RALEIGH — Anti-abortion protesters are taking their message to the steps of Wake County high school campuses, drawing opposition from some students who say the protesters' message is too graphic.
Protesters holding signs that feature large pictures of aborted fetuses have visited several Wake high schoolsover the past year. They hand out literature and shout that abortion is murder. On Tuesday, they were at Raleigh's Enloe High School.
Bill Schultz, an organizer of the protests, said they will be repeated at more high schools across the county.
"We're trying to educate students," Schultz said. "You can call it a sidewalk classroom for them to learn the truth and make better decisions about their lives."
For the first time, Schultz said, the protesters encountered organized opposition as they stood on the sidewalk in front of Enloe. Some students went nose-to-nose with the abortion opponents and engaged in heated arguments.
Morgan Richardson, 17, an Enloe senior, said it wasn't right for the protesters to be near the school. She argued that their presence disrupted the school day.
"Enloe is a very diverse place," Richardson said. "We're very open-minded. If you have a different opinion, we're very accepting. But they shouldn't be coming on campus."
Technically, the protesters were not on campus but on the public sidewalk in front of the school, which is on Clarendon Crescent in East Raleigh. School officials said they can't bar protesters who have a permit from standing on the public sidewalk.
Protesters who stepped onto school property were ordered back onto public property.
Jacob Timmons, 18, an Enloe senior who confronted the protesters, said the materials being handed out were sexist because they said male brains are wired for sex. He also called it racist that a separate publication was given to some black students.
"The more I read, the more I thought it was disgusting," Timmons said. "I couldn't believe they were at the school."
But Joe Langfeld, deputy director of the Human Life Alliance, the Minnesota-based group whose literature was distributed at Enloe, stood by the material.
"We don't believe it's offensive," Langfeld said. "It's critical information for people in the African-American community to know the facts about abortion."
Schultz, the protest organizer, said the coalition of local anti-abortion groups, including the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, usually protests outside abortion clinics. But he said they began to gather outside high schools after an anti-abortion activist was murdered outside a Michigan high school in September 2009.
The protesters have visited five local high schools, including Wakefield, Southeast Raleigh and Millbrook, according to Schultz.
Schultz said most of the response has been favorable, but parent Victoria Carpenter said she was incensed when the protesters showed up at Millbrook High School. She said her son, who was 16 at the time, was traumatized by the pictures of aborted fetuses.
"I don't think it's appropriate for them to show graphic signs in front of the school," Carpenter said.
But don't expect the protesters to put away those signs anytime soon.
"It's reality," Schultz said. "It's what happens. To view that should make an impression on them that it's a real life."
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-4534