At Virginia Tech, it’s hard not to notice the graphic images which have sometimes appeared on the large, grassy area we call the Drill Field. For many undergraduates, the Drill Field is not a location they can reasonably avoid. They have little choice but to walk by images of mutilated human fetuses on the days on which these images appear.
The images are promoted by an anti-choice group on our campus, and both Freethinkers at Virginia Tech (our local SSA affiliate) and Womanspace (a local feminist group) become concerned with their antics for a few different reasons:
1. For individuals with PTSD and other debilitating conditions, these images can trigger flashbacks and worse. There are demonstrable physiological effects which graphic images can produce. For that reason, we believe such imagery should be reserved to locations that students can have a choice about whether they would like to interact with the imagery or not. The Drill Field, being a centralized campus location that students have no choice but to walk through, is not such a location.
2. Information put out in pamphlets by these individuals in the past have contained large amounts of false information. Accurate information about reproductive health is exceedingly important for people to make informed decisions about their own reproductive choices.
3. The arguments standardized in this anti-choice group involves language implicitly designed to shame women for their own sexual choices. Talking to the group, one finds out that they value the fetus’s “life” because the fetus is innocent. Apparently, the mother is not innocent — presumably, because she has engaged in sexual activity.
To be clear, neither Freethinkers at Virginia Tech, Womanspace, nor myself are actively promoting a pro-choice campaign. What we have been advocating for is (a) providing accurate medical information concerning reproductive health and human sexuality, (b) the placement of triggering imagery in designated locations on campus (and not the censorship of those images), (c) for the anti-choice group to use arguments which do not shame women.
We learned last week that the anti-choicers would be out with their “dead baby” images once again. So, we put together a counterprotest campaign, consisting of an open letter, a petition, trigger warning signs, and reserved space on the Drill Field. Turns out, the anti-choicers were too disorganized to actually show up. But we stayed out anyway and received quite a bit of attention — including nearly 30 signatures (on the last day of classes before Thanksgiving break, when most of the school has gone home, this is a pretty big deal).