TFL display prompts alternative signs


Photo by Kara Killinger

This past week, Trinity’s pro-life organization, Tigers for Life (TFL), partnered again with the national organization Justice for Life (JFA) to present their anti-abortion stance on campus. The group set up multiple signs and tables, this time not on the Esplanade but on the path between Miller Fountain and Coates Library.

Also unlike past TFL demonstrations, this display drew multiple protestors. Among them were senior Ben Brody and junior Grant Kinscherff. The two were unaffiliated with each other but both held signs along the path, seeking to provide an alternate perspective to the dominant display.

Brody said his decision to protest the event was somewhat spontaneous. He walked by the demonstration on the way to class on Monday and thought that he should do something, but when he came out of class, senior Sarah Bastos was already holding a sign reading “gummy bear rights.” Tuesday, however, Brody saw that TFL was still demonstrating, with no one there to counter their beliefs.

“So I went to the library, asked if they had any scrap paper and tape and a marker and they did, so I taped some papers together and wrote, ‘Her body, her choice’ on the paper, just as a way to reaffirm people who were walking by who would otherwise feel attacked or ashamed,” Brody said. “I sat a respectable distance away and just held the sign for an hour before I had to go to class.”

Brody felt that he achieved his goal of making people feel less ashamed. One conversation he had with a passerby stuck out to him.

“I had one woman in particular … she was walking by, visibly distraught by the imagery that they were publishing and some of the things they were saying, and then saw my sign and came up to me, crying and hugged me and said, ‘Thank you, I needed that,’” Brody said.

Brody didn’t just talk to those who agreed with his stance on abortion. He was also surprised by the pro-life group’s respectful reaction to his sign. He remembered when one of the JFA representatives approached him.

“One of the adults … came over and noticed that my sign was kind of flapping around, it was just loose recycled paper. She said, ‘Do you need some more tape? We have a little extra tape if you need it,’ and then just started conversing with me,” Brody said. “That was really refreshing. On the one hand, I still very firmly disagree with the message they were trying to send. On the other hand, I was not prepared for that sort of kindness.”

Like Brody, Kinscherff wanted to counter TFL’s display. However, he took a more humorous approach, holding a cardboard sign that read, “Eat Ass.”

“I like to make people laugh. I think that [the TFL display] is a pretty morbid display, and I think that people shouldn’t have to look at it,” Kinscherff said. “I think they should have a good alternative that makes them laugh. I’m not trying to convince people of anything.”

When Kinscherff spoke to the Trinitonian, he said he had been standing on the path with his sign for the past two hours. At the time of the interview, he was engaged in a conversation with his friend, senior Alex Jacobs, who is a member of TFL.

“I’ve talked to my friend Alex, but we’re not having an intellectual discussion on this side of the street. People come take pictures, say hi, but I don’t have a lot to talk about,” Kinscherff said.

Kinscherff and Jacobs both emphasized their respect for the other’s right to free expression.

“I think that Grant should be free to speak his views, just as the pro-life group should be,” Jacobs said.

Trinity students also have institutional support for expression of ideas. Trinity’s Statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities protects not just personal but also public expression.

“Challenge and discomfort are essential in academic institutions, while proscription and coercion of thought have no place,” the document reads in part. “Students should be free, individually and collectively, to express their views and concerns on issues of institutional policy and on matters of general interest to the student body.”