Opinion

Abortion victim photography and personal guilt

When people complain about abortion victim photography, perhaps we’d do well not to focus on if they object, but rather why?
Thu Jun 26, 2014 - 10:50 am EST

Recently NewsTalk 1010 held a radio program in which the host described the theme as follows: “We’re talking about whether graphic photos of dismembered fetuses should be banned from literature delivered door-to-door—postcards—delivered door-to-door.”

Besides thinking it would have been better if the host were talking about whether dismembering fetuses should be banned from Canada, after listening to my colleague Jonathon Van Maren articulately defend our work, I was intrigued when a woman named Amanda called in.

The host began by asking, “How do you feel about this?”

It’s tempting to criticize his framing of whether an action is right or wrong by asking about feelings, but that seems to be the norm these days.  Amanda, for her part, didn’t immediately respond with her feelings, but rather with her worldview:

“I’m actually pro-life,” she began.

As a pro-life listener, I’m encouraged by Amanda’s stance.  It sounds like we have a friendly on the line.  I keep listening.  She says she’s pregnant with her fourth child.

Woot woot!  GO AMANDA!

All seems well.  The host, thinking what any reasonable person would think when a caller declares herself pro-life, asks, “So you’re sympathetic to the message the group is putting forward?” 

“No,” Amanda says.

No? 

Wait a minute.  She just said she’s pro-life.  And has four kids.  She’s not sympathetic to our message?  Perhaps the giveaway was a little something in-between her declaration of her stance and her declaration of her state in life: “It’s not an opinion I push on other people.”

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

That’s a classic line stated repeatedly in our relativistic world—that we don’t “push” our opinions on others.  But in reality, we kind-of do, don’t we? When we have laws against rape and theft, aren’t we pushing our opinions on rapists and thieves?  Isn’t that a sign of a civil society?  Isn’t the issue less about that we push and more about what we push?

I digress.  Amanda talks further, which explains more about why she objects to the public display of abortion victim photography; some listeners might conclude it’s her personal experience: Amanda shares that she lost a baby through miscarriage.  As someone who has lost a sibling that way, while I can’t understand her unique loss, I can relate to the knowing that someone is missing, and that that is a tragedy.  Amanda shares how seeing abortion victim photography triggered her miscarriage trauma: “When I saw those posters, I actually had to pull my car over and I vomited, and I was so upset the rest of the day…for people who’ve lost a child…it’s hurtful.” 

There is no denying the very real pain Amanda feels as a result of losing what she rightly calls her “baby.”  And I’ve written before about how abortion victim photography can trigger traumas; and yet, it doesn’t follow we eliminate all triggers from society.  Moreover, there is a significant difference between a child lost naturally versus a child killed purposefully.  If one grieves an unintentional loss of life, shouldn’t one, all the more, prevent intentional loss of life?  How is it that someone like my mom can experience miscarriage yet believe very different images—those of intentionally killed children—should be shown, when Amanda believes otherwise?

I believe the answer lies in what Amanda reveals next: “I’ve had friends who have had abortions and I’ve supported them.”

Amanda may not have played a role in the death of her own child, but by her own admission she has played a role in the death of someone else’s.  And our postcards remind her of that.  This explains her objection to the images.  The silent screams of her friends aborted children were never heard, but the broken bodies of children like them cry out to people who could have saved them but didn’t.  In a sense, their broken bodies haunt all of us.  They pierce our hearts louder than words ever could, and make us wonder why we were silent when we should have spoken.  Or why we drove a friend when we should have refused.

When people complain about abortion victim photography, perhaps we’d do well not to focus on if they object, but rather why?  Then, perhaps, darker parts of our past can be brought to the surface and dealt with, rather than stuffed down and rationalized.  As Dr. King once said,

“Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

I hope Amanda stayed tuned in to hear the caller immediately after her.  David came on and said, “I support the flyers.”  But more significant than that declaration was his reasoning: he explained that his mother had been an unwed teenager and “there was a group that saved my life back in the day when my mother was being pressured to have an abortion.” 

When we circulate the postcards, we’re yet another group working on behalf of the pre-born, helping abortion victims do in their deaths something they never did in their lives—tell their stories in order to save vulnerable people like David.

Reprinted with permission from CCBR.

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Activists with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform SOURCE: Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform

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