Fountain Square will bear witness on July 11 to an explicit anti-abortion video as part of a Midwest tour by Created Equal, a Columbus-based anti-abortion group that describes itself as “a social action movement seeking to end the greatest human rights injustice of our time.”
The “graphic abortion video,” as the group calls it, utilizes images familiar to anyone who regularly passes by protests outside of Planned Parenthood clinics: bloodied fetuses, separated fetal limbs and other images that are meant to link fetuses to defenseless, dismembered babies.
Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, says the display is necessary to grab people’s attention.
“Unfortunately, it’s required. This type of message has to be strong because of the apathy in our culture to issues like abortion and injustices like this,” he says.
Abortion-rights advocates have taken steps to stop Created Equal, with some signing a MoveOn.org petition to convince 3CDC, which manages events on Fountain Square, to pull its permit for the event.
“It is time to tell Created Equal that they are not permitted to show graphic abortion footage on public space,” the petition reads.
Harrington says groups like MoveOn.org are attacking his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. He argues political speech, such as his display, is completely protected by the U.S. Constitution.
“If they wanted to come out and show bloody images of women who had used coat hangers for abortions … it’s protected under the First Amendment,” Harrington says. “We would defend their right to do so. I would never circulate a petition to stop them.”
In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has been supportive of free speech as long as it’s politically motivated, with the notable exceptions of sexual content and airwave broadcasts.
Still, the Supreme Court on June 10 refused to consider overturning an injunction from the Colorado Court of Appeals that’s preventing an anti-abortion group from displaying graphic images outside of a Denver church. The Colorado court argued that the images were too “gruesome” and barred their display in areas where they might disturb children. Keeping with tradition, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for declining to hear the case.
For those who are genuinely offended by the graphic nature of the images and not just obstructing the organization’s anti-abortion message, Harrington says the message is worth the downsides: “I would urge them to be equally if not more concerned for the children that are dying and not simply for their own children, who might be disturbed by this.”
Created Equal is against abortion in most contexts, with the sole exception of a situation in which the mother’s life is undoubtedly in danger.
“You do the best you can to save both. When you can’t save both, you got to save one,” Harrington says.
Even then, Harrington says letting miscarriages naturally occur is typically his preferred option.
Thursday’s event will take place less than two weeks after Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year state budget that limits access to legal abortions, among other changes to school funding and taxes. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.