Consistent with their decision in prior years, the Summit Clinic in Bridgeport, CT closed its doors this past Friday in anticipation of fervent pro-life protests that occur every year on Good Friday. A group of University students organized a counter-protest; approximately 20 to 30 students arrived at the clinic at 7 a.m. in order to establish a presence in opposition to the demonstrators.
Morgan Hill ’14, one of the main organizers for the event, said that she was inspired to get involved against the “anti-choice” protests after attending an evangelical pro-life rally this past February. Hill and other participating students referred to the protestors as anti-choice, though these protestors commonly self-identify as pro-life.
At the rally, Hill was told of the yearly Good Friday protest at the Summit Clinic and decided to organize a group of students to attend and voice opposition. She stated that most of the organization was done through the help of AIDS and Sexual Health Awareness (ASHA) and by Clinic Escorts, a group that provides services for visitors to the Summit Clinic.
Hill also explained that while Clinic Escorts certainly supports the Summit Clinic, they are an apolitical group, and according to their policy, they cannot be directly linked to a political event such as a protest. In contrast, the group that went to the Summit Clinic on Good Friday took a strictly political stance, hoping to engage with pro-life protestors about their beliefs.
The group of University students who attended stated that few pro-life demonstrators showed up to the Clinic, having learned from previous years that the Summit Clinic closes on Good Friday. Sydney Lewis ’14 and Lauren King ’15, who also attended the protest, said that University students largely outnumbered the pro-choice protestors. However, inspired by the few protesters that did turn up, about five Wesleyan students returned the next day to counter the protests that occurred then.
“I don’t know if what we saw [on Saturday] was the normal presence, or if they were there because of Good Friday, but there were about ten to fifteen protestors,” Lewis said. “They had a speaker and microphone set up, and every time a car pulled into the lot, they said over the speaker ‘Don’t go in there, they’re killing babies in there. We can help you.’”
King stated that she believed the remarks made by the pro-life protestors were highly incendiary.
“There was one man there who told me that [the Summit Clinic] doesn’t encourage the women to look at their ultrasounds because they’re afraid that if the woman sees the thing inside of her resembles a human, she won’t get an abortion,” King said. “I kept pressing him for where he had heard this, and he eventually admitted he made it up.”
Lewis added that these protestors are deeply religious, and that many of them were equipped with Bibles or posters with slogans such as “God loves you.”
“Abortion is a political issue or a feminist issue, and they are approaching it as a religious issue,” Hill said. “And those aren’t really planes that intersect.”
Hill stated that it is very likely that they will create an official registered group following the initial protest.
“A lot of people are really interested, and there is no real other group [on campus] that wants to be as political,” Hill said. “So hopefully this is the beginning of something, which I think is really exciting. I think a lot of other people are like minded.”
The students said that the group, if formed, would not only participate in political protests but also organize events to assist the Summit Clinic.
“The reason we chose to support the Bridgeport clinic specifically is because they’re an independent provider,” Hill said. “They aren’t like Planned Parenthood, where they have a huge network and a lot of political resources. [The Summit Clinic is] an independent clinic that needs a lot of help.”
In the immediate future, the students involved plan to attend the non-partisan Unite Against the War on Women Rally in Hartford on April 28, where the crowd is expected to be upwards of a thousand people.