Varied reaction to graphic anti-abortion display on Independence Mall

Antiabortion activists set up a graphic display on Independence Mall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Antiabortion activists set up a graphic display on Independence Mall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

On a giant screen, demonstrators played a video that mashed up Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington speech, eerie music and still photos of bloody fetuses. Created Equal, an anti-abortion group from Dayton, Ohio, said the display was trying to make a point about freedom, causes and abortion.

The group set up warning signs around the perimeter that the visuals were graphic.  Reaction from visitors did not fall neatly into two camps, depending on whether they support keeping abortion legal.

Here’s how some visitors reacted. (Note: most interviewees preferred to give only their first names.)

Barb and her family were in town for the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference. They had just seen the Liberty Bell, which Barb said reaffirmed for her that freedom of speech protects all speech. “You may not agree with it, but being here I think that’s the realization you get…anyone has a right to say what they want to say.”

Lauren and Kelly, went to high school together in Georgia and are reconnecting this weekend.  They took offense at the large-scale and graphic images. “I’ve been avoiding this area,” said Kelly. “We’re especially upset this is a place where people bring their children. For a small child, this is something you can’t un-see.”

Bob Tishane from Nebraska said he though the images were important. “They’re disturbing images but it’s a disturbing time we live in.” He said the pictures “helped people render an opinion.”

While some visitors started conversations with the Created Equal staff, many continued to take pictures – and one group of men in town for a bachelor party even played football on the grass among the bloody photos.

And the group’s message wasn’t entirely clear to every visitor.

Gene, an elderly man on his way to the Ritz Theatre said, “I’m a little confused. Are these people against abortion?”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.