“Missionaries” and Planned Parenthood spar on campus

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Students at the University of Southern Mississippi were assailed with graphic images last Monday by a pro-life group that styles itself “Missionaries for the Pre-Born.” The group arrived on campus as part of its “Personhood Tour” through Mississippi to promote a ballot measure that would define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization.

In a press release, Planned Parenthood described this organization as “extremist,” and it is not difficult to see why.

The “missionaries” group utilized some less-than-tasteful tactics to try to advocate their position. These included posters featuring graphic images of dead, mangled fetuses, which were understandably shocking and disturbing to many of the students in the area. The activists also employed children, having them stand around campus distributing pamphlets filled with gore. One such child would distribute these documents adding, “Please sir, don’t kill me.” Much of their information was factually incorrect, such as their much-debunked claim that abortion causes breast cancer. Members of the group also had images on their vehicles that were anti-vaccination, but there was no explanation as to why.

Not to be outflanked, Planned Parenthood responded on campus Thursday in the form of a large pink bus, detailed with (factual) statistics. Their activists took questions from passing students, without resorting to gore or debunked myths. These activists reminded students that Planned Parenthood offers a variety of services such breast exams, testing for sexually transmitted disease, and sexual education, and that only approximately 3 percent of its services involve abortion. Instead of gruesome pamphlets, the crew of the pink bus offered pink T-shirts that stated, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood.”

If anything, the “Missionaries for the Pre-Born” may have helped Planned Parenthood’s cause. Without their shocking display, Planned Parenthood likely would not have sent its pink bus and facts to USM’s campus, educating many students on the wide variety of necessary services it offers. In addition, the “missionaries” appeared to seriously turn off many students.

Besides numerous negative Facebook and Twitter posts about the “pre-born” missionaries, the editors of the student paper, The Student Printz, posted their opinions on the paper’s website, which were overwhelmingly negative toward the group. One writer said that “having eight-year-old children line the streets and campus to hand out anti-abortion cards urging people to vote yes for Proposition 26 is morally grotesque,” while another posted that the missionaries were “no better than the people who decided to make the last four ‘Saw’ movies.”

Proposition 26 is the so-called Personhood Mississippi Amendment, which Mississippians will vote on in November. It redefines the beginning of human life as the moment of conception, as a way of challenging a women’s right to have an abortion as set forth by Roe v. Wade, according to the Personhood Mississippi website.

Overall, it seems that the Missionaries for the Pre-Born were more concerned with shock value and gore than they were with their message. Fortunately for Planned Parenthood, this seemed to backfire, and backfire badly.

Photo: PW/Ryan Ebersole




Ryan C. Ebersole
Ryan C. Ebersole

Ryan Ebersole is a mental health counselor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having finished his Masters degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, his undergraduate degree at the University of Evansville in Indiana, high school in the Fort Worth area of Texas and pre-K in Puerto Rico, and having been born in Florida, he has experienced several areas of the county.

While in Indiana, he worked at a social work agency for HIV+ clients, as well as a low-income community drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility - both of which caused him to take a great interest in the stigmatized and the disadvantaged in our society. Now as a mental health professional, he hopes to serve these groups, as well as continue political activism, especially for LGBT and health care rights, on the side.