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BRIEF: Anti-abortion protesters return to Western again this quarter

Western students warn others about graphic signs in Red Square

A sign warns students about graphic images in Red Square at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday, March 6, 2023. The university has designated Red Square as a free speech zone. // Photo by Joshua Kornfeld 

Anti-abortion protesters from the group TinyHeartbeat Ministries occupied Western Washington University’s designated free speech zone in Red Square on Monday, March 6. The Christian nonprofit came to Western last year; The Front covered TinyHeartbeat Ministries when they last visited in the spring of 2022. Students counter-protesting stood in front of graphic images depicting abortions to prevent others from seeing them. 

Western’s Counseling and Wellness Center and members of Generation Action were also at the protest.


Students supporting abortion rights hold homemade signs blocking anti-abortion protesters from view in Red Square at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., on March 6, 2023. Students chanted in support of reproductive freedom. // Photo by Joshua Kornfeld

Generation Action, a Western club affiliated with Planned Parenthood, handed out flyers that encouraged participants to avoid interaction with opposition protesters, as they often wear body cameras and post confrontations on their social media. The club also offered a processing space in the Viking Union from noon to 2 p.m.  

“Their goal is to cause anger – do not let them,” said flyers by Generation Action. 

Some students voiced concerns about the images presented on the signs, as well as the lack of person-first representations of abortions.  

“Their representation of what abortion looks like is extremely gross and incorrect,” said Kaityln Fairbanks, a third-year student. “I have deep, ingrained knowledge about my body in my life and my choices.”

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A student holds a homemade sign blocking one of several members of TinyHeartbeat Ministries from view at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., on March 6, 2023. The images are graphic and could be upsetting to many individuals impacted by the debate around reproductive healthcare. // Photo by Joshua Kornfeld 

Liz Stuart is the interim assistant director of outreach and health promotion at the Counseling and Wellness Center. 

“I want students to know that their choices and beliefs are valid and valued,” Stuart said. “I want them to know that they belong here at Western and that the Counseling and Wellness Center is here to support them.” 

Stuart encouraged students to reach out to the counseling center on Instagram or call 360.650.3164 for additional resources and support. 

“I heard that TinyHeartbeat Ministries were gonna be here," said Heidi, a fourth-year student who requested only their first name be used for privacy concerns. "Whenever they tend to be on campus, I like to participate in a peaceful counter-protest in a non-confrontational way. Abortions are not just about women's rights – it’s a human right."

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