Anti-abortion and abortion-rights protesters gathered in opposition on campus

Tiny Heartbeat Ministries anti-abortion advocates held signs with graphic images of aborted fetuses, handed out pamphlets and wore Go-Pro cameras outside the SURC and Black Hall on May 17. The group is a “Christian anti-abortionist non-profit,” according to their website. 

A crowd of people gathered as a response to the group being present on campus. 

The community response, planned in advance, included a “comfort station” and an abortion-rights counterprotest with signs showing phrases like “Vasectomies prevent abortions,” and “Keep your laws off my body.”

A student set up an electric guitar and amplifier while police officers monitored the area. 

The students sitting at the comfort station said their goal was to provide comfort to students when confronted with “triggering” images while walking through campus. The station had tables with snacks including chocolate, cookies, water and hot chocolate. 

“[It’s] a safe place for students and faculty showing that we care about their right to choose,” said Emma CrowE, a junior in English professional and creative writing.

Paije Maas, another English professional and creative writing major sitting at the comfort station, said she went to the pro-choice March last Friday. 

“Dr. [Teresa] Divine mentioned that the Tiny [Heartbeat] Ministries were coming today,” Maas said. “They’re known for really grotesque images that are triggering.”

CrowE said the words coming from those standing with Tiny Heartbeat Ministries were a lot to handle.

“Paije and I care about other people, so that’s what we’re here to do,” CrowE said. “We have been sitting here for about an hour and I don’t even know how many times we’ve already been told that we’re supporting murder, which is so hard to hear. Especially because we’re not trying to interact with them [anti-abotion protestors] because we don’t want to cause some kind of argument or fight.”

Andrew Kerin, the executive director of Tiny Heartbeat Ministries, said, “We’re here to convince students that abortion is always wrong, because it intentionally dismembers, disembowels and decapitates an innocent human being … Abortion is murder and should be treated as such by our courts or judges or police officers.” 

Maas said she thinks abortion rights are more than just women’s rights.

“Your body, your choice,” Maas said. “Having a baby is hard. We do also acknowledge that going through an abortion is not easy … Sometimes, for some people, it takes a toll. We are here for you. It’s not just women’s rights, it’s everyone’s rights.”

The pamphlets handed out by Tiny Heartbeat Ministries showed photos of aborted fetuses, and one section of the pamphlet was entitled, “Throughout History Injustice Began with Dehumanizing Other People, The Injustice has Spread to the Womb.” 

In this section, the pamphlet mentioned and showed photos of the Holocaust and enslaved people, positioning abortion as a similar human rights offense to these atrocities.

Kremiere Jackson, CWU’s vice president of public affairs, sent an email to the campus community on Tuesday at 8:07 a.m. with the subject line “Freedom of Speech.”

In it, she wrote that university policy, in accordance with federal and state law, allows advocacy groups to express themselves at all outdoor locations on campus.

The email said: “CWU community members are urged to express their views in a respectful manner and participate in civil discourse. Or, should demonstrations or activities take place on campus that conflict with your beliefs you may choose to deprive such groups of an audience by avoiding the area of demonstration entirely.”

Tiny Heartbeat Ministries has visited campus before. During an October 2021 visit, students played music over their speeches and ripped up their pamphlets (see “Anti-abortionists visit CWU to tell students about their beliefs”).

The anti-abortion group moved on from campus around 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. 

According to a statement released on Tuesday by the Ellensburg School District, 10 people with Tiny Heartbeat Ministries later moved to sidewalks on Third Street and Capitol Street by the Ellensburg High School. District officials asked protestors to remain on public sidewalks and off school property. 

The statement said, “Protestors had posters and flyers and were attempting to interact with students and drivers as school was released. This group was not affiliated with Ellensburg School District and remained on public property.”

This story has been updated for accuracy