I posed this to the SFLA conference in DC on Sunday. In spite of all the evidence that pictures win hearts, change minds, and save lives, some of our pro-life friends not only won’t use them, they actively encourage others to reject their use.
Pictures work for us just as they have worked for social reformers for centuries. Horrifying images helped stop slavery, end abusive child labor, and abolish segregation.
People change their minds every time we put abortion on display. Babies are saved. New people volunteer for activism. Even hard-core pro-aborts are not immune. In her new book Unplanned, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson credited an ultrasound image of a tiny, mangled abortion victim with “shaking the foundation of [her] values and changing the course of [her] life.” Many others have told us similar stories.
They say pictures are not compassionate. Yet Dr. Alveda King said, “As a woman who has had two abortions, I am grateful that the truth is being shown, so that others can avoid this pain in the first place.” And where is the compassion in hiding the truth from a pre-abortive woman, so that she proceeds with her abortion?
They say pictures hurt children. Yet nobody thinks twice about children visiting the Holocaust Museum or seeing pictures of violence on magazine covers. Besides, if a photo of abortion hurts a child – it doesn’t, but if it did – how much more does the act of abortion hurt a child? Which is worse?
They say pictures just make people angry. Yes, they do. Dr. Martin Luther King said if you don’t create discomfort with the status quo, there is no pressure for change. Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail remains the very best defense of graphic pictures.
They say people can learn about abortion without seeing pictures. If that were true, people could learn about the Holocaust without seeing pictures of the death camps. Such pictures would not appear in history books nor at the Holocaust Museum.
And finally, they say other methods work just as well. It’s true that other methods can save babies by reducing the numbers of abortions. In this way, they are the modern-day equivalent of the Underground Railroad. But the abolitionists of the 1800s never forgot that their goal was not just to save a few, but to end the whole bloody mess.
No social reform movement has ever ended injustice by covering it up. Neither will we.