Friday, July 19, 2013

In Defense of Graphic Images

[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.  


Alden Smith said...

The images are necessary. Us telling the pro abortion ppl what abortion does to unborn doesnt work, so we use graphic images.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

An important and difficult discussion; I would agree that the imagery must be used with extraordinary caution, especially around children, and that we must also be aware always of how many women have experienced abortion and its lasting trauma and be guided by compassion as well as passion. However, the discussion of the appropriate use of graphic imagery must also include iconic images now considered courageous landmarks of photojournalism, such as the burned little girl running down the road in Viet Nam, and the widely accepted (by the liberal media) use of gruesome pictures of animal experimentation and factory farming abuses by the animal-rights advocates. Tough to see, tough to un-see; what is the right balance between "truth" and "taste" in these cases?

KB said...

To me the question is, "what gets people to reconsider their position?" I can honestly say I have never met anyone who has seen a picture of an abortion and changed their mind. If they are already pro-life, they see the picture and are saddened, maybe even strengthened in their opinion. If they are already pro-choice or somewhere on the fence, the most common reaction elicited is anger (mostly directed at the protesters), revulsion (again, directed at the protesters) or apathy ("those crazy protesters and their antics again!")
When do I get some concessions from pro-choice friends and family? When I sit down, tease out their philosophical motivations, and demonstrate how they are contradictory, or that there is a better way.
Think of it this way. I've seen slaughtered animals. Actually, I slaughter my own chickens. It is gross, it is sad and disgusting. But guess what? I still eat meat. (maybe I respect it a bit more, but the animal is still dead). All the pictures of slaughtered animals in the world are not going to get me to stop eating meat. Pictures might be good for inciting conversation where currently there is none. Before you knew about the holocaust, you didn't have an opinion on how bad it was. The pictures helped inform that opinion. However, they are not effective at changing minds.

Crystal Kupper said...

You make some really valid point. But then again, I hear what KB is saying, as well

JoAnna Wahlund said...

My husband's view on abortion was changed by graphic images. He was pro-choice but having doubts, and read online somewhere that he should see the reality of the choice he supported and see if that affected his opinion any. Once he saw them, he found he couldn't support that choice.

The difference is, he went seeking out the pictures, he didn't come upon them unaware by driving down the street or whatever.

The Nun said...

When I was 7 or 8 my mother heard discussion of abortion being advocated in public schools. She went to the local Pro-Life group and got a video of an abortion being performed and watched it with me and we cried together at the death of that nameless child. I have always been pro-life. Not because of the church, the pope, the didache, etc., (though they helped me to solidify it) but because of that video.
However, I am not in agreement of graphic images on billboards or sandwich boards or at the Marches for two reasons: it can be disturbing for small or sensitive children and for Post-abortive women, some of whom have difficulty even vacuuming with out the sound bringing back painful memories of an abortion they cannot undo.
Again however, I think it would be great for SPL to keep on hand and pass out when questioned by your "dismemberment" banner (which by the way is great. Whoever thought of it gets 2 gold stars). I think graphic images can do good if used in a one to one discussion.