Why the graphic abortion procedure pictures?

We recently took our campus outreach project to the University of Tennessee.  We got an e-mail from a student who did not like our display  I wanted to share with you her question, along with my answer.  Even though this student did not request anonymity, I’ve changed her name because I have no interest in embarrassing anybody, especially one whose objections appear to be thoughtful and sincerely expressed.

E-mail from Female UT Student

To Whom it May Concern:

I appreciate your willingness to promote Pro-Life opinions and realistic images to capture the attention of college students.  However, today, I saw images that were very disturbing to myself and – I’m certain – others around me.  I saw pictures of dead, bloody fetuses.  Now, I am very much pro-life.  However, I think it was very, very unnecessary to have those images shown publicly, largely, and openly.  I realize that the point of the images proves how wrong abortion is on many different levels, but I still think it was wrong to display them and I did not appreciate viewing them as I walked to class.  There are a few reasons why I don’t agree with having these pictures openly displayed in public, and I will list them here.

First of all, I think it is a violation of both the mother and child’s rights to have a child’s pictures displayed so openly.  I don’t think, in any circumstances, should pictures of that nature be displayed that present something so personal to someone else.  I think it is mainly a major violation of the rights of the unborn child to present such graphic, awful pictures to a college campus.

I also do not agree with the displaying of these images due to the emotional nature of some of the students on the campus.  Regardless of your political or moral views, I don’t think you should display something so graphic that could bring back traumatic memories for few, or many, of the students on our campus.  I’m sure many students on the campus have had abortions; regardless of your views, abortion does happen and should not be taken so lightly as to display bloody fetuses largely for everyone to see.  Many women and adolescents are emotionally traumatized or have been psychologically distressed due to abortion.  Maybe they are in constant regret of their decision to abort their unborn fetus. Maybe they previously supported abortion and no longer do, so they wish they hadn’t killed an innocent child.  Maybe it haunts them every day to know that their child was killed by them.  Maybe there are young men on our campus whose girlfriends or wives have had abortions that they did not approve of.  Maybe there are young men on our campus whose girlfriends are emotionally traumatized by the previous abortion(s) that they have had.  These men and women may have a change of heart, mind, or soul, and I do not think it is appropriate to throw them into a guilt trip after they have undergone such an awful experience.  I do not think it is appropriate to force them to dwell on the past.

So, next time, I ask if you would kindly reconsider the displaying of these images on our campus – or anywhere else for that matter – for everyone to see.  These images should not be taken lightly and should not be blown up for an entire college campus to dwell on, laugh at, shudder at, or dismiss.  Abortion is an issue that definitely needs attention in our society, but putting bloody fetus pictures up on our campus is not the way to do so.

Jane Doe
Student at the University of Tennessee

My Response

Dear Jane,

Thank you for your letter and for allowing me the opportunity to address your concerns. The best way I know how to do this is just to address your points, one by one.

Let me start out by agreeing with you on one key point.  Nobody should be forced to dwell on the past.  We must remind every post-abortive woman (and every man, too, because his guilt is often greater than hers) that God is just as eager to forgive the sin of abortion as he is any other sin. Nobody should be forced to dwell on the past. That is why we support programs in Knoxville like Restoring Hearts (www.restoringhearts.org).  God’s Word tells us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)”  I can tell from your letter (and your persistence) that you know people personally who are struggling with past abortions.  Love those people.  Intervene on their behalf.  Encourage them to take the first step toward healing by visiting the caring people at the Hope Resource Center and taking advantage of their Restoring Hearts program (www.restoringhearts.org).  Your persistence will be rewarded.

You said that you are pro-life.  That’s great, but you didn’t say why.  Is it because abortion is the destruction of a human being?  Or is it something else?  Because if you agree with us that abortion destroys a human being, then that means abortion destroys 1.2 million people in our country every year.  Many people have abortions because they have been lied to all of their lives.  The government lies to them.  The abortion industry, including Planned Parenthood, lies to them.  They tell her (and everyone around her) that it’s only a blob of tissue.  They say abortion is just removing some cells.  The so-called “pro-life” church lets them get by with lying because it is too fearful to show the truth, even to its own membership.  It’s a coverup of gigantic proportions.  The only way to pierce through the layers and layers of ignorance and denial is to simply show people the truth, but very few of us are willing to do it.

You said that the images were very disturbing. That is true. They are disturbing to you and others because you have a functioning conscience. Pictures of injustice are irrelevant to people who don’t have a conscience.

You say that abortion pictures are unnecessary. But to make that claim, you have to ignore 150 years of successful social reform movements. Reformers have routinely used two kinds of images in their struggles against injustice: (1) images that helped people relate to the humanity of the victims and (2) images that helped people understand the horror of the crimes. Without seeing images, people just didn’t get it.

The abolitionists in England used images to help people see the horror of slavery. One such image was a diagram of the slave ship Brookes. Thomas Clarkson, a leader in the movement, said that the Brookes diagram “seemed to make an instantaneous impression of horror upon all who saw it.” Historian Adam Hochschild, writing about this era, said “iconic images have power because they allow us to see what previously we could barely imagine.” And who can forget the powerful scene in the movie Amazing Grace in which William Wilberforce used the Madagascar slave ship to illustrate the horror of slavery to members of Parliament (www.amazinggracemovie.com/video_downloads.php).

Around the turn of the century (1900s), photographer Lewis Hine took pictures of children working in coal mines and textile mills and put them on display. His photos helped end abusive child labor practices.

Dr. Martin Luther King used horrifying imagery to educate the public and confront Americans with the truth about racism. Dr. King’s niece (Dr. Alveda King) wrote, “My uncle knew that the ugly reality of segregation had to be seen visually by the American public. He therefore organized events at which the eyes of the media could broadcast the way our people were treated when water hoses and dogs were unleashed on their peaceful marches. People responded to those images, not simply to abstract concepts of ‘segregation’ and ‘equality.’”

So, if you want to say that the images of injustice are unnecessary to ending injustice, your argument isn’t with us; your argument is with Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, Lewis Hine, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Later in his life, Lewis Hine wrote in his memoirs that people would sometimes look at his pictures of child labor abuses and become more angry at him for showing the pictures than at the industrial bosses for creating the abusive conditions that these children were forced to endure.  Your anger at us for showing pictures led you to write e-mails and letters to us, but have you ever been angry enough at the abortion industry to do anything to stop their deadly work?

With regard to violating the rights of mother and child, I can assure you this is not the case. These images of abortion that you saw were lawfully obtained from abortion clinics. If you go to the Holocaust museum, or if you open up any book about the Holocaust, you will see stacks and stacks of dead Jews and other victims of the Nazi death machine. I am not aware of any serious assertion that these photographs should not be shown because the victims didn’t give consent, or that the Holocaust Museum should be closed, or that history books should be removed from the shelves because the pictures they show violate the rights of the dead victims. To the contrary, I would argue that victims of injustice always want their plight to be known.

I find it curious that you would be so concerned about the rights of a dead baby not to have his picture printed on a sign, but not visibly concerned about this child’s right not to be killed in the first place. I think killing a baby is worse than showing a photo of a dead baby.

You say that abortion is traumatic, psychologically distressing, an awful experience, induces constant regret, etc. (your words). You are right to be concerned about the post-abortive woman who needs healing from past abortion(s). But what about the pre-abortive woman? Should we not have compassion for her as well? She is the one who will have an abortion next week, next month, or next year, unless somebody intervenes on behalf of her baby and herself. Shouldn’t we show her the truth so that she can avoid all of this pain in the first place? Who else is showing her the truth about who the baby is and what abortion does? The abortion industry? The education system? The so-called “pro-life” church? At CBR, we are doing everything we can to help her avoid the trauma, distress, and guilt (your words) that follow abortion.  Dr. Alveda King wrote, “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.”

Of course, we must all care for the needs of the woman who has already had an abortion. Many such women have told me that seeing photos of abortion were an important part of the healing process.  Encourage your post-abortive friends to take the first step toward healing by visiting the caring people at the Hope Resource Center and taking advantage of their Restoring Hearts program (www.restoringhearts.org).  (NOTE: I’m pretty sure that women who participate in Restoring Hearts will NOT be shown graphic abortion images.)

You say we take abortion lightly when we display the truth of abortion for all to see. To the contrary, we take abortion lightly when we sweep it under the rug and allow the cycle of violence against babies and moms to continue unabated.

Thank you again for your e-mails and letters.  I hope I have adequately addressed your concerns.  Perhaps you don’t agree with us on every point, but hopefully I have given you food for thought.  Please feel free to reply with your comments and questions.

C. Fletcher Armstrong, PhD
Director, Southeast Region
Center for Bio-Ethical Reform

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2 Responses to “Why the graphic abortion procedure pictures?”

  1. August 22nd, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Aidan Bailey says:

    we should ban all forms of abortion because it is not right to kill an unborn child*-;

  2. September 5th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Finton Wade says:

    It is strange that people are defending abortionists and women who had abortions. Pictures of aborted child are showing the results but it does not shown how they suffered, how they cried! Is is a pity to see that they are willing to cry out loud about the pain of mothers who chose diberetely to put their child to death.But what about the unborned child’s pain when he is slowly put to death? If that young student; Jane, do not agree to show these pictures of death, will she write a letter to every TV channel who shows death on their screen every day? Violence is everywhere on Tv in movies and in video games! Abortion insdustry is a very violent industry! It must be stopped! But everyone trives and cheers when they see violence sitting tight with their friends as they watch a violent american film! So why can we not show aborted children to young people who can have abortions?

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