As students poured out the doors of East Lansing High School at 2:35 pm on March 14, they were confronted by foldable plastic signs with words like “preborn human” and images claiming they were pictures of aborted fetuses at different stages of pregnancy.
“When I saw the signs, I kind of became a little bit disgusted,” sophomore Khloe Smith said. “You shouldn’t be showing those, like, to children.”
All of the signs displayed a link to Created Equal, an anti-abortion advocacy group, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, and registered as a religious non-profit media. There were also several volunteers from their organization passing out pamphlets stating “Are human rights for all humans?”
In the pamphlets, there were links to Protect Life MI and Project Rosie. Protect Life Michigan, formerly Students for Life Michigan, is a group that specifically focused on speaking with students. Project Rosie is a crisis pregnancy center that works to present options other than abortion to young or unprepared pregnant individuals.
The representatives of Protect Life Michigan approached mostly female-presenting students as they were the building and asked them about their views on abortion and tried to hand out pamphlets.
Andrew Wells, the ELHS principal, came up to the protestors initially thinking they did not have the legal right to be there, but after a few phone calls, he learned that the protestors could be there. So he stood outside the door and attempted to deter the students from talking to the representatives.
One of the representatives who was present is the executive director of Protect Life Michigan, Christen Pollo, who alleged that over 300 high school students have abortion procedures daily.
“I think they’re old enough to be educated about what that decision is,” Pollo said.
But many students noted that the incredibly graphic and what they believed were “somewhat inaccurate” signs and pamphlets were unacceptable.
“Anybody who comes to a high school as an adult, trying to spread their views, like, seems like preying and unfair, and I think that’s automatically unreasonable,” Alex Arnold, the co-president of Students for Gender Equality, said.
But Pollo believed, despite the pushback, she was helping students by presenting her anti-abortion stance.
“We really are here because we want students to understand, to see,” Pollo said. “We want to have conversations with them because the whole focus of our organization is educating people about something that’s so far removed from our daily lives.”
After school, parents also took to Facebook in outrage about the extreme imagery. A slew of responses came in from parents, some of whom believed the representatives were exercising their right to free speech and others who felt it was unacceptable.
Many students appeared to feel similarly, yelling at the protestors and engaging in debates with them, mostly appalled by their presence at a school.
“I was just disgusted that they think it’s okay to do this. Because children are vulnerable and impressionable,” Arnold said.
This article was written by Marie Adele Grosso, the News and Feature Editor of Portrait, the student newspaper of East Lansing High School. This article was originally published by Portrait on March 18.
This article was updated on Mar. 24, 2022. It had initially included quotes from a private Facebook page.