaceful demonstration" at the GAP display. Jones said, "It was an excellent example of respectful democratic dialogue, and was precisely the kind of activity that we and our clients have consistently encouraged you to pursue. We are particularly pleased at reports that those participating had reconsidered and abandoned initially-announced plans to attempt to ‘shroud’ the display from free view."
Given this self-righteous claim of a "respectful democratic dialogue," it’s enlightening to note that a Students for Choice member was subjected to a death threat the day after the GAP display. The culprit may not have been directly involved with Lifeline, but Lifeline members demonstrated their democratic respect by videotaping and photographing pro-choice protesters, and then publicly displaying the pictures so any extremist could view them.
In the end, Lifeline’s bully tactics served to hurt women, ethnic minorities, and free speech. Their purpose in threatening a lawsuit was apparently to stifle pro-choice students’ free speech rights and right to counter-protest. And by preventing Students for Choice from adequately shielding the display from those who didn’t wish to see it, we believe that Lifeline showed a negligent disregard for the risk of violence, and a shocking lack of caring and compassion for women and minorities.
On the plus side, Students for Choice managed to obtain several hundred signed letters of complaint from students, to be turned over to university deans and UBC’s President. Jewish students have lodged a complaint with the Equity Office over the use of Holocaust imagery, and other students have made complaints about GAP’s hatefulness towards women.
Lifeline plans to inflict the GAP display onto students again in the new year, possibly using the huge posters.
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