Graphic anti-abortion protest at Paschal greeted with gentler images

02/27/2014 6:59 PM

02/27/2014 7:00 PM

Anti-abortion activists at Paschal High School this week were met Thursday with a peaceful protest against what they are doing.

The group has been carrying signs depicting aborted fetuses, with messages such as “Repent” and “Abortion is murder” on public right-of-way near the school.

Iris Hayes, a 17-year-old Paschal senior, stood nearby Thursday with a poster bearing images of puppies.

“I don’t agree with the posters,” she said.

She and two Texas Christian University students stood next to anti-abortion activist James Lewis, 25, with their own signs showing both kittens and puppies. They said they brought out pleasant images to make their point: They said they don’t believe a high school campus is the appropriate place for graphic images of abortions.

“These students are here to learn and these people are here bullying them,” said Alexis Lohse, a TCU student.

The anti-abortion activists have been showing up before and after school, Lewis said. He and fellow activist Michael Plaisted were the only ones there Thursday.

Lewis said they may be coming to more North Texas high schools in upcoming weeks as part of Project Frontlines, a national anti-abortion effort. He said Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth may be the next destination.

Lewis, who is with the Abolitionist Society of Fort Worth, said they chose Paschal because it is centrally located, at 3001 Forest Park Blvd. in Fort Worth.

School officials have been monitoring the situation to ensure the protests don’t disrupt learning.

“These last few days have provided us an opportunity to reflect on the American Constitution and the rights it provides,” writes principal Terri Mossige in a Feb. 26 letter to the Paschal High School community.

She goes on to say, “As United States citizens, we have the chance to see our rights in action every day. Paschal High School is a microcosm of our society and is not exempt from these situations. However, we can take positive steps to mitigate the distractions and discomfort that might result from these experiences.”

Students who said they were bothered by the exhibitions were referred to school counselors or intervention specialists, Mossige said.

The protests are not on district property, but in public right-of-way. Bill Begley, spokesman for the city of Fort Worth, said the protesters have the right to use the public sidewalk as long as they are not interfering with use of it.

“They cannot disrupt classes by loud noise, etc., or block students from access to the school property,” he said.

The protests were a hot topic among Paschal students this week.

“I understand they want to prove a point, but it’s not something I want to see on a daily basis coming and leaving from school,” said senior William Brown, 17.

Maria Salazar, 18, said she understood some of their message, but was still put off by the images.

“I’m against abortion, but I don’t like it when they put religion into it,” Salazar said.

Similar events have been conducted at high schools in Burleson and Little Elm by other anti-abortion activists, Lewis said.

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