Rights to an abortion is one of the most controversial topics of modern day America. The issue has led to marches, movies being made, and has even worked its way into the social climate of Mission Viejo High School.
During the 2019 school year, protests have been occurring during the normal school day lunch period on the corner of La Paz Road and Chrisanta Drive in Mission Viejo, publicly displaying opinions on the matter.
On the left side usually stands a flock of Christians coming from multiple evangelical churches in the community, holding “pray to end abortion” signs, exercising their 1st Amendment right.
“We’re not specifically related to one church,” Mark Schreiber, one of the protesters confirmed.
And on the other side usually stands one single man by the name of Mike Rotcher, holding a sign that read “respect women’s right to choose.”
When Rotcher was asked about his views on abortion, one could expect what his answer might be based off of his sign, however he did have some other interesting things to say.
“I’m not pro-abortion, that’s kind of ridiculous… But I don’t believe making it against the law solves anything,” Rotcher said.
He pointed to the back of his sign, which had a clothing hanger on it.
“This is the way women used to get abortions… before Roe versus Wade, they had to go to back allies and do it themselves. Many women died as a result,” Rotcher said.
Even on the pro-life side, their true beliefs and intent were more complex than what their signs led on to be.
“I want to put Planned Parenthood out of business, I don’t want them here. Let them go somewhere else, but not here in Mission Viejo,” Neil Travisano, one of the protesters said. “Don’t abuse these children, give them a chance. And even if it’s in difficult times.”
He said that it has become extremely hard to adopt newborn babies because there are so few nowadays up for adoption due to abortion.
Relationships between the two respective parties have stayed calm, never once colliding with each other in an aggressive manner.
“For the most part it’s been them trying to convince me of their side,” Rotcher said.
Travisano described Rotcher as a nice guy.
“I don’t have any problems with Mike, I have problems with his belief,” Travisano said.
The pro-life evangelicals usually meet on Wednesdays for the 40 minute lunch period, and Rotcher makes sure he gets out there at the same time.
“The reason we’re out here is we are trying to start a dialogue with some of the students, so they can ask us some questions. We’re not here to put them down,” Travisano said.
He very sincerely resolved that, as a whole, they very much like the students and want to do good for them.
“I’m so glad that their mothers were pro-life… I’m glad my mother was pro-life,” he said.
Occasionally horns will be honked in support, accompanied by a thumbs up, and other times in disagreement, accompanied by a rude gesture.
“You’ll see people who are appealing to both sides, but if you watch what is done to us you’ll see we are flipped off, profanity used, you don’t see pro-life people doing that to [Rotcher],” Schrieber said.
Rotcher seems to get much different treatment than do the pro-life protesters from students, as Schrieber explained.
“A lot of students have come up to me and thanked me for what I’m doing,” Rotcher said.
He also informed that the general public has reacted well to his actions.
“Women have stopped and come up and hugged me, I’ve had people bring me coffee and pastries, and twice I’ve been given bouquets of flowers,” Rotcher said.
Although the pro-life activists’ intent is not to cause tension between the students, their approach of protest on March 20 of this school year did.
On March 20, tempers ran high between pro-life activists and upper class students during their lunch break. Three protesters, including Travisano and Schreiber, held up a five-feet by seven-feet sign of a 15 week old aborted fetus. In the beginning of the lunch period, agitated conversations were sparked between students and the protesters. Toward the end of the period, the sign had been taken down and the cops were on the scene.
Abby Bennett, a senior at Mission Viejo High School, was at the scene and was one of the lead students in suggesting they take the sign down. When asked about the event, she made it very clear that she does not necessarily side with either of the parties but felt it was wrong what they were doing.
“No one had said anything up until the point where they had a sign of an aborted fetus. It was extremely graphic, standing on the corner where there are six schools in the area. So I told them ‘you guys need to take this down, there’s schools, little kids nearby,’ and they were like ‘we have every right to do so,’” Bennett said.
The students and pro-lifers exerted “verbal-aggression” with each other and thus led to cops coming to the protest area, Bennett said. The sign was stood on by some students and folded over by them as well.
“When the cops came, they were like ‘you need to get off, that’s personal property.’ Nobody got in trouble with the police, the only thing they said was that ‘you guys need to go back on campus,’” Bennett said.
When Bennett was asked about the social climate of the school as directed towards the anti-abortion protests, she said she feels like people are OK with it.
“Nobody really says anything when they have their small signs and are just praying. But, when it gets more aggressive like that and in peoples faces, they’re not as happy about it,” Bennett said.
At the end of the lunch period, the sign was taken down upon the anti-abortionists’ wills, and the sign has not been back since.
“Here’s the question I have: are you more offended by the picture or actually what the picture portrays, which is the killing of a young little baby, that’s where I’m offended,” Travisano said.
He also explained he would rather have people get offended so that they would come up and ask about abortion.
Whether pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, it seems as if each of the two parties on the corners of La Paz Road and Chrisanta Drive have not been fully understood to some extent. The evangelicals want to welcome students to explain their views on abortion, and Rotcher wants us to know there is more to abortion than we might generally know.
If Mission Viejo High School as student body can understand that these two groups are there to welcome rather than scare away, another incident like what happened on March 20 is very unlikely.