the pro-life community more than any other is the debate over the use of
graphic images. Graphic images, in the pro-life sense, are the images of
aborted babies. I have met people on all parts of the spectrum when it comes to
whether these images should be used or not. Some believe they should be used
everywhere and anywhere, others believe that they should be used but that it
depends on how and where, and others believe they should never be used. The
latter position is held not only by individuals, but by some regional and national pro-life
groups as well. Their reasons for the disapproval of
graphic images vary, but in general, they usually center on the concern that these
images turn others off to the pro-life message. Opponents of graphic images tend to believe more
so-called “compassionate” methods should be used, and we should work on hearts
rather than employ the vomit reflex.
worked with graphic images, and secondly, I hate graphic images. A few years
ago I had a flexible enough schedule to do some volunteer work locally with the
organization Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR). CBR is committed to ending
abortion by exposing what abortion is. The work I did with them was mostly done
on college campuses, where there was not a threat of children seeing the
graphic images. Most of the work I did was in what is called “choice chains,” where light, portable signs that are about four feet high are used. When we
were on campus, we didn’t just show the images, but tried to engage people in peaceful
discussion about abortion. One common comment that came up was that we were
“sick,” or that we “liked” the images. I would often comment back to people that
I hated these images, and I only worked with them so that one day there
wouldn’t be a need to show them.
during one of these visits to a college campus. He told me that he was
Christian and was pro-life, but that he absolutely did not agree with our
tactics of showing abortion imagery. Unfortunately, as soon as he said his
piece, this man quickly turned and walked away. As he did so, I asked how he
knew about the Holocaust, but received no answer from him. I know I personally cannot
hear the word “Holocaust” without seeing a vision in my own mind of the many
rail-thin, starved bodies, stacked up like garbage rather than people. I would
assume the experience is similar for many others when they hear the word
student in education. Much of what we
learn is through visuals. In fact, one instructor I recently had claimed that
90% of what we learn is through visual information. How did people learn about how blacks were being
treated in the South before the Civil Rights Movement? Was it not through
graphic images such as the photos of Emmett Till? How do we know of the fate of
women who have acid thrown on their faces in the Middle East? I have an ingrained image of a poor woman this happened to, her beautiful face burned so
badly that her nose is gone.
nightmarish procedure of abortion, but once you see the graphic image you
immediately know the truth of abortion, and it speaks much louder and clearer
than anything I could say. People need to be exposed to the injustice of abortion,
just as past injustices are exposed in high school history classrooms all over
this nation when teachers show students images of the Holocaust, or of the battered
body of Emmett Till.
thousands of preborn babies every year, we have to pull out the big guns, so
to speak. We have to use the tools available, and one of the most practical
tools is abortion imagery. Yes, people may be offended, but abortion is
offensive. They may be sickened, but abortion is sickening. They may get angry,
but abortion is something to get mad about. Maybe, just maybe, those people who
walk away after seeing what abortion
really is, will wake up to the holocaust that is happening right under
their noses, and help to do something to stop it.
Remember watching those awkward sex education videos when you were about eleven? Ever have to watch a live birth one?
The satirical online newspaper, The Onion, parodies the adolescent awkwardness of learning about sex with its article “8th-Grade Health Class Squirms Throughout Entire Screening Of ‘Miracle Of Abortion’.” Some excerpts and thoughts:
“During the video’s first 20 minutes, as the patient and various surgical tools were prepped for the procedure, the only noise reportedly made by the students was the sound of anxious fidgeting as they repositioned themselves in their seats. While many grew red in the face and giggled audibly at the first sight of the woman’s genitals, the chuckles are said to have quickly turned into gasps and groans of revulsion as the film approached its climactic scene of embryo evacuation.”
Abortion rights proponents decry the use of graphic abortion photos as disturbing and irrelevant. As they point out, photos of open heart surgery could likewise look disturbing or disgusting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean open heart surgery is immoral.
But the revulsion we feel when seeing an abortion is fundamentally different
from the squeamishness of watching an open heart surgery; it is
the revulsion of watching a death. Our reaction is not based solely on “grossness” but also on an understanding of the meaning behind the disgust. It’s like the difference between watching a surgeon break a kid’s leg in order to set it so it will grow properly and watching an abusive parent break a kid’s leg. Yeah, they’re both “gross,” but they are entirely different and appropriately elicit different responses. I expect parents would feel very differently about allowing their children to watch one situation versus the other. It’s not about being gross, it’s about being horribly violent.
On the other hand, we do provide people–including our children and teenagers–with specific descriptions, photos, and sometimes video of the reproductive/birthing process. That information can also be disturbing and disgusting to kids, but as they become old enough to be sexually active it’s important they understand how their bodies work and what can happen as a result of their actions. Or, as The Onion puts it…
“Every year, there’s a lot of uneasiness when I show this video,” Flannery said. “I recognize it’s uncomfortable for kids their age to watch, but as they start to become aware of their own sexuality, it’s important they see what actually happens to the female body during abortion.”
Again, The Onion is a satirical newspaper. Still I couldn’t help but think, as I read the above, what a sad thought it is–as if abortion is so inevitable that we need to educate children on exactly how it works. And yet, in reality, is that so far off? Abortion isn’t exactly a rare event. Depending on which organization you look to for estimates, there are between 780,000 to 1,200,000 abortions in the US every year. According to Guttmacher, by age 45 about 1 in 3 American women have had an abortion. As Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post put it:
We have indeed come a long way from Roe v. Wade. In the early days of
legal abortion, nearly everyone insisted the procedure wasn’t intended
as birth control. Millions of abortions later, original intent is
laughable. Even Bill Clinton’s call for abortion to be safe, legal and rare has a fairy tale quality by today’s standards.
(You should read her whole piece, by the way. It was excellent.)
Again, from The Onion:
In both the moments leading up to and immediately following the screening of the film, health teacher Diane Flannery, 53, is said to have reminded the unsettled students that the events depicted on screen were 100 percent real, and simply a natural part of life and sexual behavior.
I don’t know about “natural.” But “common”? Sadly, yes.
[Today’s post comes to us from The Charlatan, the student newspaper of Carleton University in Ottowa, Canada. Carleton Lifeline president Taylor Hyatt responds to an abortion supporter on campus who was “disturbed” by photos of abortion victims.]
I would like to commend Ms. Campbell for voicing her opinion, and her honesty in doing so. I will gladly admit that Lifeline’s strategy is jarring, and sympathize with the many people who are uncomfortable with our pictures. They are not easy to show, discuss, or see while one is going about their day.
However, I must ask whether using graphic imagery is in itself the same as forcing the student population to look at such imagery.
Ms. Campbell is correct when she says that people should be free to disregard our message, and that one’s own rights being exercised should not negatively impact the rights of others. In essence, my rights end where your rights begin. Yet nowhere in Canadian law is there a right not to be disturbed or offended. Anyone who is unsettled by a display on campus is always free to look away — no matter how compelling the content. Section 2 (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that we have the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”
We need to ask ourselves why Lifeline’s pictures are upsetting. They depict the decapitation, dismemberment, and disemboweling of some of the 300 humans in-utero aborted every day, as noted in 2004 by Statistics Canada. The act — whose results the pictures show — should bother us more than the signs themselves. According to CBC News, abortion has been decriminalized (legalized) in Canada since 1969, and completely unrestricted since 1988. The current state of affairs does not automatically make this procedure a right.
I agree that women should be able to control their reproductive capacities, but that control ends when a new life enters the equation at conception. The woman’s pre-born offspring also have a right not to be killed. Abortion is a sign that society fails to take care of all people — not only unborn children or their mothers. It is horrific that pre-born children, the most vulnerable of human beings, can be killed for any reason or no reason in our country. Just as appalling is the fact that their parents may feel there is no way to continue their lives without consenting to a death. It is time for society to step up and take care of these people on a large scale, though that does not excuse us from raising awareness of the issue and its gravity.
Ms. Campbell also states that if pro-choice advocates hypothetically had to force their way into an area to get their point across, it would be a church. The pro-life view transcends spirituality (or lack of it).
Instead, abortion should be examined in light of science, human rights and the definition of a human being. In fact, Section 223 (1) of Canada’s Criminal Code states that “a child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”
Surely most people who identify as pro-choice will agree with me and find something wrong with that statement. There are plenty of non-religious and even atheist pro-lifers, who acknowledge the pre-born child’s humanity and rights from conception.
Some of these people can easily be found on campus. Many pro-lifers — including myself — hold the view that our different faiths are not vital to this debate. Such things are not necessary to prove that pre-born children do, in fact, belong to the species homo sapiens and therefore deserve protection.
Above all, anyone entering the abortion debate needs to weigh two factors, and judge them based on how long they last. Which is worse — a temporary feeling of offense, or the deliberate (and of course, permanent) ending of a human life?
I’ve been an outspoken supporter of the protection of all human life for just as long as I have been a non-theist.
It’s not news that a large majority of people in the pro-life movement are Christian. And they aren’t afraid of letting you know that abortion is wrong according to the Bible. They use abortion as a stepping stone to encourage people to turn to god. This is the problem with the pro-life movement. Society and the media have become so disillusioned by the overlapping and intermingling of religion and abortion that abortion has become a religious issue instead of a human rights issue. The result: to be a Christian you must be pro-life, and to be an Atheist you must be pro-choice. Never mind this neglects all the other religions of the world; which is proof that converting others to Christianity is the biggest goal of the Christian pro-life movement.
As you can grasp, I’m not in favor of religiously charged pro-life arguments. This has been written about numerous times by fellow pro-life secularists, so I’ll save my rant for a later date.
I am writing this blog in response to a video posted by Ray Comfort last Wednesday, the 21st of September. The short film is titled “180” Movie and compares the horrors of the German Holocaust to the horrors of abortion in the U.S. using simple logic. Ray interviews dozens of young adults about their feelings towards the Holocaust, some of whom were unfazed by the loss of life. He proceeds to put the guests into hypothetical situations, forcing them to choose between their own self-comfort and the lives of helpless others. This comparison of Nazi Germany to abortion is not unprecedented, but for some of you it may be the first time you see the two side by side. Watch as he puts people into awkward situations by catching their contradicting positions.
Although I am not a fan of Ray Comfort for obvious reasons, I have to hand it to him.
He did a wonderful job arguing for the protection of unborn human lives by capitalizing on the illogical and contradicting mindset of countless people. The best part is that he did this without bringing religion into the discussion. This is proof that people can understand abortion is wrong regardless of their belief system. I hope all of Ray’s fan base can see that abortion can be argued on a moral ground, using the issue of human rights to make their case. I have my doubts though.
Like I mentioned above, Christians often times use the abortion issue to make a case for their god. Just as I was applauding Ray’s method of debate, I should have expected some plug for god. Ray spends the last ten minutes of the film explaining that people should repent because we are a “self-admitted lying, thief, blasphemer, adulterer at heart.” Weren’t we just talking about abortion a minute ago, Ray? I guess I should have known that he was going to throw in the ‘Hell Card’, but I encourage everyone to watch at least the first twenty minutes of the video. Also, be careful to note that this video is highly edited and may feature reconstructed questions and answers.
Steve Macias, the west coast coordinator of Students for Life of America (and a personal friend), was standing on public property outside a high school. He was passing out a brochure about fetal development, abortion, and how to take a stand against injustice. One of the twelve pages contained graphic images of aborted babies, while others were devoted to images of slavery and genocide; the cover stated “Warning! Disturbing photos of injustice inside.”
One of the biggest arguments against pro-lifers using graphic images is that children might see them. For younger children, I’m ambivalent, but high schoolers are unquestionably old enough to process the information and make up their own minds. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly one fifth of abortions in the United States are done on teenagers. Surely, if someone is old enough to have an abortion, she is old enough to see an abortion! It is critical to reach high schoolers with the facts about human development, before they find themselves facing unplanned pregnancies.
A school administrator stood beside Steve and his companions, threatening them with arrest and snatching brochures from the students’ hands. But this story has a happy ending:
The panic that the administrator had communicated [in her 911 call] sent a half dozen police cars speeding to the campus and toward the group of us handing out literature. Fortunately, the police understood the law and protected our right to stand for the preborn at this high school. So instead of arresting us as the administrator had desired, an officer actually came out to us and affirmed that what we were doing was perfectly fine.
A giant thumbs up to these police officers for doing their jobs!
Steve ends his account thusly:
This is just another example of how there is an intense battle for the mind and souls of children at publicly funded schools where the dominant secular culture is undermining the sanctity of human life. Students are under great pressure to conform to the schools’ radical, anti-life views on abortion, which are imposed on them by secular textbooks, administrators, and teachers.
Here, I must respectfully disagree with Steve. The secular human anatomy textbook is one of our best weapons in the fight for life. And for all we know, the school administrator was a pro-choice Catholic, and the police officers who stood up for Steve were humanists.
The abortion movement’s strategy, as outlined by NARAL co-founder Bernard Nathanson, is to paint opposition to abortion as a fringe religious issue. Let’s not help them.
The Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) is gearing up for its fall college tour. For those who don’t know, GAP is a project of the Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR). GAP volunteers display huge graphic images of various horrific human rights abuses– including abortion.
GAP is preparing to go to Liberty University this year, and CBR director Fletcher Armstrong calls this “the most important campus visit we’ve ever done.” That’s despite Liberty’s reputation as a Religious Right training ground. Armstrong explains in a recent fundraising email:
The sad fact is that 18% of all abortions are performed on women who are “born again” or “evangelical” Christians. According to the most recent data, about 15% of evangelical or born again Christian women will have at least one abortion during their childbearing years. Born again and evangelical men are just as involved.
Secular Pro-Life is quick to point out that not all pro-lifers are Christian. (Ironically enough, we’ve shared that message at Liberty University!) But we need to remember that the opposite is also true: not all Christians are pro-life. And among those who are pro-life, many are apathetic. Still others genuinely care, but are poorly educated about the best arguments against abortion in a religiously pluralistic society. GAP will help Liberty students place the right-to-life cause in its historical context, and teach them to continue the fight for social justice.
This bill was written after a 2003 pro-life picket on the public sidewalk outside of Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes. This was a peaceful pro-life picket where pro-life activists reached out to middle school students about abortion, and students were faced with the gruesome reality of abortion in the graphic images that were displayed. According to the LA Times article some students cried and others became angry after seeing these graphic images (Jerry Brown signs school safety law prompted by abortion protest). Do you blame these pre-teens for crying or being angry? When I look at the image below, I feel the same exact way.
Before I even get into the violation of First Amendment Rights . . . Here is my question to you: Is it wrong for these pre-teens to see images of children who have been aborted? The question isn’t whether or not you think it is or is not wrong. It also isn’t about how it makes you feel. I believe that these kids need to see the truth, and they shouldn’t be protected from knowing it.
These kids are aware of what abortion is along with many other horrible things that take place in this world. Believe it or not, these pre-teens are having abortions already. Some abortion clinics are intentionally located next to middle schools; so that they can provide these kids with sex education, birth control, and offer abortions. If you think these kids aren’t aware of abortion at this age, you would be heart broken to know how impacted these kids are by it. Why then are we protecting them from seeing the truth and the horrible reality if they’re already living it?
I am not going to address that this new law prevents the exposure of graphic abortion images outside of preschools and elementary schools children; but truly, I’ve never heard of pro-life activists ever standing outside either types of schools because they really believe that educating this age with aborted baby signs isn’t age appropriate. So I find it to be a non-issue, other than the fact that it violates First Amendment rights.
Lastly, as citizens of the United States of America our rights are being violated here. Whether you’re for or against activists educating about abortion on the streets, you should be against any violation of our right to free speech in the public arena. It is our right to discuss whatever, to whomever, whenever we like, and it’s a slippery slope when we’re not allowed to do so.
Do you find this new law to be constitutional?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – – – First Amendment to the United States Constitution
People happily acknowledge that graphic images can bring home the truth and save lives, as long as the context isn’t abortion! The federal government has proposed requiring cigarette manufacturers to include graphic photographs of cancer-striken people and organs on their packaging. From the Washington Post:
The proposed warnings include one containing an image of man smoking with a hole in his throat from a tracheotomy; another depicts a body with a large scar running down the chest, and another shows a man who appears to be suffering a heart attack. Others have images of diseased lungs and stained teeth and mothers blowing smoke into a baby’s face.
The parallels to pro-life images are hard to miss. Many children’s lives have been saved by images of the results of abortion. Smoking, like abortion, is a legal choice that the government seeks to dissuade in order to save lives. And, just as abortion businesses fight informed consent laws, cigarette manufacturer R.J. Reynolds is planning a lawsuit to protect its bottom line:
Meanwhile, Reynolds American Inc., parent company of the nation’s second-largest cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds, is reviewing the labeling plan. But spokesman David Howard said the legality of the new labels is part of the lawsuit filed by the company, Lorillard Inc. and others pending in federal appeals court.
The tobacco makers in the suit had argued the warnings would relegate the companies’ brands to the bottom half of the cigarette packaging, making it “difficult, if not impossible, to see.”
Ironically, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is extremely pro-abortion, supports the new cigarette labeling plan. Let’s hope that this initiative not only prevents smoking-related deaths, but also sets a favorable pro-life precedent.