Pictures of aborted babies, when used with care and discretion, can be powerful pro-life tools. They can be credited with many pro-choice to pro-life conversions. On my own page, I hear from at least one person a day who has moved from a pro-choice to pro-life position after seeing such pictures. Women seeking abortion information who go to my site have changed their minds about having abortions after seeing them, too.
One need only go to The Center for Bioethical Reform’s page “minds changed” to read testimonies from such converts. CBR has acquired many pictures and videos of aborted babies and regularly shows them, both on their website and in public projects.
Here is an example of the testimonies on the CBR page:
I did support legal abortion but after seeing that video of the baby getting taken out I am against it. It is terrible! How could someone kill something so small and helpless?
Wow! I am ashamed that I was so under educated. It’s these images, though they were extremely intense, it’s these videos that should be played for any female with or without her partner who is contemplating abortion. Both male & females should watch this!!!! My outlook on life & what abortion truly is has changed drastically. Abortion is legal murder. Why aren’t more advocates out there educating our society? I wish I had known all of this 20 years ago. Thank you for the wake up call.
Of course, there is a time and place to show the photos. Care should be taken not to show them to children or women who may be vulnerable after an abortion. While pro-life people have long used such photos outside abortion clinics, former clinic workers have said that such violent photos often frighten and upset women rather than lead them to change their minds. In these cases, clinic workers like Abby Johnson have said that women are less likely to speak to pro-lifers when such pictures are shown. Yet it is undeniable that in some circumstances, they are very effective.
Of course, the pictures also make people angry. In particular, people who do not want to be confronted with the reality of abortion often respond in the manner of “kill the messenger.” A person who shows such pictures in public is not going to win any popularity contests.
From early on in the abortion debate, the pro-choice side has been aware of the power of the pictures pro-life people show. They know they can be pivotal in changing people’s minds.
A pro-choice booklet entitled “Organizing for Action” was distributed to pro-choice students shortly after abortion’s legalization. It instructed these young pro-choice activists on how to win converts to the pro-choice side. The booklet gives the following advice to those who want to speak publicly about abortion:
Another set of questions involves the opposition. Has your audience seen anti-abortion propaganda? Are you debating a Right-to-Lifer? Is the opposition bringing slides or pictures? Try to insist that they not be allowed to … Find out if your opposition is bringing audio-visuals. Try to insist that you will only speak if they do not … Explain that you are equally repulsed by the [pro-life] photos, that you are human and love children and babies as much as anyone else … The pictures they [the audience] have seen must be discredited. They have been magnified so much as to remove the facts from scientific perspective. Really, in early stages, the fetus is smaller than a fingernail, can fit into a walnut shell, and is much like menstrual flow to the naked eye. We would be repulsed by a magnified picture of an eyeball in formaldehyde also.
This quote was cited in American Life League: Pro-Life Encyclopedia Chapter 61: Methodology and Aspects of Abortion, which is still available in an HTML document from EWTN.
This was not the first and definitely has not been the last time pro-choicers have sought to minimize the damage to their cause brought on by pro-lifers showing pictures.
Whether a sonogram of a baby inside the womb, a video of an unborn baby taken by a tiny camera inserted in the womb (like the ones displayed at The Endowment for Human Development), or photos of aborted babies, visual aids help promote the pro-life cause. It is up to individual pro-lifers to exercise discernment in using these sometimes controversial but powerful tools.