An anti-abortion group not affiliated with Point Loma Nazarene University came onto Caf Lane on Tuesday, Sept. 20, and set up graphic images of aborted fetuses where students were walking. They were handing out flyers and attempting to talk to students about abortion, pushing past the students’ first polite ‘no thank you.’
Fourth-year writing major Jaden Goldfain was walking to Ryan Library when she encountered the group and the images they had brought.
“There were graphic images on the posters…I assumed they were aborted fetuses. It was unsettling and scary, mostly because I knew that the people were watching me for my reaction,” Goldfain said.
The posters were bloody and uncensored in their depictions, and by the time Goldfain arrived there were three Public Safety officers at the site mitigating the group’s impact and telling them they had to leave. The group left shortly after, and did not return.
Jessie Taylor, third-year writing and literature major, said she did not recognize any member of the group.
“They looked older than your traditional undergraduate student,” Taylor said.
Kaz Trypuc, assistant director of Public Safety, said in an email interview that there are permissible forms of public dissent, but the protest group was not behaving safely.
“[The] incident involved an outside group with no affiliation to the university. Whether they were protesting or soliciting or distributing promotional materials did not change the fact that they were on private property without our permission and engaging in disruptive behavior,” Trypuc said.
Members of the public are allowed to come on PLNU’s campus to walk their dogs, eat in the Nicholson Commons Dining Hall, use the library and access certain athletic facilities.
“To be clear, the university aims to create and maintain a welcoming atmosphere on campus,” Trypuc said. “[However] Public Safety will not hesitate to ask someone to leave if that person’s behavior is adversely affecting others.”
Ki Kaiser, a second-year graphic design major, did not know why they had come to PLNU. “I thought it was weird they chose our small school to share their views at. I think if they wanted to impact the most amount of people they should’ve chosen a bigger audience.”
PLNU’s campus, while containing sweeping views of the ocean that attract many, has a relatively small undergraduate population of 3,179 (in 2021).
Goldfain agreed that PLNU was an unexpected choice for the group. “It was an odd time to do it and an odd place to do it. I don’t really know what their purpose was.”
The group, in addition to setting up posters, were handing out flyers protesting Proposition 1, titled Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom. It is a measure proposed as an amendment to the California constitution that guarantees a person’s right to reproductive freedom (abortion and contraceptives), and will be voted on in the general election in November.
After Politico leaked the draft of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, six states have chosen to bring the issue of reproductive rights to the ballot, the most on record in a single year. With the legality of abortion in question across the nation, groups in favor and against the procedure have worked on the state level to either block or codify the right to an abortion. Some states had trigger laws, laws that are set up to go into effect immediately following a decision like Roe v. Wade, and others have worked to draft new legislation to address the issue.
PLNU political science professor Linda Beail said that leaving the decision up to the states can have some benefits, with local laws matching the opinions of the constituents.
“There’s something really good about tailoring your policies to your local needs… [for example] there was a special election in Kansas this summer letting voters actually say what they wanted and they rejected more [abortion] restrictions. The state legislature probably would’ve done it [restricted abortion] because they’re more conservative, but the constituents didn’t want it banned,” Beail said.
However, Beail also pointed out that when states have differing laws on an issue, such as the drinking age, the “spillover” can have unintended consequences.
“When I was growing up… states had different drinking ages. I lived in a state where the drinking age was 21, but in the state next door it was still 18… but it led to a lot more teenage drunk driving and accidents,” Beail said.
On the civil protests that have sprung up around the country, Beail said that the outrage largely has to do with what the state’s majority opinion is.
“I think it’s really hard if you’re very pro-life in a state like ours where people are more inclined for abortion to stay legal… but also the reverse is happening [in abortion-restricted states]; the energy and the protest is more on the sides of people who are like ‘wait, it was legal for so long and now it’s gone, it’s being taken away,’ which is not unusual in politics.” Beail said.
According to Beail, people are often more concerned with challenging or changing the status quo rather than upholding an existing one.
The group who appeared on campus on Sept. 20 to protest Proposition 1 on the California ballot is a local example of how intense and dividing the issue of abortion can be. Regardless of their stance, the group was harassing students and did not have permission to be on campus, which is why Public Safety asked them to leave.
“Thankfully, they complied,” Trypuc said. “Had they not, we would have informed them they were trespassing on private property and then contacted the San Diego Police Department.”