Pro-life protest sparks discussion

Few topics are as divisive, or as likely to provoke, as abortion. So when Project Truth, a pro-life group — who routinely display large bloody banners of aborted fetuses — arrived on the Los Medanos College campus, and a group of pro-choice students staged a counter protest complete with free condoms and lube, there was tension in the air. However, despite the provocative material and delicate subject matter, the debate was largely civil.

Project Truth is a Christian organization not affiliated with a specific church that tours college campuses up and down the west coast demonstrating against abortion and disseminating slickly produced literature against the practice.

 The leader of the LMC excursion who goes by the pseudonym William Wilberforce explained the group’s use of inflammatory imagery.

“How many students have never seen what an abortion looks like?” said Wilberforce. “Words enough are not enough to describe and clarify the issue.”

LMC student and protester Frankey Hernandez was less than enthused by Wilberforce’s group. Displaying a stark white sign with a coat hanger stapled to it and the words “Never again” written in bold red inside, Hernandez stood opposite the Project Truth demonstration.

Supporting Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice side of the debate, Hernandez stood armed with condoms, lube and dental dams of all colors. Hernandez decried Wilberforce’s position stating, “I don’t think that they advocate for safe sex, it’s just a ploy to stop people from having sex.”

 The use of media by Project Truth is varied. They employ everything from banners, pamphlets and videos on iPads to spread their message. It is these pieces of media that really demonstrate the moral and political stances of the organization.

Project Truth believes in avoiding abortion except when the pregnancy would result in the death of the mother and child. The pamphlet even contains testimonials from rape victims and minors about how avoiding pregnancy is the right thing to do in all situations.

While Wilberforce’s contingent and Hernandez’s protest regarded each other coldly, but indirectly, Student and activist Randy Utz was more direct. Utz called Wilberforce’s group “assholes” and condemned their use of such bloody imagery and their black and white view of morality.

“A student here could have made a very hard decision that maybe she doesn’t feel great about,” said Utz. “Its not ok for them to put up something like that.”

“I 100 percent understand their point of view,” said an exasperated Utz. Utz went on to explain that groups like Project Truth do not leave room for nuance. “I am personally against abortion … however I am also for a woman’s right to choose, as a man it’s not my choice to make.”

Wilberforce dismissed the idea that the issue of abortion was purely political and asserted that it was a matter of morality. He proclaimed that “when abortion is illegal,” the country would be back on the right track.

Despite the contentious nature of the protest and counter-protest, and how tense some of the interactions were, positive and collaborative between people of vastly different viewpoints. Chief among them was the interaction between Trumpet playing Project Truth member Brother Joseph and a member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

Brother Joseph, a trumpet-playing preacher in a suit and tie, and the tattooed Mongols member had an extended conversation about religion, politics, morality and the future that was based in love and respect.

While the Mongols member had a previous negative interaction with Project Truth, they told him he was going to “burn in hell,” he and Brother Joseph were extremely polite and respectful of each other’s opinions.

 The Mongols member’s politics were fairly moderate.

“I can see both sides,” he said.

While Brother Jonathan’s stance on abortion was as hardline as Wilberforce’s, his tone was less confrontational. He even emphasized his commitment to pre-natal care stating that anyone in need could come to him and he would help provide care and adoption services.

With such controversial subject matter there was a sizable police presence. Other than small incidents of raised voices and some tempers flaring, there was no large conflict, much to the relief of LMC police Lieutenant Chad Wehrmeister.

“I thought it was for the most part a healthy debate,” said Wehrmeister. “Everyone was civil.”