That notion got put to the test on the grounds of The University of South Dakota this week.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 21-22, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) displayed its Mini Genocide Awareness Project, more commonly known as Mini GAP, on the Vermillion campus.
At the request of the USD Anti-Genocide Coalition, the Mini GAP was located near the east doors of the Coyote Student Center.
Some people were angered by the display. Others were pleased.
The Mini GAP consists of several 4 feet high by 8 feet long photo murals that compare abortion to other forms of genocide, including the Holocaust in Europe, slavery, and the Cambodian killing fields.
The display is graphic. The photos range from a 10-week-old aborted fetus scarcely larger than a dime, to a photo of the lynching of a black man decades ago in the South.
Monica Iverson found the exhibit upsetting, largely because her 10-year-old child unwittingly was exposed to it. He commonly rides his bike along the edge of campus on Cherry Street while returning home from school.
The CBR posted signs stating "Genocide Awareness Project" and "Warning � Genocide Photos Ahead" to alert people as they approached the graphic images.
"My 10 year old doesn't know what genocide is," Iverson said. "It's just an invitation (to them).
The purpose of the Genocide Awareness Project, according to Marlys Honeyman, Watertown, who serves as regional director of the South Dakota chapter of CBR, is to change some people's notion that the unborn aren't babies, and that abortion is not an act of violence.
A simple anti-abortion demonstration isn't enough to meet those goals, she said.
"In South Dakota, there are about 895 abortions every year," Honeyman said. "We're losing entire school populations to abortion. Even if there is one abortion a year, it's a big problem."
She admits that the use of large color and black and white photos depicting abortion and genocide is "radical."
She also apologized after learning that a child was given the graphic materials.
CBR, she said, is a research and development organization that covers a variety of bio-ethical issues.
"We feel that the ethics of abortion needs to be addressed," she said.
The organization has concluded that throughout history, the use of photographs has served as a catalyst of reform, helping to give energy to efforts to stop child labor abuses, genocide, segregation and war.
The CBR hopes that photography will eventually have the same effect on abortion.
"We feel this genocide (abortion) is of astronomical proportions," Honeyman said, "because 1.4 billion children have died (globally) since Roe
vs. Wade, and in America, 45 million since Roe vs. Wade."
Freedom of expression
Iverson realizes that CBR has the Constitutional right to express its beliefs thanks to the First Amendment.
"I did some calling, and I did talk to the person in charge out there, and they told me they were within their legal rights," she said. "I respect that, but I still was not happy that they handed their material out to my child."
Iverson asked that officials passing out literature at the display post people around the large photos shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, about the
time that young people are returning home from school.
"I just thought it would be important to direct young people away from that," she said. "They said the university would be willing to have someone to make sure that children don't come up to the booth."
Thursday afternoon, Honeyman listened as a young woman loudly voiced her opposition to the use of vivid images.
She remains steadfast, however, in her belief that such public displays are necessary to end abortion.
"People need to see the correlation in recent history and realize that abortion can end," Honeyman said, referring to photos of victims of The Holocaust during World War II. "I'm sure that the people of the time when the Jews were being slaughtered thought it would never end until every last Jew is gone.
"I'm sure at the time of slavery, people thought there would never be an end to slavery," Honeyman said. "Society dehumanized the victims. Babies today are being dehumanized and being called sub-human simply because they are unwanted."
That, she said, is why CBR uses photographs.
"We realize that if we were to stand in the middle of that square on the campus and use rhetoric, no one is going to remember that," Honeyman said. "But you always will remember a picture."