Pro-life and pro-choice advocates expressed their opposing views through t-shirts last Monday at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, sparking a campus-wide debate on the sacredness of human life as well as protests from students offended by shirts seemingly promoting abortion.
The controversy began when shirts reading "I had an abortion" were sold on campus for $15 each at the Fisher Student Center during a "Stories of Choice" panel, in which women discussed their experiences with abortion. The panel, sponsored by the university's Women's Studies Department and the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) Resource Office, featured pro-choice advocate and feminist Jennifer Baumgardner.
Many students took offense to the t-shirts, and participated in a silent protest to show their disgust.
According to local news station WWAY-TV3, three students stood outside of the panel's discussion room. One student wore a shirt that read "I Haven't Killed A Baby," while another wore a shirt that read "I euthanized my grandpa."
Students told the local news station that the pro-choice t-shirts were out of line and embarrassing to the student body.
"It's still a very controversial issue," Jimmy Eastman, spokesman for the student protest against the shirts, told WWAY-TV3.
"It's not about the abortion or pro-choice. It's about ending a human life and that's the real issue here. That's what we're trying to get at," Eastman said.
Other students condemned the shirts, saying they praised abortion, an issue that should not be congratulated.
Those in support of the shirts argue that the purpose of the message is to de-stigmatize abortion so women feel more safe and free to talk about their experiences.
The guest panel held a question-and-answer session, allowing attendees to ask questions about abortion. Baumgardner also held a book signing for her new book, Abortion and Life, which is a part of her "I Had an Abortion" project.
All proceeds from the shirts went to Soapbox Inc., a feminist advocacy group formed by Baumgardner and fellow activist Amy Richards.
The pro-abortion, liberal news website RH RealityCheck argues that the purpose of the message was widely misinterpreted.
"There's a vast difference between erasing stigma and 'seeking praise,'" the website reported.
"But I suppose for those who believe each of the one in three women who have had abortions should be ashamed to admit it, anything other than regret is wrong," it added.