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Activists with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform run a pro-life campaign with abortion-victim imagery.Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform

August 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – As pro-life activists successfully expose the public to the truth about what abortion really does to the bodies of pre-born babies developing in the womb, abortion activists often push back by making an easily disprovable claim that still manages to gain a lot of traction: That abortion victim photography is fake. 

Regardless of the fact that this claim is easy to debunk, the media often quotes abortion activists calling abortion photos fake, and passersby often insist that the photos can not be real. This insistence is indicative of the persuasive power these photos have: People realize that if the photos are real, then abortion is an indefensible injustice. 

There are multiple ways to respond to this, of course. Pro-lifers could point out that these photographs are well-documented and have been confirmed authentic by experts—the photos that the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and many other groups use are accompanied by legal affidavits signed by former abortion providers affirming their authenticity. Dr. Monica Miller of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society wrote an entire book in which she describes retrieving broken, crumpled children from trash bins outside abortion clinics. (Even the New York Times published several of Miller’s photos.)

But there is a more compelling way of proving to doubters that these photos are sadly genuine. When someone tells me that they are fake, I always ask them to recall the last sonogram or ultrasound they saw. Nearly everyone has seen a photo of some sort of a baby developing in the womb. Once they’ve visualized it, I ask them how they think that baby would look once the abortionist got through with him or her. Often, you’ll find that people are stunned when they stop to actually consider what happens during an abortion procedure. As the late pro-life atheist Christopher Hitchens once noted, “In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs.”

As I wrote in my 2017 book Seeing is Believing: Why Our Culture Must Face the Victims of Abortion, the problem in our society is that we face a cognitive dissonance when it comes to abortion. Everyone knows, instinctively if not intellectually, that the baby in the womb is a baby. Nobody congratulates anybody else on the conception of their clump of cells. Everyone celebrates the pregnancies of royalty or celebrities, and the media even drops the pretence when the existence of these pre-born children is announced. The problem is that there is a cognitive dissonance between what we instinctively or intellectually know about the baby in the womb, and what we ideologically believe about abortion. Photos of abortion victims force people to reconcile the irreconcilable ideas they have been carrying around.

Abortion victim photography is gruesome and horrible because abortion is gruesome and horrible. At six weeks, the pre-born baby’s nose, mouth, and ears are beginning to take shape. At seven weeks, the hands and feet are beginning to form. By eight weeks, the baby’s eyelids almost cover her eyes, her nerve cells and neural pathways are growing, and her fingers and toes are growing quickly. By only nine weeks, all of the baby’s essential body parts are now present, although they’ll develop and change quite a bit over the next months. At twelve weeks, when the vast majority of abortions take place, the baby’s “fingers will soon begin to open and close, his toes will curl, his eye muscles will clench, and his mouth will make sucking movements. In fact, if you prod your abdomen, your baby will squirm in response.” 

These descriptions of fetal development can be found all over the Internet, and on dozens of apps that help pregnant women track the progress of their pre-born children. But consider the descriptions you just read, and then consider the introduction of a suction aspirator, that would reduce the tiny human being to bloody slurry. Or perhaps metal forceps, when the baby is just a bit bigger. Imagine if the fetal development apps also contained information on precisely how the baby would be aborted at each particular stage. One of my colleagues often highlights the sheer tragedy of abortion by pointing out that the only human touch abortion victims ever experience is cold metal tools invading the womb to dismember and crush them. To dwell on this fact is to become heartbroken.

When people tell us that abortion photos are fake, my first thought is that I wish they were right. Nobody can look at a photo of a tiny girl or boy that has been completely destroyed without wishing that their eyes were lying to them. But our culture must face this ugly truth, because these pictures do not document a tragic past—they expose a brutal present. Thousands of pre-born babies are suctioned, crushed, and pulled apart each day. I’ve seen these tiny victims pulled out of dumpsters behind clinics with my own eyes. This is happening here, and it is happening now. The photographs are real, and the offer each person who sees them a challenge.

What will you do?

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.


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