Monica Miller

Why graphic images need to be displayed: from the woman who took the photos

Monica Miller
By Monica Miller
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The following is a guest blog post by Monica Migliorino Miller Ph.D., director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and author of Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars (St. Benedict Press, 2012). Monica Miller is the same photographer who took many of the photos of aborted babies being used in pro-life demonstrations.

February 4, 2013 (ProlifeAction) - On the 40th anniversary of Roe. v. Wade, Simcha Fisher posted an article at National Catholic Register online entitled “Eight Reasons Not to Use Graphic Images at the March for Life.” Simcha’s negative view of graphic images is part of a larger debate within the pro-life movement on the use of abortion victim photos, and I now offer this rebuttal.

Simcha prefaces her eight reasons by stating: “A public place is not the place to use these images — ever.” Simcha makes it clear that she does not oppose the use of graphic images in certain contexts, but she attempts to argue that they should never be used in a public forum.

Simcha contradicts her own position when she states that seeing the photos caused her to “be shaken out of a vague, fuzzy support for the pro-life cause into the realization that this is a life and death struggle — real life and real death.” If so, then why oppose the public display of the tragedy of abortion when others, too, may be shaken into the same realization? Here are Simcha’s reasons and my response to them.

Objection One: Children Will See the Photos

Simcha argues that since parents do not allow children to watch gruesome slasher movies, with fake blood and violence, children should not be exposed to real violence, and in this case the violence of abortion. Of course the display of graphic images is not deliberately aimed at children and they are not entertainment.

I would argue that the pro-life movement has an obligation to publicly reveal the injustice of abortion, to indeed — as she already acknowledged — awaken dead souls to America’s national tragedy. Even as pro-lifers we can fail to realize the crisis that legalized abortion represents — a social/moral crisis that sends 3,500 innocent people to their deaths each day with the sanction of law.

This crisis requires that the truth be publicly exposed — and the magnitude of the injustice that we face overrides the possibility that children will see the pictures. It simply makes no sense to forego the public exposure of our 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 who might be affected by them. The horrific injustice of abortion and our nation’s continued support for it requires that the photos be shown — despite the possibility of children seeing the disturbing images.

This is not to say that pro-lifers should be insensitive to this potential problem. Pro-life demonstrations and especially Face the Truth tours should post visible warning signs. Doing so goes a long way to mitigate the concern that children will be exposed to the violence of abortion.

On a more personal note, my own children as early as the age of five held graphic images in public demonstrations with me at their side. They have suffered no negative effects in any way. Rather this built up their resolve to oppose abortion.

Furthermore, I have vast personal experience with parents whose children have seen the signs and I can say that the way parents themselves respond to the images influences the response of their children. If the parents are angry and upset — so will the child be. But if the parent exhibits a sense of peace and explains to the child what happened to the unborn baby in a way that children can understand, potential trauma is much alleviated.

Nevertheless, to impose as requirements that children will never see the photos or that they will never be upset by them are simply unjustified demands in light of the need to reveal the truth about abortion in order to bring this injustice to an end.

Objection Two: The Photos Will Upset Post-Abortive Women

My response to this is similar to the response above. Yes, the movement rightly needs to be sensitive to the needs of post-abortive women, but again, the primary victims of abortion are the millions who perish under the law in a violent death, in a nation that at least tolerates such killing and at worst advocates such killing. The enormity of the injustice requires that the public be awakened to the slaughter.

No pro-lifer is forcing post-abortive women to look at the bloody remains of an aborted child. That is not the purpose of a demonstration that uses graphic images. And there simply is no one-size-fits-all response of post-abortive women to such images. It makes no sense to stop showing the photos in order to spare post-abortive women who may become upset when these very photos actually prevent women from choosing abortion and thus spare them a lifetime of torment.

On the display of graphic images, well known pro-life activist Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, stated: “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.”

Objection Three: The Photos Will Upset Mothers

I can honestly say that in 37 years of activist activity, and as a mother of three born children and the mother of three miscarried children, I have never known any mother to be affected by abortion photos in a psychologically negative manner.

This is not to say that certain mothers do not experience deep sorrow at the sight of these photos or re-live a sense of loss regarding their miscarried babies. But such a response is not negative — it is simply human, and again in no way does the arousal of such sentiments and emotions justify keeping the victims of abortion hidden from the general public for the sake of bringing an end to abortion.

Objection Four: Showing the Photos Dishonors the Child

Famous humanitarian and concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel stated: “To forget murder victims is to kill them twice.” The photos of the aborted unborn and their public exposure in no way dishonors these children. Abortion kills real people, it assaults the life of a personal someone — a personal someone that the very act of abortion meant to keep hidden forever, to blot out a life as if he or she had never lived.

When a pro-lifer photographs that victim and exposes the injustice done to that victim — short of a humane burial, this is the highest possible honor that can be given to that aborted child. When a graphic image is displayed — it is that child who speaks.

The abortion photo is the only real way we can say these particular hidden, unwanted persons lived once, that their lives matter, and through the photos we can contemplate the injustice they suffered and be aroused to do something about it!

Objection Five: Showing Graphic Images Gives Pro-Lifers a Bad Image

Simcha said that anyone who publicly displays graphic images “come[s] across as a lunatic.” She was quick to add that such a person is “not a lunatic” yet she believes that such pro-lifers “sure look that way.”

I have spent countless hours on Face the Truth Tours, planned hundreds of demonstrations with graphic images and certainly some of those who observe us think we are “lunatics.” However, there are just as many, if not indeed the majority of those who see us who understand that we are protesting an injustice — that we are making an issue out of it and who, even if they don’t agree with us, treat us with respect for taking a stand.

When Simcha believes those who display graphic images are viewed as “lunatics” I suspect that she is revealing her own personal repugnance of pro-life activism and her own fear of being misunderstood than is the actual case when it come to this type of pro-life demonstration.

Objection Six: Graphic Images Push Women Into Abortion

Simcha agrees that graphic images have saved lives — that woman intending to abort changed their minds after viewing the images. However, she argues that such photos should not be used because some women are so repelled by them that they “freaked out and rushed into the clinic.”

The problem with her whole argument here is that every baby was schedule to be killed and that none of them would be alive unless the reality of abortion was present to the abortion-bound women. In other words, through the graphic images some babies were spared abortion who would otherwise be dead! So — this is not an argument against graphic images — but an argument in their favor!

However, there is one valid point that she inadvertently makes — namely that in a sidewalk counseling situation there should be no graphic posters near the entrance to the clinic if pro-lifers have an opportunity to talk to the women. The pro-lifer needs to be able to engage the woman one-on-one — to really counsel her as a friend. The pro-lifer will have expanded the opportunity for personal engagement with the woman in this singularly most sensitive, urgent moment if the trappings of a protest are not there.

Objection Seven: Graphic Images Desensitize Pro-lifers to Abortion

As someone who has taken the broken bodies of the aborted unborn out of the trash, spent hundreds of hours up-close with these victims photographing them, and attended countless demonstrations with the posters of abortion victims, I can honestly say such exposure has not hardened me to the injustice of abortion.

I know of no committed pro-lifer who is less resolved to fight the injustice of abortion due to repeated exposure to the victims. Indeed, as I said in my book, Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars — a book that, by the way, contains eight photos of aborted babies — “Once you see the bodies with the right mind, you can never go back. They have taken you into their world.”

Objection Eight: People Will See What They Want to See

This is Simcha’s weakest argument. Basically she says that since those who support abortion will deny the authenticity of the abortion victim photos, pro-lifers should stop showing them. This is like saying, since there are those who deny that the Nazi Holocaust ever happened, the photos of concentration camp victims should cease to be displayed.

Who cares if the enemies of life deny the truth of the photos? This is no reason not to show them. The reality still needs to be exposed no matter whom or how many wish to deny the truth. Simcha’s argument here simply cannot be taken seriously.

Conclusion: Abortion Photos Are a Necessary Element of the Pro-Life Cause

There is simply no social reform movement that did not make use of images of injustice to advance its cause. This is because images of injustice speak and change hearts in a way that no speeches, political strategies, facts and statistics could ever do.

Some, like Simcha Fisher, argue that the viewing of abortion images should be infrequent and completely voluntary. However, this means that only those in our pro-death nation who are willing and motivated to check out a website, read a book with graphic images, seek out pro-life literature that contains them will ever be confronted by the reality of the abortion atrocity. And so we are talking about the very few!

If the movement relied solely on a voluntary audience, we would not educate those millions of people who need to be exposed to the tragedy of our national slaughter and have their consciences awakened. And it is painfully obvious that the movement cannot depend on the media to do this for us.

Fifty-five million people have been put to death in our national crime. The majority of the public has yet to be awakened to this atrocity. The showing of images of the victims — images that primarily communicate the humanity of the victim — are a necessary part of the pro-life effort to end the killing of the unborn.

The photos tell a terrible truth that would otherwise remain hidden — and our movement would be seriously impoverished, perhaps even crippled — without the telling of this truth.

Reprinted with permission from ProlifeAction. 

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Congressman: Give us Nucatola or we’ll subpoena

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Dr. Deborah Nucatola has become awfully shy since she became the first national Planned Parenthood figure featured in an exposé of its practice of harvesting, and allegedly profiting from the sale of, the organs of aborted children. Within hours of the video release by the Center for Medical Progress, she removed her social media accounts. 

Now, she is considering dodging a call to testify before a Congressional committee investigating whether she admitted to breaking the law during her covertly recorded cameo with actors posing as agents of a human biologics company.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee called her to address the committee by month's end. 

Roger K. Evans, Planned Parenthood's Senior Counsel for Law and Policy, responded by saying that asking her to speak to Congress "no later than July 31 ... is short notice given the number of questions raised." 

He instead offered to substitute Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley in Nucatola's place.

Faced with the possibility that Planned Parenthood would refuse to send its star witness, at least one congressman has said he will take steps to ensure the abortion provider shows up.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, responded to Evans' letter by saying that the committee has called Dr. Nucatola to the witness stand before the end of the month, and she will comply or face the consequences.  

“If they say no, we’ll subpoena her,” the pro-life Republican said. 

The committee is focused on whether the process Dr. Nucatola - the doctor seen in the first video, eating salad and sipping wine - amounts to a violation of federal felony law forbidding the sale of human organs for "valuable consideration." 

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Why selling ‘baby body parts’ has captured America’s attention (VIDEO)

By Pete Baklinski

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A key player in last week’s startling video exposé of Planned Parenthood says that it took 30 months of strategic planning from numerous pro-life organizations to give the story the hard-hitting power with which it has walloped the abortion industry over its practice of harvesting the body parts of aborted babies. 

“We are seeing the fruit of a lot of careful thought, a lot of disciplined activities, and a lot of undercover work,” Rev. Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews in an interview in Washington. 

Since breaking Tuesday of last week, the story has trended first place in social media platforms such as Facebook and has been given top priority on mega news aggregation websites such as Drudge Report. The first of now two undercover videos has been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube. 

Pavone said that this is not the first time Planned Parenthood has faced the heat for what many considered to be a barbaric practice of harvesting human organs for profit. Similar investigations in the late 1990s into the practices of Planned Parenthood found that aborted babies were being dissected alive, harvested, and sold in pieces for research. 

“Now this is fresh evidence. Now this is evidence going to the highest levels of Planned Parenthood. We know that people at the national level of Planned Parenthood are aware of and are admitting that these baby body parts are being harvested, that transactions are taking place, that money is changing hands. And so, this is catching the attention of the American public because it brings the abortion issue down from the abstract level to the concrete,” he said. 

“This is not just about viewpoints, it’s about victims. It’s not just about beliefs, it’s about bloodshed. When people see and hear terms like ‘eyes, livers, hearts’ it’s like, ‘What are we talking about here? This is ghoulish disgusting activity,’” he said. 

Pavone praised pro-life activists such as Operation Rescue president Troy Newman and Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher for helping the exposé along, giving “strategic input, guidance, and advice.” Pavone highlighted the hard work of lead investigator David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for going undercover to film meetings with high profile Planned Parenthood employees and attending numerous Planned Parenthood conferences.

Pavone believes the story has received so much traction in social media outlets like Facebook because it gives people a platform to express outrage over the injustice of abortion in response to mainstream media’s unwritten rule of silence and apathy on abortion. 

Traditional media outlets are “in the pocket” of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, he said, adding that they “don’t want to say a bad word about Planned Parenthood.”

“Social media has become the engine for those who feel so frustrated that things we have known for years that the abortion industry is doing, and yet we can’t seem to get the word out, now these people are taking this and running with it. And I think you’re seeing years and even decades of frustration being channeled in productive ways to say, ‘We’ve got to shout this from the rooftops.’ And social media is the perfect rooftop,” he said. 

When asked what the undercover videos released so far reveal about the abortion industry and the people who work in it, Pavone responded: 

When an abortionist dehumanizes the baby that he or she is about to kill, the abortionist also dehumanizes himself. And this is what we are seeing in these people. We see it in Deborah Nucatola sipping the wine and eating the salad and talking about the body parts. We see it in the newest video [about] Dr. Mary Gatter. We saw it in [jailed abortionist] Gosnell.

What’s wrong with [these people]? There are two things wrong. Number one, these people are dehumanized. They are deeply damaged by the abortions they perform. Because when you perform your first abortion, a voice of protest rises up within you saying, ‘No. Stop. You can’t do this.’ But then if you ignore that voice, and go ahead and do that abortion, then the next time you have to explain to yourself, and to everybody else, why you ignored that voice. And so, the voice of protest gets buried under layer, and layer, and layer of excuses and rationalizations. And in doing that, you are becoming disconnected from your own conscience.

How can these people talk about this with apparent peace on their face? It’s because they are disconnected from themselves, from their own conscience.

Pavone said that new undercover videos to be released in the coming days will continue to shed light on the gruesome practices happening at Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the nation. 

“We want to defund Planned Parenthood and get them to stop what they are doing. This is a very concrete way of doing that. We want to end Planned Parenthood because they are the largest abortion business in the world, and we want that to stop,” he said. 

Already a Congressional investigation is underway, but so far, Planned Parenthood is refusing to cooperate with the demands of the Committee investigating. 

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The Planned Parenthood scandal shows the power of exposing abortion’s grotesqueness

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By Jonathon van Maren

July 23, 2015 (UnmaskingChoice) -- If there’s one thing that confuses me about how many pro-lifers decide on strategies to change hearts and minds on abortion, it’s the fact that they seem to believe that we have to approach the most controversial issue there is without controversy—that somehow, we have to take an issue that people have incredibly strong feelings about and ensure that none of those feelings surface during a discussion.

As our postcard campaign nears our record-breaking mark of one million postcards delivered to one million homes, reactions have been widely varied—we have phone calls from people “horrified” by the postcard, who don’t seem to realize that the action depicted is much more horrifying. We have people who demand to know what they are supposed to say if their children see the picture of “the dead baby”—who don’t seem to realize that with their own words, they have admitted that we live in a country where dead babies are tossed in garbage cans behind government-funded clinics. We also have people who call us to thank us for the information, and express anger that such barbarism could be happening in Canada. We have people who phone to tell us that the postcard has changed their vote, and the votes of their neighbors. And we have people like the old man who wanted to shake my hand because he was encouraged to see that “some people cared about things.”

Huge numbers of Canadians have no idea that abortion decapitates, dismembers, and disembowels a pre-born human being. Huge numbers of Canadians are being exposed to that tragic and horrifying fact.

By the polling numbers, we see many people influenced against abortion—even if they don’t like us, the image stays with them, and they like abortion even less. Even if only ten percent of people were influenced against abortion because of postcards depicting abortion imagery, I would point out that that is still a far bigger number than any other pro-life strategy even claims to impact. For the first time, statistically significant portions of the population are being exposed to the reality of abortion—and they are reacting to that reality.

Pro-lifers are often tempted to run scared because they believe what the pro-abortion movement says about our best evidence—that it will “turn people” off. It will, of course. In the words of one abortion activist: “Your pictures turn people off of abortion.” If people get angry with us, but are still influenced against abortion, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. That being said, people only focus on the angry commenters that they see—a handful of social media posts, and the same tired news story from each and every single media outlet. I’m not sure if most journalists are unimaginative or just lazy, but most seem unwilling or incapable of even visiting a few websites and trying to find out what the rationale behind the strategy is. Most of them, I suspect, have pre-written stories and just call around to get the quotes they want. We know, for example, that reporters have specifically ignored people who have received the postcard and offered to comment positively—that is not, they openly say, the story they are looking for.

The abortion movement, on the other hand, can’t decide whether the imagery we use is extremely effective, or very ineffective. Canadian abortion blogger “Fern Hill” is usually babbling the talking points about how what we’re doing is so counter-productive, and that we’re obsessed with “gore porn,” and then calling us a bunch of names. (If pro-abortion groups really did believe that what we were doing strengthened support for abortion so much, I suspect that they’d be a lot less angry about what we’re doing—after all, we’re just doing their job!) But a couple of days ago, after responding to pictures of the dozens of lovely young women on our staff by snapping that they were all one unplanned pregnancy away from being pro-choice (such a depressing world these people live in), she tweeted an article at me that I found interesting.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

It was a piece on David Daleidan of the Center for Medical Progress, the man behind the recent exposes of Planned Parenthood. He’s captured video of Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing not only the abortion procedure, but also how to best pillage the corpses of these dead children in order to sell their body parts for profit. The videos have horrified people across North America, and reaction has been swift. Amanda Marcotte, a pro-abortion blogger who often writes for Slate, has responded to the new scandal in an article called “Grossing people out can have short-term impact, but does it matter in the long-term?” She quotes Michelle Goldberg over at The Nation:

Further, it’s a way for the anti-abortion movement to focus the abortion debate on the graphic details of rare, late-term procedures, about which there is less public consensus than there is about early abortion. It serves the same purpose as the ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” and as blown-up pictures of bloody fetuses. It induces disgust, a very politically potent emotion, since most people associate things that are gross with things that are immoral. In his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt describes how researchers asked students at Cornell University to fill out surveys about their political attitudes while standing either near or far from hand sanitizer. Those standing closer to it became temporarily more conservative. If something that minor can affect people’s politics, then a video like this one is sure to have a visceral impact.

Amanda Marcotte goes on to say that while abortion imagery and exposes are very potent, that the impact of them is not long-lasting. Why? Because, she writes with hilarious immaturity, most things in life are gross—sex, going to the bathroom, surgery—and we all get over those things, don’t we? So surely abortion pictures will also be forgotten.

She’s forgetting something—abortion pictures aren’t powerful because they’re “gross.” Abortion pictures are powerful because they show the results of abortion—a dead, butchered human being. The power in the imagery is that people recognize that, and something in them responds to this injustice. It’s why even the people angry with our postcards have responded to the media by talking about the postcards depicting the “dead babies” or the “slain babies” or the “torn-up babies.” No-one thinks that what they’re looking at is a removed appendix. No one thinks that what they’re looking at is bodily waste. Everyone knows, almost immediately, that what they’re looking at is a dead human.

That is why the impact of abortion pictures doesn’t just disappear. One more piece of evidence? Almost everyone I know in the pro-life movement was convicted to join the pro-life fight because they saw a picture or a video of abortion, including myself. As Marcotte herself pointed out, that was what convicted David Daleidan as well. We now have over forty young people on our staff, all convicted by seeing what abortion does to babies and what they can do about it.

The movement is just getting started.

Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

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