Anti-Abortion Protesters Near Robinson Campus
June 7, 2017
After demonstrating at Marshall, West Springfield, Hayfield, and Lee high schools, protesters from the DC Area Anti-Abortion Advocacy have set up station near Robinson school grounds. Since the group has used graphic images of bloodied, aborted fetuses to speak on the topic of abortion, Principal Matt Eline has spoke out against their method of protest.
“What bothers me is that we have young students here and some of the things they have are very graphic,” said Eline. “I’m not sure if it is appropriate if those students should be exposed to something so graphic.”
Typically, the group has presented itself on Fridays at the 2:45 p.m. dismissal time, varying between the Roberts, Cascade, Sideburn and Commonwealth entrance areas. At these locations, the protesters are not legally on FCPS property, nor have they attempted to come on to school property. As a result, there is nothing to prevent them from protesting peacefully at these locations and exercising their freedom of speech.
Students have expressed concern regarding the images shown by the group. Juliann Maryoka 12, a member of Robinson’s Pro-Life club, Rams for Life, is one of these students.
“It’s never effective to force your beliefs on somebody else and expose them to something graphic like that without their consent,” said Maryoka. “I think that the message they are trying to get across is probably coming from a good place, but the way they were doing that was a bit too extreme and probably a little offensive to some people.”
Other students, such as President of Rams for Life, Anthony Jones, 12, said: “Seeing the remains of aborted fetuses definitely makes me feel uncomfortable. But I think that’s the point. These protesters want to expose the uncomfortable, and often unknown, reality of a legal medical procedure that kills a human being… Such imaged are very effective at starting conversations with people who are willing to dialogue.”
The protesters have returned to the Robinson area four times and have been protesting at high schools for five years. When Jonathan Darnel from DC Area Anti-Abortion Advocacy was asked why the group has focused their efforts at high schools in Northern Virginia, he said that “we want as many people to see as possible” and high schools provide areas where people “congregate outside cars.” Ian Spencer, Outreach Coordinator from Created Equal (the website listed on DC Area Anti-Abortion Advocacy’s Facebook page, stated in an email that, “if students are old enough to have an abortion, then they are old enough to see an abortion. If we can reach these students with the truth, we think they will be less likely to have abortions not only during their high school years but also in the future.”
Due to the protests, the main office has received over 100 emails and phone calls seeking information about these protests. On May 16, Eline sent out a Keep-In-Touch email to all parents and faculty providing information about these events. In the email, Eline suggests families should discuss how to “respond or react in situations like these.”
“I think when we engage with them it motivates them to come back because they feel like they are getting a response,” said Eline. “My strategy is if we don’t want them near the school, the best thing to do is try to ignore them.”