(MINOT, N.D.) — Children attending a parade at the North Dakota State Fair received gifts this past weekend that they may not have been expecting: toy fetuses, courtesy of a local anti-abortion activist group.
Minot Right to Life, a local branch of North Dakota Right to Life, wrote on its Facebook group that it provided children at the fair with “an accurate model of a 12-week-old pre-born baby with a development card to go with it.”
“It was [given] out to show a visual that at 12 weeks, the baby is a baby. No abortion talk had to come of it with any children that picked one up. Young children just saw them as babies and that was it,” the group wrote on Facebook.
Minot Right to Life’s umbrella organization, North Dakota Right to Life, also had a booth at the fair. Devyn Nelson, executive director of the North Dakota Right to Life, told ABC News the booth was extremely popular, and that they handed out more than 800 toys before they ran out. He said he did not actively solicit people to hand out the toys, but would give them one if they stopped at the booth.
“The overwhelming majority of people that stop by are happy that we do it,” Nelson said.
But Rob Port, the editor of the conservative blog “Say Anything” — who told ABC News he is anti-abortion — attended the fair, and his 5-year-old daughter was among the children handed a toy fetus. He immediately threw it in the trash can, where it joined “a lot” of other fetus toys “littering the garbage bins,” he wrote on his blog.
“My daughter wasn’t sure what it was; she handed it to me with a weird look on her face,” he told ABC News. “I think a lot of people just thought it was weird.”
“She’s five,” he explained. “She doesn’t even know how babies are made.”
Port said this was the wrong way of spreading the anti-abortion message. He wrote a blog, “Dear Pro-Lifers: Can You Stop Being a Bunch of Weirdos?” on July 21: “Whatever group is out there trying to promote the pro-life message by handing out squish alien babies, stop. You’re doing more harm than good.”
Dina Butcher, a North Dakota resident who defines herself as a longtime pro-choice Republican, also blasted the group’s decision to distribute the toys in an op-ed in the Grand Forks Herald.
“Judging by the shaped plastic ‘fetuses’ that they threw to children watching the parade at the North Dakota State Fair,” she wrote, the anti-abortion activists “have definitely reached an all-time low in bad taste.”
Nelson said that Minot Right to Life had always handed out the toys at the parade, but this was the first year it had garnered a lot of attention.
The fetuses were handed out shortly before a federal judge temporarily blocked a North Dakota law that would have banned abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks. The legislature had passed the law earlier this year, along with multiple other states who have tightened regulations on abortion this year. Most recently, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, which garnered national attention after a dramatic filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis.
In a statement to ABC News, Samantha Gordon, director of public affairs for NARAL Pro-Choice America, wrote, “Watching the anti-choice movement attempt to engage the public by using extreme and unsettling tactics is nothing new.”
The fair began on July 19 and is running until July 27. It features activities like a ranch rodeo and a water festival in addition to performances by renowned artists like Tim McGraw and Toby Keith.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Wayne Drash and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN
Julie Wootton, Times-News