Countering Justice for All

December 11, 2012

Mattie Williams and Elizabeth Clinton report on the efforts of University of North Texas activists to counter the anti-choice group Justice for All.

TEXAS ACTIVISTS made sure that the notorious anti-abortion group Justice for All was protested when it came to the University of North Texas.

Justice for All is well known for its graphic displays of alleged photos of aborted fetuses--displays that are often two stories high and 30 feet long. The group travels around the country to college campuses to spark what it claims is a "dialogue" about abortion and morality. But this dialogue is always tightly controlled and manipulated by Justice for All to achieve its end of demonizing women who have gotten abortions--by comparing abortion to the Holocaust and the lynching of African Americans in the South. The displays include huge photos of Holocaust victims and African Americans being lynched juxtaposed next to photo-shopped images of aborted fetuses.

According to its website, "Justice for All trains thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person at a time." Under the guise of debate and dialogue, they bombarded people on campus with disturbing imagery. The group's frequent visits to the University of North Texas generally result in a spike in visits to the counseling center. 

A student protests Justice for All at a Colorado campus
A student protests Justice for All at a Colorado campus

In addition to doctored photos of abortions, the display also has misleading quotes about abortion and breast cancer. One asks, "How do we treat the unborn? Humanely unless they are unwanted: Hated: Conceived in rape." These words are followed by pictures of supposedly dismembered fetuses next to dimes to give people an idea about the size of the fetus.

In response to the group coming to the University of North Texas, several groups organized and put out a call for a continuous protest, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., during the two days the group was slated to be on campus. The Feminist Majority Leader Alliance, the Radical Alliance for Gender Equality and the International Socialist Organization all turned out to protest the group's heinous display.

The protests against Justice for All united much of the campus left, which turned out with signs, chants, bullhorns and an information table. The pro-choice side outnumbered Justice for All's supporters several times over. Pro-choice students organized a walking picket around the exhibit combined with drumming and chanting and were able to drown out most of Justice for All's "open-mic" session.

During the open mic, several women were frequently interrupted and not allowed speak by the anti-choice supporters and volunteers. In response, we chanted, "Sexist, racist, anti-gay--JFA go away," "Shame!" and "Let the woman speak!" Justice for All was barely able to even carry on.

Afterward, pro-choice supporters took a bullhorn to the display area and had our own open-mic session, where we condemned the racist and sexist display. We garnered much more support from the crowd than the anti-choice group was able to muster to its cause.

ON THE second day, beginning at 7 a.m., some 12 pro-choice activists occupied the area where Justice for All was going to be setting up. The pro-choice group succeeded in delaying Justice for All's set-up for an hour and endured numerous threats of arrest and student disciplinary hearings by the campus police.

The Dean of Students came out and spoke to us about how everyone has the right to free speech, after they denied us ours. When asked by an activist, "Would the University allow fascist groups or the Ku Klux Klan to come on campus?" the dean responded, "Yes, if they went through the proper channels."

The rest of the second day went like the first--except during the anti-choice open-mic, the group now had a woman emcee.

Women who receive abortions should not feel shame for their decisions. Justice for All seeks to play a role in controlling women's reproduction freedom and women's lives; the group helps to create a hostile climate around reproductive control, stigmatizing abortion and shaming women.

It is imperative to combat anti-choice bigotry on campuses everywhere. According to a recent 2012 Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans identified as pro-life, whereas only 41 percent identified as pro-choice. Among 18 to 29 year olds, there has been a 9 percent increase in people opposed to abortion in any circumstance since the 1990s.

At a time when more people are identifying as "pro-life" than pro-choice, and at a time when there are more and more legislative attacks on a woman's right to access abortion, it is crucial to oppose groups like this on campus.

This decline in support for abortion has come hand-in-hand with a less militant approach to defending reproductive rights. Many mainstream abortion rights advocates have adopted the rhetoric of "common ground" with anti-choice forced and keeping abortion "safe, legal and rare," which plays directly into the right's hands by making abortion seem immoral, but necessary.

We need to build a grassroots movement for reproductive justice that seeks to empower all people who are interested in fighting for women's right to choose abortion.

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