A conservative Catholic pro-life group sparked debate when they protested Planned Parenthood with signs and handouts on UNC's campus last week.
Above: American Society for the Defense of TFP protestors and counter-protestors compete for space on UNC’s quad last week. Photo by Margaret High.
UNC’s main quad, located in front of Wilson Library, has historically been a space for protest and debate. Last week, that tradition prevailed.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) visited the quad and stood with a banner reading “Planned Parenthood butchers and sells unborn babies. May God convert America.”
Members of conservative Catholic group, hailing from different parts of the country, gathered along the brick paths of UNC wearing suits and red sashes and offered flyers to passing students. The group consisted of all males, a decision a member justified because of the increased likelihood of violence that comes with protesting on a predominantly liberal college campus.
From across the quad, the American TFP’s flag and its partnering American flag were easy to spot, as well as the presence of the color red. During class changes, the group could be heard singing “God Bless America.”
“The protest was very eerie and almost cult-like,” said Tolson Jeffrey, a junior at UNC.
A member of the American TFP said they tour around the nation and protest across many different campuses, mostly public schools. The club also visited N.C. State’s campus last week.
While the American TFP has a North Carolina chapter, those present for their protest were not local.
“I didn’t think it was effective because UNC is generally a very liberal, pro-choice place,” said UNC sophomore Audrey Clegg. “But I don’t think they were looking to persuade people to be pro-life. I think they were just trying to get their message out there.”
Within hours of American TFP’s arrival, counter protesters lined the opposite side of the brick path and held hastily made posters. The UNC students who held the posters consisted of mostly women, with messages like “Support repo rights!” and “Planned Parenthood saves lives.”
At the site, many UNC female students were attempting to engage in discussions with the pro-life protestors. One woman said she got her rape kit from Planned Parenthood (a nonprofit organization that provides sexual health care in the United States) and was able to successfully win a court case because the support she found there. Another said she relied on Planned Parenthood for her breast cancer screenings.
“I enjoyed overhearing the parts of conversations I heard between them and the students,” Clegg said.
Her media ethics class took a few minutes at the start of class on Thursday to talk about the importance of a robust marketplace of ideas, a theory that believes the truth will come when different ideas are discussed and debated and challenged by alternative views. The class also remarked on the importance of the First Amendment.
While protestors and counter-protestors sometimes began shouting at each other, the event remained peaceful.
The flyers handed out by the American TFP shared 10 reasons why legal abortion is hurting America, primarily calling to action to defund Planned Parenthood.
Sara Zetterberg, a junior at UNC, feels like the American TFP is wrongfully calling for the shut down of Planned Parenthood.
“I’ve noticed Planned Parenthood always being in low-income communities,” Zetterberg said. The Knoxville, Tennessee native says the Planned Parenthood closest to her neighborhood has an archway leading into the center reading: “All life is beautiful and is worth living.”
“I know that they do a lot of health screenings for women who cannot afford a gynecology appointment,” Zetterberg said.
The American TFP outlines many objectives they believe will help improve America on their website, including increasing Catholicism in the country and opposing gay marriage. The nationwide group has around 120,000 members, according to their website.
While the American TFP, headquartered in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, did not disclose their next location, a member said they will be continuing to other college campuses until December.