Monica Miller, PhD, Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society, has sparked conversation recently within pro-life activist circles, asking us to reevaluate which photos of abortion victims we display in their necessary role of helping end legalized abortion.
Many of Miller’s thoughts on this subject are taken from her September 2013 New Oxford Review article, available for $1.50 or by going CPL’s homepage. This post highlights some of Miller’s points with the goal to prompt discussion and new thinking on this important topic.
Be sure to take the poll at the end of this post.
1) “Graphic Images” or “Abortion Victim Photos”? (Actual Pictures of Abortion Victims)
You may or may not have noticed that I’ve taken this first recommendation of Miller’s to heart. I now always use the term “abortion victim photos” or “photos of abortion victims.” I’ve abandoned “graphic abortion photos.”
No longer should pictures of aborted babies be referred to as “graphic images.” The movement should drop that term entirely. These images should be called “abortion victim photos” (AVPs for short) because that is what they are really all about and, moreover, not all photos of abortion victims, while disturbing, are necessarily graphic in nature.
The term “abortion victim photos” is terminology that also advocates for the subject of the photos – as these are abortion victims - and not merely graphic images – words that give the instant impression that the subject matter is simply gruesome or repulsive which is not the point of the photos. Using the term AVPs aids the cause for the unborn, as the subjects of the photos are victims of injustice and the language we use should be aimed at helping others make that connection.
2) Life is Short – Use Better Abortion Photos
While every photo of an abortion victim may be a true depiction of the abortion procedure and what happened to the unborn child, this does not mean that every photo is equal in terms of its effectiveness in raising awareness of the injustice of abortion. Pro-lifers need to begin to think more critically about the kinds of abortion victim photos they choose to display. Pro-lifers often tend to think that the bloodier photos are the more effective photos. This is not necessarily true.
Whatever photos are selected, the subject of the photo, namely the abortion victim, should be easily recognized, the humanity of the unborn baby the central and immediate focus.
Thus, photos in which the blood and guts, visceral matter overwhelms, even submerges the abortion victim should be set aside in favor of photos in which the abused victim is easily recognized with whom the viewer can immediately identify – as opposed to emphasis on gruesome factors that are more likely to repel the viewer.
We really want the viewer to see the abortion victim and not just a “graphic image” of an abortion. It should be realized that all that blood featured in some abortion victim photos is not the blood of the baby – it is the blood of the mother that attends the abortion procedure. Even for this reason the visceral material in the photo should be secondary to the actual abortion victim.
The three photos below are examples of AVPs in which the subject of the photo is overwhelmed by, immersed in blood matter and uterine tissue.
While the next four photos are graphic, the aborted baby is clearly the focus of the image. Blood and other matter are secondary to the subject.
3) Not All Abortion Victim Photos are Graphic Images
This is a distinction that is not in any way sufficiently appreciated especially by those in the Pro-Life Movement who oppose the use of AVPs – and who certainly reject their public display. We need to begin to appreciate that AVPs represent a spectrum from very graphic to much less graphic images. Given that such a distinction exists, those who oppose their use have very little foundation upon which to do so.
Some images certainly and rightly demonstrate the violence of abortion in all its graphic horror – the shattered remnants of bodies torn apart. Other images however, while still obviously depicting abortion victims, are truly less graphic in nature.
Thus, perhaps we can begin to move these arguments along that 1) AVPs, whether graphic or less so, are necessary to the success of the pro-life cause, and 2) Choosing less graphic images is an option, and 3) The use of AVPs is central to the pro-life cause and thus those who use AVPs are not the fringe element of the Movement but mainstream pro-lifers.
The photos below, while disturbing, are not overtly graphic – indeed, some may not be graphic at all.
4) Responses to the most common objections to displaying AVPs
a) Children will see the AVPs
The crisis of legalized abortion that has claimed the lives of 56 million innocent human beings requires that the truth be publicly exposed. The magnitude of the injustice overrides the possibility that children will see the pictures. It simply makes no sense to forego the public exposure of a national slaughter that has sent tens of millions of children to their deaths for the sake of sparing children who might see the photos and be affected by them. There is absolutely no proof that children who see such images suffer any lasting negative effects.
b) Women who have had abortions will be disturbed by the AVPs
The primary victims of abortion are the millions of unborn children who perish under the law in a violent death, in a nation that at least tolerates, and at worst advocates, such killing. Again the enormity of the injustice requires that the public be awakened to the slaughter.
Furthermore, there simply is no one-size-fits-all response of post-abortive women to such images. In addition, we should consider how AVPs actually prevent women from getting abortions in the first place thus sparing them a life of grief and regret.
c) AVPs dishonor the abortion victims
For a pro-lifer to photograph an abortion victim and expose the injustice done to him is the highest possible respect, short of a humane burial, that can be shown to that aborted child. When a graphic image is displayed it is that child who speaks. The abortion photo is the definitive way that unwanted, discarded unborn children can prove that they lived, that their lives matter, that their all-too-brief lives can impact this world and change it.
The photos of abortion victims are the only tangible guarantee they have that their lives and even their murders were not in vain. Concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel stated: “To forget murder victims is to kill them twice.” The photos of abortion victims and their display ensure that this will not be done to them.