Opposing groups of demonstrators gathered in Red Square on Monday, May 16, in yet another theater of the nationwide battle over abortion rights.
The demonstrations were initiated by Tiny Heartbeat Ministries, a Pacific Northwest-based Christian nonprofit which opposes abortion rights and practices Evangelism. The organization stages demonstrations on college campuses and other public settings, displaying graphic imagery and anti-abortion rights messaging.
“We are here to convince students that abortion is wrong because it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being,” said Andrew Kerin, executive director of Tiny Heartbeat Ministries.
Demonstrators from the organization wore body cams and talked with students when approached. In addition to opposing abortion, the group also advocates for biblical inerrancy and against LGBTQ+ rights.
Student counter-protesters gathered in Red Square in support of abortion rights, holding both homemade signs and posters from Planned Parenthood.
By about 12 p.m., student counter-protesters were assembled in front of Tiny Heartbeat Ministries demonstrators, obscuring their signage from view. Western Washington University staff were also stationed at entrances to Red Square, warning pedestrians that graphic imagery was ahead.
“My job was to come here and hand out info, work with the Counseling and Wellness Center, write down trigger warnings for oncoming students who are passing through campus,” said Zoey Adkins, a first-year Western student with LGBTQ+ Western.
Adkins and other LGBTQ+ Western organizers set up a table where concerned students could access stress management resources.
“I have gone through sexual assault multiple times, I’ve had friends who have gone through it,” said Mea Zanders, a student counter-protester. “I don’t think anyone should be able to tell a woman what to do with her body.”
Counter-protesters focused on advocating for the right to bodily autonomy, including termination of a pregnancy.
They held a sign reading “Your Body Your Choice – Don’t let others’ religious shame hurt you – they aren’t right.”
Kerin rejects the bodily autonomy argument in favor of preserving his definition of life.
“A person does not have the right to drink and drive even though that’s their own body because that puts another person’s life in peril,” Kerin said. “In the same way, their bodily autonomy does not give [those who seek abortions] the right to put somebody else in danger – because it is always wrong to intentionally kill a human being.”
The demonstrations remained mutually nonviolent, and University police were stationed in the square to respond to altercations. Tiny Heartbeat Ministries had previously visited Western in October of 2021.
Addtional reporting by Cameron Martinez
Finn Kurtz (he/they) (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a news reporter for The Front. He is majoring in History/Social Studies and minoring in Political Science, and is also in the Journalism pre-major. His writing interests are pacific northwest culture and history, protests, and local political, cultural and religious activism. He enjoys film (& film criticism, which makes him rather annoying), walking around his hometown (Bellingham!) and talking about how Star Trek: Enterprise's cancellation after season 4 was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.