Pittsburghers eating lunch in Market Square Friday were greeted by an unappetizing sight: a ring of people carrying sandwich boards displaying aborted human fetuses.
The images were startling, but the cause was a familiar one: an end to abortion in the United States.
Organized by Columbus, Ohio-based anti-abortion group Created Equal, the demonstration aimed to "inform people of the injustice of abortion and show what happens during abortion," said Christian Berry, a demonstrator and high school student from Celina, Ohio.
Activists arranged the signs in a circle at the center of Market Square, asked passers-by what they thought about the images and handed out literature about abortion. The demonstration lasted from about 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Passers-by were largely unresponsive to the demonstrators. Of those who responded, reactions ranged from disgust to agreement.
"The state shouldn't determine what a woman does with her body," one man said, adding that he found the demonstrators' use of graphic imagery "very wrong."
"I'm definitely against abortion," said Paul Simon, from Pittsburgh. "If you take the time to look at [the photos] ... it makes me sad."
Created Equal trains high school and college students to become anti-abortion advocates, said founder and executive director Mark Harrington.
Created Equal's stance is more stringent than that of many opponents of abortion rights: The group believes that life begins at fertilization, opposing abortion even in cases of rape and the use of contraceptives that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
"There's never a case in which abortion is right," said Dillon Bruce, a demonstrator and sophomore at Virginia Tech.
But Created Equal's messaging, unlike that of some anti-abortion groups, is not based on religious scripture.
"We're not a Christian organization," Mr. Harrington said.
"We believe you can make an argument based on science, philosophy, constitutional rights, and there's a religious argument, too. ... Whether you're religious or not, you can reason to the humane conclusion that lives should be protected," he said.
"We believe abortion is age discrimination ... we're positioning the argument as a matter of equality between born and preborn," he said.
Group members were confident that graphic images could effectively persuade people to oppose abortion. "Sometimes people can't understand it until they see the full gravity of the killing," Mr. Bruce said.
Marina Bolotnikova: firstname.lastname@example.org.