As graphic visuals of abortions lined Quarry Plaza on Oct. 4 and 5, members of the anti-abortion group Sanctity of Human Life (SOHL) handed out DVDs and pamphlets to students and other Quarry Plaza passersby. Some accepted the literature while others engaged in heated debate.

Hiss Kurmiņa (left) and Kristen Swig (right) argue with a Sanctity of Human Life member who was protesting abortion in Quarry Plaza on Tuesday. Photo by Nick Paris.

“We’re bringing the truth about abortion and how it not only kills an innocent human being but hurts women,” said SOHL leader Bud, who does not release his last name out of concern for his privacy.

SOHL is in its third year of Northern California college campus tours, and visited UC Santa Cruz this week.

While SOHL said their goal is to educate students on how they view abortions, some students expressed differing opinions.

“They’re throwing the Bible at us,” fourth-year Tracy Garcia said. “What are they trying to prove, bringing these pictures here?”

Bud was not surprised at students’ reactions, and wanted the engaged debates to occur.

“Images tell stories,” Bud said. “This gets their attention…professors aren’t addressing this issue, or if they do, they say the woman should have the right to choose. Right now, women have the right to choose — it’s the law of the land. Just like in slavery, people had the right to have slaves. But it’s an injustice.”

Third-year Stephanie Calderon spoke to a SOHL member, whom she said was nice, but noted the demographics of the SOHL volunteers.

“An older, white man can’t feel what it’s like to have a baby,” Calderon said.

Fourth-year Tessa Mizokami designed her own sign that read, “Your body, your right” to silently protest the anti-abortion group. Another sign made by students addressed the religious aspect of SOHL’s argument and read, “I believe in God and choice.”

The UCSC Women’s Center notified students via email of SOHL’s presence on the morning of Oct. 4.

“We are merely concerned that the group’s methods of exposure to violent imagery and use of inflammatory language may upset or disturb some folks on campus, especially those who are survivors of violence themselves,” the email read.

Women’s Center director Stephanie Milton said she heard about students’ interactions with SOHL at other schools through her network of Women’s Center staff throughout the state.

“This method of subscribing to Christianity is harming to UCSC’s principles of community,” Milton said.

Like the students, Milton experienced mixed encounters with SOHL members. One approached her cordially, but another loudly commented about something Milton said to someone else.

“I found him sarcastic and I don’t hold that in good faith,” she said.

The Women’s Center and several student organizations tabled in Quarry Plaza around SOHL, and the Women’s Center is inviting a reproductive justice organization to table this quarter to expand this discussion of reproduction, Milton said.

“They believe in what they’re doing and we believe in what we’re doing,” she said. “As a woman, I’d say it hurts me. I have a problem when people try to subscribe morality to my body.”

 

Additional reporting by Chelsea Hawkins