[Today's post by Alycia Hartley is part of our paid blogging program. Secular Pro-Life has no official position on the display of graphic images and welcomes debate on the issue.]
One of the strategies that I personally believe has divided 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.
I should confess a few things here. First of all, I have 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.
I remember one gentleman in particular who came up to me 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 “Holocaust.”
I know a little about educating people, as I am a graduate 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.
So how to educate people about what is involved in abortion, and who it involves? I can tell you about the 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.
When we are dealing with a scourge on our country that kills 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.