The Catholic Newman Club prepared themselves with a “boot camp” on Monday evening for next week’s Genocide Awareness Project, where anti-abortion groups will equate abortion to genocide while other groups hold a counter-protest nearby.
Also known as Beach Newman, the club will host its annual GAP demonstration along with the help of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform next week. CBR is an anti-abortion group advocating the right to life for the unborn.
The boot camp is meant to prepare Newman members and volunteers for the conflict and arguments they might face while hosting the display.
Held at the Speaker’s Platform in the center of campus, the GAP display will run for from March 15-16.
GAP is a anti-abortion display featuring images of dead fetuses, the Holocaust, slavery and the civil rights movement. As described in Monday’s boot camp, it is part of CBR’s campus outreach and a strategic attempt to reach the college demographic. The nature of the images is cause for controversy and conflict on campus.
In response to last year’s display, Victoria Villa quickly enacted Safe Space CSU as a counter protest. Villa says that SS CSU will put up signs around the GAP display which will warn students before unexpectedly walking up and seeing the photos. The organization will also offer counseling for faculty, staff and students who may need it after seeing the display.
Both Newman and CBR acknowledge and expect conflict that they will encounter in the two days that GAP will be on campus.
Kevin Olivier, director of operations with CBR, trained Beach Newman members and volunteers at the boot camp. According to Olivier, conflict is constructive; it is a facilitator and it forces people to take a side.
“We don’t have to talk to everyone who comes by,” Olivier said to boot camp attendees. “Some people we reach just by them seeing the display.”
He informed boot campers of CBR and GAP’s mission: to reform society and change the status quo. According to him, the status quo is in favor of abortion rights. Kevin and the GAP boot camp liken anti-abortion advocacy to the civil rights movement and the abolishment of slavery.
“Historically, reformers did not fear confrontation,” Olivier said. “They were afraid of being ignored. In eight days we’re going to be difficult to ignore.”
In the boot camp, CBR outlined the typical arguments used by those in favor of abortion rights. In the training, volunteers are taught rebuttals to these arguments.
For example, advocates for abortion rights argue that rape is a special case where abortion should be permitted if so requested. The boot camp taught volunteers to refute this argument with what it calls “trotting out the toddler.” This tactic is meant to remind those in disagreement that an unborn baby is a human being by asking the question, “Is it ok to kill a two-year-old?”
Another recurring argument which CBR prepares to rebuttal and refers to as “the body autonomy argument.” This argument presented by abortion rights advocates states that as a woman is in control of her own body, she can choose to have an abortion if she pleases.
“I hate the bodily autonomy argument,” said Anna Johnson, director of student outreach with CBR. “It blows my mind that anyone would use this argument.”
Johnson has a 7-month-old baby girl, who she said she will be bringing to the GAP display. Johnson said this will be her first time bringing her baby to the demonstration.
She has been on the Cal State Long Beach campus before demonstrating with GAP. Last year when she was on campus, she was 24 weeks pregnant.
“I think it was humanizing in a way to see a woman who is pregnant right in front of you,” Johnson said. “It also helps people to realize that a pregnant woman can accomplish things. Moms can have jobs, and they can have careers and they can go to school. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean your life is over. We can be moms, and we can have careers and lead our lives while being moms. We can do both.”
However, the GAP claims that 90 percent of abortions are performed on healthy mothers carrying healthy babies who were conceived during consensual sex.
According to Guttmacher Institute, New York, just 7 percent of women cite health concerns as a reason for abortion. The most common reason used among about 89-72 percent of women cite inability to afford a baby or interference with work or school.
Anti-abortionists, abortion rights advocates and even those without an opinion will all get an eyeful of what GAP has to offer next week.