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Inaccurate information about abortion shouldn’t be allowed on college campuses

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Over the course of 2017, 19 states adopted 63 new restrictions that make it harder to get an abortion — the most enacted in a single year since 2013. Many of the politicians behind these restrictions used scare tactics to justify their support instead of scientific evidence. Unfortunately, these kinds of tactics aren’t new and also aren’t employed just by politicians: Anti-choice groups on college campuses use them, too.

Many college students have seen these tactics first-hand: Students stand on their campus quads holding large posters featuring gruesome images claiming to be abortion procedures and pass out pamphlets that contain questionable and highly politicized information about abortion. The main organizations behind the bulk of these protests, Created Equal and The Genocide Awareness Project by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, do not distribute materials that contain any accurate, scientific facts or evidence about abortion. They instead spread misinformation about the legalities and nuances of abortion care in the United States, including making false claims about abortion coverage.

But even students who don’t read the materials these protesters distribute are still barraged with false information. The images they can’t help but pass by on their way to class or around campus cannot be traced back to reliable sources. In fact, many of these images come from the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which regularly maintains a database of horrific photos. Their methods for obtaining these images are unclear. In the past, the organization has refused to disclose its sources, but a 2010 Slate article claims that the center has paid doctors and clinics to allow a photographer to enter the operating room and photograph abortion procedures. If this allegation is true, it is highly unethical to both use and distribute those images as it is a serious violation of doctor-patient confidentiality. What’s more, the use of these images of a medical procedure that has been deemed safe time and time again should not be allowed to discredit that procedure.

But just as concerning as what these images depict is what they do not: namely, the women actually having these abortions. These photos present abortion completely out of context, reducing a deeply personal and private medical procedure down to a snapshot designed to scare and intimidate people. Where are the photos of the women whose lives were saved by abortion care? Or of those who had loving partners and families who supported them throughout this complicated, personal decision? Or what about the children those patients had later in their lives, when they were ready to become a parent?

Many students are angered and confused about why these events that promote scientifically inaccurate information about a legal and safe medical procedure are allowed to spread the misinformation in an environment dedicated to learning. Not only do these images and materials fail to provide factual information about students’ sexual and reproductive health, but they also actively promote misinformation, fear, and shame. Hopefully, universities and college campuses that allow these events to continue will learn from other colleges and universities that have ensured their students’ well-being and quality education and begin to respond to their own students’ concerns about them.



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Lailah Berry
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