Unintentional Fetal Depersonalization

To tell the truth poorly is to make a mockery of it, even if you’re right. - Sam Rocha

It is a self-proclaimed aim of the pro-life movement that the world recognize the unborn child as an unique life and a particular personality — and subsequently not kill him. Simple request, really, this not-killing-people business. Those supporting the conservation of abortion have yet to articulate a successful evasion of our ethical demand, though from what I understand, they’re working on it.

But Kierkegaard says “just as important as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth,” and it is precisely this transposition into untruth that I fear the pro-life movement guilty of. I fear — and perhaps I am wrong, but it is an honest fear —  that we are depersonalizing the fetus in our efforts to personalize the fetus.

Consider a point most will agree on, so as to warm our noses for the coming controversy: The graphic display of aborted fetuses as a proclamation of the evils of abortion. The pros and cons of these displays have been debated to the point of no one caring. It drives home the reality of abortion, it gives pro-lifers a bad name, it shocks people out of their complacency, it numbs people to the truth of abortion, it looks fanatical, it tells people the truth, it’s scary for children, children should be scared, and so on and thus forth, in a debate largely centered around the possible consequences of these graphic displays.

But if we let consequences be consequences, that is, that which follows, (from consequentem, the present participle of consequi “to follow after”) we will have our faces pressed against that which does not follow, but is, instead, the thing itself. And I can’t help but see the thing itself, the very whatness of the graphic display of aborted fetuses, as depersonalization.

The aborted fetus, his or her limbs separated from the body, is not a testament against the evil of abortion. The fetus is a person, and thus the “choice” signs display the mutilated body of a particular person, a he or a she and even more so an I – a human existence of infinite value. Is this not our claim? Is this not the very motivation for holding the signs in the first place, that the fetus is a unique human life, and more than that, a particular person? But to make of him a sign is to reduce him to an argument. There is no semblance of respect for the personality of the slain on these signs, for we have reduced the person to a symbol, and this symbol is “the outrage of abortion.” But a person is not a symbol. A person is not an argument.

Surely, the first question that should spring from a picture of a dead person is – who is it? This question is appropriate, for the person is not a merely a thing identified in the question “what is it?” as rocks, trees and death-rays are identified. The person is a mystery we relate to by asking who, by asking who that person is beyond every other thing and every other person in existence.

You, for instance, are Daniel. You are not a Daniel like a tree is a tree. You are a self-relating existence, a you, referable to as such. Daniel.

But notice our language. Shudder at the semantics. How do we refer to these signs? How have I been referring to them in this post? They are pictures of aborted fetuses. The question regarding the identity of the person is answered by a what. That is an aborted fetus, as a tree is a tree.

I am not arguing that it is wrong to speak of the person as an object identified by a what. This, after all, is the nature of language. I am arguing that it is wrong, and awfully so, if our manner of speaking becomes our manner of relating, if we are holding “aborted fetuses” above our heads and not particular persons, identified by a who. And I fear it has become our manner of relating. For imagine the absurdity that would follow from recognizing, not in the haze and the abstract of ideological conviction, but in a real relation to the truth, that a fetus is a person as we are persons.

Would we not ask the mother of that person for permission to display the dead body of her daughter on our sign, as we ought for any other person? (But the mother had her daughter killed, an imaginary defendant might respond. But have we considered the possibility that the mother has been reconciled to God and man and now exists in a relationship of tragedy and love with her deceased child, with her child as a particular you identifiable by the question who? What I am trying to ask is whether “the aborted fetus” has a name, but more than that, whether we even considered the possibility of a name, a possible who-ness!) And if not the mother, did we ask the grandmother? The brother? These are only absurd questions to consider when plastering a dead body of a person on our signs if we are already involved in an act of unintentional depersonalization, by which what would be due to any other murdered person is not due to the aborted person.

If, however, you think that such decencies are not due to the human person, and that anyone who is killed by injustice immediately consents to having his dead body used as a testament against that injustice, then please, hear me now, in the authoritative gong of words decided upon and written down: No matter how I die, do not reduce my person to unidentified testament against injustice. The corpse is not a logo. The body of the human person is not a brand name through which we recognize that inglorious company — “the atrocity of abortion.”

“It is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth.” What good is it if we convince a few people, if we convince millions of people, that abortion is affront to all that is good and wholesome and beautiful in this world, if the very mode by which they accept this truth is through the depersonalization of the fetus.

But the vast majority of people claiming the title “pro-life” agree to these sentiments, even if only by a felt and innate repulsion to the use of such graphic signs. So here I’d like to make myself a larger offense, for this same depersonalization exists in the cute as in the horrifying, and nobody talks about it.

Consider a few of the more generally adorable pro-life signs: A picture of a baby that reads “Please let me live.” An ultrasound of a fetus that says “I have a right to life.” I understand the sentiment. We propose to give a voice to the voiceless, to articulate the goodness of life over the skull-collapsing badness of abortion, and I hold nothing against those who see such signs as adequate expressions of this noble sentiment.

But what are we doing? What is the mode by which we convey the truth that the life of the fetus should not be snuffed at our will?

Quite simply, we are captioning a fetus. Now, to caption a fetus with a pro-life declaration is the establishment of a fiction — that a fetus could ever declare such a thing, or any thing at all. I have no illusions of some unspeakable ignorance on the part of those who make these signs, that they really think that the fetus is somehow voicing/thinking that “I have a right to life.” Rather I think we are involved, once again, in unintentional acts of depersonalization.

We are creating of the fetus an object over which we have power. We are rendering a particular person into an whiteboard on which to marker in our cause.

We are offended when the pro-choice sign reads “My baby is pro-choice,” but have we any real right, given that we have just put a rational declaration in the mouth of baby who cannot speak? Have we not, the both of us, taken a human person and made him or her an object to which we apply our ideological, religious or political views? Have we forgotten that the fetus we take pictures of and caption with “What about my right to choose?” is a person, a particular person, one who will grow and encounter the reality of abortion and make an intellectual, moral and spiritual choice in regards to it? Once again, the who is trans-mutated into the what, the particular person replaced with the idea of baby, a baby that would of course agree with our claims regarding abortion. We are using a particular person to achieve an end, and I can’t help but believe that the only reason we can stomach using people as a means to an end is because — on some level — we ourselves are denying the person of the fetus.

By fictionalizing the fetus, we contribute to the very evil we are fighting against — his or her depersonalization. We should not be surprised when our pro-choice brothers and sisters have their “fetus” asking, “Would you care about my rights if I was gay?” Giving a voice to the voiceless should not mean making a caricature out of the voiceless, making of the person a mere symbol. For even though what we are saying is true, even though the fetus does have a right to not be killed at the will of others, the mode by which we express this truth matters.

There’s much more to be said here. Until next time.

  • Chris West

    Ok…so now what? I agree with everything that is in this article, that we are in some ways dehumanizing those who we are trying to humanize.

    But, What is the answer? Now that we have the problem articulated, how do we respond to the problem? What is the solution?

    • authentic_choice

      1) Many thoughtfully presented nonprofit posters, ads or campaigns, e.g., about car crashes, domestic violence, etc., will use the more subtle black-and-white photography vs bloody color or literal pictures more appropriate for clinical not public environments. But a b&w photo with the face shaded or blurred can work if done with care.



      2) Line drawings, fetal development models, ultrasounds, testimonies, etc. can educate without the blood, since blood is naturally aversive to most non-medically trained people, especially when unexpected.

      3) A positive but not too Pollyanna approach can also work. GE’s ultrasound TV ad set to the music “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was a subtle but powerful pro-life message.

      4) There are many important but often nuanced factors to mass-media messaging. 

Media training, research or classes for groups and leaders might help. The guidelines for making a rally sign, e.g., are very different from other types of media.



      Sometimes it’s best to consult professionals already experienced in the many nuances of multimedia or mass-media communications. (In today’s digital often “viral” world, ALL media is “mass media” and should be used with great discretion.) 



      5) Bottom-line, though: ANY communications – written, spoken, photos, personal or “mass media” – especially when it’s also a Christian witness – should respect the dignity of those portrayed in words or image; should not exploit (even those willing to be exploited); should genuinely respect one’s audience – even opposition – and avoid detractive or potentially detractive or dehumanizing portrayals of any individual. Also remembering faith principles such as Respect for the Dead, or the Dignity of the Human Body.

      Such principles apply not only for the unborn babies, but also for the millions of women, men and family victims of abortion, too.



      6) Ultimately, though, actions speak far louder than clever words or pictures — all those pro-lifers in the trenches helping families facing challenging pregnancies or sharing educational ultrasounds and fetal development photos; or helping women and families fend off unwanted, coerced or forced abortions in America; or showing compassion for the girls, boys, fathers and families at risk, the mothers maimed or killed; PLUS prayers, fasting and up-close love for them all … all these “boots on the ground” works of mercy and charity can open more eyes, hearts, minds and souls via God’s grace than the most clever or shocking images. 

- TheUnChoice.com

  • LibbyBarnes

    We ARE related!!

  • Joshua Mercer

    You say you object to the use of a baby with a caption as if she spoke those specific words. But you did not mention if you have a problem with photos of babies along our words, like “Pro-life” which would simply emphasize the child’s humanity while not ascribing her our words. Do you object to that as well?

  • Brenda from Flatbush

    I’m a speaker for Feminists for Life and a long-time pro-life advocate, and I stand up and applaud this masterful analysis of what has bothered me only on an inchoate level for a long time–both the Fallacy of the Corpse and the Fallacy of the Cute. As a journalist, I’ve tried to fit “those pictures” (the awful ones) into the larger context of potentially depersonalizing images-as-symbols: the little napalmed girl in the road, the piles of bodies in the Nazis’ camps, lynching victims swinging from trees; these were all seen as historic testaments, however possibly numbing, to atrocities, as vital truth-telling in the quest for justice. Yet I am repelled by the pro-life use of these shock photos, mostly because I do not see it winning hearts or minds. You have articulated a profound theory of why this may be so, and have done the near-impossible: advanced the argument.

  • Daniel Collins

    Ok, my name is Daniel, making this the creepiest post of yours I have ever read. But, other than the incredibly creepy twilight zone moment, the point made is excellent.

  • Maidrin Rua

    I’m sorry, but this article has the air of “how many angels dance on the head of a pin” about it. If we take away the use of imagery (either negative or positive), especially in this world of people with the attention span of gnats, what else do we have?

    • Montague

      Ah, but it is very important as to how many angels may dance on the head o a pin – for example, the example shows that angels are intelligences and not bodies.
      So Marc is making a very important point. It will be like murder and cannibalism if we dehumanize the babes we ought to protect – in no good conscience could we do that.

      To split hairs, Marc does not advocate the banning of images and the burning of effigies, only that we must use humane images, that is, Humans; rather than objectified things. This can only lead to more vivid examples, more frightening images.

      TL,DR? Well, to be frankly useless, I’ll finish by saying that you should wait, since Marc will probably provide an alternative.

    • Sven2547

      If we take away the use of imagery (either negative or positive), especially in this world of people with the attention span of gnats, what else do we have?

      In the absence of shock images, might I suggest reasoned discourse?

      • JoFro

        You can’t have reasoned discourse when your opponent refuses to even recognize the humanity of the aborted fetus!

        • BradyR

          I don’t understand what you are saying here. If you know they don’t recognize the humanity of a fetus then what are you trying to achieve by waiving around a shock picture? Do you think they don’t know what a fetus looks like?

      • Christy000

        You (pro-choicers) need to engage in reasoned discourse too. It’s not just pro-lifers doing dumb things.

        • Christy000

          So apparently there’s pro-choice people that don’t think they should have to engage in reasoned discourse. At least one of them, if the down vote is any indication.

          Anyway, it’s funny how on these discussions people just down vote something somebody says because it comes from somebody they disagree with.

          • Linebyline

            I’m not a member of the combox community here, so maybe I’m not recognizing Sven2547 from previous conversations where his stance on abortion was made clear. But I see nothing in his comment indicating a pro-choice slant. Someone clamoring for “reasoned discourse” ought not to jump to conclusions about anonymous downvotes.

            Indeed, isn’t that one of the problems with the worst pro-choice (or pro-gay, or pro-anything else opposed to Christian teaching) rhetoric: You did ____, therefore your motivation must be ____! You don’t support abortion, therefore you must hate women! You downvoted my comment, therefore you must be both pro-choice and unreasonable! A bald assertion in support of an implied ad hominem attack does not a reasoned argument make. (And yeah, it’s true of the worst pro-life rhetoric, too: You had an abortion, therefore you must hate babies! Anyone can play this game.)

            It’s common knowledge that pro-choicers use shock images to bypass reason as well. Bloody coat hanger, anyone? If Sven 2547 is consistent (and I have no evidence on which to assume otherwise) he surely would argue that in *both* cases, reasoned discourse is preferable to shock images. It’s a general principle that applies equally well to both sides.

          • Linebyline

            Aaaaaaand look who just realized how old this comment thread was.

            I don’t know what the ettiquette for necro-posting is ’round these parts (I know the threshhold for “too old” varies from community to community), but, um… Sorry.

          • Christy000

            Maybe I jumped the gun, but after reading these disqus comments for awhile, and debates, that’s how it seems. I got down voted another time for posting a comment telling somebody that a link wasn’t working, and have seen people in comment sections down vote a comment because the person who made it was somebody whose position they disagreed with, even though the comment itself wasn’t one that said anything that a person would normally disagree with. I also noticed that there are a lot of people who are pro-choice coming to this comment section making comments. That is why I presumed that it was a pro-choice person.

            Judging from Sven’s previous posts on other sites, he is pro-choice. Whenever there are talks like these, a person always assumes that it’s the other side that doesn’t have a reasonable point of view, of course, and sees the people on the other side as not being able to discuss things reasonably while overlooking the dumb things their side has done. I assumed that that’s what he was assuming. Yes I know what they say about assuming. If I was wrong I apologize.

          • Linebyline

            Well, people using downvotes to indicate disagreement is common, unfortunately. “Vote down” becomes almost the online version of “shout down.” And I admit I jumped the gun a bit in criticizing you, since it’s not like your guess was groundless.

            Unfortunately, abandoning reason is one of easiest things to do on the Internet (along with getting spam and accidentally finding porn). We’re all better than that, yet we all do it sometimes. (Well, maybe there are some people who manage not to. I’m not one of them.)

            Which goes back to your initial point: It’s not just pro-lifers doing dumb things.

      • authentic_choice

        Reasoned discourse is good. Photos – especially ultrasound – that show the humanity of the unborn child plus evidence that shows abortion’s inhumanity to women are good. See Vince Rue study re: over half of abortions involve coercion; plus Forced Abortion in America Report; plus 65% PTSD; plus maternal death rate studies. -TheUnChoice.com

  • UIOGD

    I think the author of this article needs to get out a little more and see that in places like Poland using graphic images of abortion changed the opinion of many to the point of changing the country’s abortion law. I think that you are spending far to much time reflecting on the philosophy of the profile tactics but actually not much time doing activism. Would this be all right? The images helped me and many others to see the reality of abortion as it is – no more lies from the pro-choicers can make me think abortion is good or even a necessary evil.

    • Montague

      The effectiveness of an action is not necessarily a justification of it. Even evil can be used for good (felix peccatum Adae) “and yet remain evil” as Tolkien puts it.

      I am supposing from what I have read that Marc is not a person who merely speaks without acting. Neither does he question the motives of or the souls turned to reason by this method. So I do not think he is imprudent when he takes the time to think things over. As Chesterton wrote:

      “Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something,
      let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to
      pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages,
      is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner
      of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren,
      the value of Light. If Light be in itself good–” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss
      in the dark.”

      I think, like Chesterton, Marc’s point is that it is best to reason first, so that we do not trample on our own -very- good purposes.

    • Daniel

      Poor philosophy is brain toxin and has bad unintended consequences. When a pre-born child has a leg pulled off and twitches, the little rational being certainly is making a declaration (not in Sokolowski’s sense, but a very clear and certain “stop!”). I’m going to try and make time to adequately respond to this (off the blocks it smells like poison).

  • Tom

    What about the many famous images used to highlight the horrors of war, like the crying baby in Shanghai, the self-immolating monk and the children fleeing from a napalm attack in Vietnam, or the horribly burned Iraqi soldier from the first Gulf War? For that matter, what about the famous images of starving or otherwise downtrodden people, like the infamous image of a starving child in Africa, or the Afghan girl?

    Are these all immoral by the same rule that the image of an aborted fetus is?

  • Carlos Carrasco

    Great article! I agree that giving captions to infants and fetuses is silly regardless of which side engages in it but, I am torn over the use of pictures of aborted fetuses. Are they shocking? One would hope so! I know that I found them shocking when I first saw them years ago when I was pro-abortion. Shocking.and haunting as the images from concentration camps were the first time I saw them as a child. In both instances I would say the depersonalization of the victims happened before the pictures were taken, when nazi and abortionist convinced themselves they were disposing of ‘something’ less than human. Displaying their bloody work might awaken the conscience in others, though I concede your point that it may also exacerbate the depersonalization or merely perpetuate it. — Like I said, I am torn and as such I’m looking forward to reading all your further thoughts on the matter, including those of the commenters. GOD bless Y’all!

  • Grassroots in Kansas

    In one more month, you can start naming all of those beautiful persons: http://50millionnames.com/ “Violence is not the end of the story!”

  • Maggie

    I second what Tom said. Are we then required to authenticate the identity of every Jew in pictures of the Holocaust? Every Tutsi in pictures of the Rwandan genocide? Every civilian victim of wartime violence? That’s a ridiculous expectation.
    Most Americans won’t even admit that the preborn are living human beings. Pictures of aborted babies force them to come to terms with this scientific fact. After that, it’s a much shorter leap for them to grant the preborn the rights of personhood that all of us born people have.
    I suggest you read the book Abandoned, by Dr. Monica Miller. It deals with this subject very well, and comes to a completely different conclusion than you do.

  • Montague

    “But a person is not a symbol. A person is not an argument.”

    I think there is at least one exception to this; He too hangs dead in figures you parade. But this is a negation of sin and death by means of a voluntary objectification, as it were, a person sinned against and becoming sin; and by that bringing full person hood to us all…

    So, yeah, I agree with you. Just not a universalization of a sentence, taken out of context.

  • Celine

    While I can understand the desire to avoid reducing a human to a slogan for a movement, I think it is important to consider why groups continue to use these pictures. There are a few good reasons:
    A) They do change minds. You can read the numerous testimonies of people who became anti-abortion immediately after seeing those images.
    B) The horror that is displayed in these pictures is a horror that exists. If it exists, it must be stopped. For people to stop it, they must be aware that it is happening. It cannot be a vague semi-awareness, but rather it must be a concrete certainty. What other way is there for people to know than for them to see it?
    C) If we ignore these pictures, we are not seeking justice for those victims. If those pictures can be used to prevent further tragedy, then we must use them. It is the only way we can seek justice for those lost to abortion.

    • Sarah Hamilton Karnouk

      They do not change minds (they are a song for the choir). These posters are white noise to anyone not interested in the message already. To those who hardly have an opinion on all of this it is DEEPLY offensive! Disgusting, horrid, and an absolute nightmare. I like the idea of the March for Life, I don’t like the method. What needs to happen is REAL counselling for young women, are real look into poverty of young women, the creation of a tax system that will support women as mothers because it does not exist now, and the truth needs to be spread that adoption is a REAL option. In the grand scheme of these marches adoption is always just an afterthought. A thought that so many people overlook. Oh and making adoption an easier choice for young women to make and families to welcome adopted children.

      • Jasper0123

        Pro-lifers run CPC all over the country which help poor pregnant women. You don’t know what your taking about

        • Sarah Hamilton Karnouk

          I completely know what I am talking about, and these posters take away from those other messages entirely, these posters are unforgiving, bordering on unchristian

          • Jasper0123

            baloney. A picture of a baby is unchristian?

          • Sarah Hamilton Karnouk

            a picture of a mangled fetus with the intention of sensationalizing this topic is unchristian. The young women who feels she is unworthy of Christ’s forgiveness because of this ridiculous image is stumbled by a Christian…we are not supposed to stumble others…

          • Jasper0123

            This ridiculous image? No, it’s a murdered baby, what do you have against babies anyways? where is your compassion for the baby? This serves as a warning to women not to have abortions. It’s a taking of a human life. You shouldn’t try to hide evil, that’s the work of the devil.

          • Chris

            Jasper, in no know is Sarah or anyone trying to hide the work of evil, nor trying to deny ANY compassion for the millions of babies that are aborted. But I think Sarah has a point here, and again it is a “personal” one, because we are dealing with “people,” women who need assistance and not some kind of ignorant children who need to be disciplined to be taught what to do. It seems to me that making people “feel guilty” or by trivializing the death of those babies by showing grotesque images WILL NOT bring most people back to seek the Truth, mercy, and forgiveness. By aggravating an already tense situation, by putting salt in the wound, I do not think we are projecting a very Christian attitude. I didn´t see Christ rubbing sin it in the face of the adulteress women, or of Zacheus, who were known sinners. Maybe he was a little strong on the Pharisees though, and they were the “holy ones” closest to the Christian faith, who practiced the law, read the Scriptures. If we are not careful, we could up “depersonalizing” those who we really just want to bring back into the arms of the Church, and judge them, when what they really need is forgiveness. So, we need to fight for pro-life, but not by guilt tripping, by LOVING.

          • BradyR

            You obviously do not have any idea why young women have abortions. Do you really think women do not know they are having a baby? Women have been having babies since the beginning of humanity. Those images don’t do anything, but make you feel like you are doing something. In reality, you are just a hamster on a wheel. You are working as hard as you can, but you’re getting nowhere. Why don’t you talk to women about why some of them have abortions, really listen, and try to solve the problem from there. Or better yet why don’t you put all of that energy into preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

        • Rivka

          This person isn’t denying the existence of CPCs, just saying that there needs to be more of that sort of thing.

      • Christy000

        They obviously have an impact on some people, and not on others. I agree with you though on everything else.

  • Daniel

    I am related to them. They have a right and intense desire to have their screams heard. Or else they wouldn’t be screaming.

    • Niemand

      How does a being without vocal cords scream? How does a being without brain cells form the desire to scream? Why should a being without a working spinothalamic tract want to scream?

  • AnneG

    I understand what you are saying, but the mutilated bodies of these babies are also evidence of actions taken against them that killed them. The pictures are forensic and medical evidence of the results of direct, intentional actions, as are ultrasound images of very much alive babies. I do not think it objectifies or dehumanizes these babies, rather testifies to their existence at one time and to their deaths.

  • Rebecca Duncan

    What about all those pictures of the dead bodies at aushwitz? Did we know all their names? Silly.

    • TomD

      Ohhhh you’re so right, Rebecca. It is silly. Just pass beyond it, quickly and conveniently move on to the next image of Man’s reality, as we say to ourselves that those pictures from Auschwitz only show “dead bodies.” They were, after all, “just” dead bodies, not real people, with real lives and real hopes and real dreams. Their names were unimportant.

      See how easy it is to be desensitized . . . it was Auschwitz, not aushwitz. But it is so silly to obsess about the correct spelling of the place of such an atrocity.

      • Rebecca Duncan

        Dunno what the hell your problem is.

        • TomD

          My problem is that I had an immediate, emotional reaction to reading what you wrote, in a sense out of context from the issue at hand.

          When I was in the 10th grade, we, as a class, were shown, over a period of many days, films of the Holocaust and the concentration camps as the allies found them, films that had little or no commentary associated with them, only silent images for the most part, and, while I was truly horrified by the images, I was also horrified, on a very personal level, by the fact that the images were presented to us in such a stark way, with no mention of the individuality of those murdered so atrociously.

          I always felt that we needed to be reminded at the time, I mean really reminded, that all those “dead bodies” were real people, with real lives and real futures. Not just the stark images, just the dead bodies, that were so graphically shown to us. It always bothered me deeply.

          That is why I reacted the way that I did. As this is so personal for me, I hesitated to respond to you directly, but finally decided to do so.

          • Rebecca Duncan

            what I was saying is that it is silly to say we should not show those pics of holocaust victims because we don’t know all their names. Your emotional problems are not my problem and have nothing to do with what I said.

      • Birgit Atherton Jones

        As a matter of fact, many Germans wouldn’t acknowledge what happened in the gas chambers until they walked through the camps and saw the bodies.

  • MJ

    Somewhat tangentially, this post partially articulates something that’s been bothering me about that photo of “Pope Francis Kissing a Disfigured Man” that has gone viral recently. I can’t dispute that the gesture was a beautiful one, or that pope’s motives were sincere. But something about the coverage just seems a bit… dehumanizing. Every time I see the photo, and read the journalists gushing about the pope’s compassion (which, again, is not in dispute!), I can’t help asking: What is this guy’s name? What’s his profession? Does he have a family? Does he like being defined by his disability? Did he ever hope, expect or even consent to have his image plastered all over the internet as the “disfigured man covered in boils” (not even an accurate diagnosis), a symbol of another person’s compassion? Did he solicit the pity of millions of people who will never know him as an individual?

    No one seems to be asking these questions, but then again it doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone else. So maybe I’m off the mark.

  • Sarah Hamilton Karnouk

    THANKYOU!!!! so much for writing this! It has deeply needed to be spoken for a LONG time!!!

  • Jasper0123

    I do not trust sanctimonious arm-chair pro-lifers. We pro-lifers on the ground do not need your advice. I swear, this Catholic Patheos site is filled with a bunch of girly men. Go MV!!

    • Sven2547

      What do you mean by “pro-lifers on the ground”? Are you one of those people who “help” women by screaming in their faces?

      • Jasper0123

        You liberal fools don’t have a clue. We run CPC’s. We help mothers, we don’t scream in their faces.

        • Sven2547

          Well excuse me for asking for clarification. Would you agree or disagree that the screamers in front of Planned Parenthood are “pro-lifers on the ground”?

        • Niemand

          We run CPC’s. We help mothers

          CPCs “help” by providing misinformation. They are categorized in medicine as a public health hazard.

          • Jasper0123

            What kind of misinformation nimrod? don’t link to government/liberal orgs…

          • Niemand

            Um, I linked to a peer reviewed publication. It’s true that it’s listed on a government run web site, but it’s published in a non-government journal. Elsevier, even. Elsevier is, shall we say, not exactly liberal. Anyone so ignorant of medicine as to not understand what Pubmed is or, for that matter what Elsevier is, should not be handing out medical advice. Your comment is a good example of why CRCs are a public health hazard.

          • Jasper0123

            Are you Catholic?

          • Niemand

            Why?

          • Jasper0123

            Just curious. Need to know if you have any moral code to follow..

          • Niemand

            Not Catholic = no moral code?

    • Sagrav

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You tell him Jasper! Don’t you let that namby pamby girly man tell you that your method of protest leaves anything to be desired! Real manly men wave around photos of chopped up fetus and scream “ARGLE BLARGLE!” at women as they enter abortion clinics.

  • Steve

    I just realized that Kierkegaard and Andrew Jackson look really similar.

    • SamRocha

      Steve just won the internet today.

  • Brian Formica

    This. This is just good management. You *could* go out and argue all on your own, or you could equip others to go do it with you. If this is stepping on toes, keep it up. Better that than to step across the line.

  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    While I can see some merit in your point about the negative images, it would be responsible to note that some mothers who have lost babies have given permission for their images to be used – explicitly so that those unfamiliar or unwilling to see the humanity of our unborn brethren, see they are something other than a ‘blob of tissue’. Further, I disagree with your opinion on using the ‘nice’ photos of babies as a means to give a glimpse into the appeal of the very young. These tender images evoke a feeling of maternal/paternal love in many – possibly most – who view them. Much like images in magazines or catalogs can show us a glimpse of the beauty of humanity – all the while promoting clothing, holidays, or vacations – these ‘cute’ images provide a tangible pull at the heart strings – evoking compassion and love for the unborn. Should every photo ever used, for advertising for example, be named so as not to depersonalize the model? What we are ‘selling’ is the beauty and humanity of each and every individual person – illustrated by a representative image. One final question: if we are not to use images for either side, how do you propose we deliver our message and further our case?

  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    While I can see some merit in your point about the negative images, it would be responsible to note that some mothers who have lost babies have given permission for their images to be used – explicitly so that those unfamiliar or unwilling to see the humanity of our unborn brethren so they are something other than a ‘blob of tissue’. Further, I disagree with your opinion on using the ‘nice’ photos of babies as a means to give a glimpse into the appeal of the very young. These tender images evoke a feeling of maternal/paternal love in many who view them. Much like images in magazines or catalogs can show us a glimpse of the beauty of humanity – these ‘cute’ images provide a tangible pull at the hearts string, evoking compassion and love. Should every photo ever used, for advertising for example, be named so as not to depersonalize? What we are ‘selling’ is the beauty and humanity of each and every individual person – illustrated by a representative image. One final question: if we are not to use images for either side, how do you propose we deliver our message and further our case?

  • Colleen

    I completely agree and have often used this argument against the dead baby posters (although obviously not as well articulated as your post). It’s not that I think people don’t need to see the truth, or that I’m offended by these magnified grotesque images (well, maybe a little bit). In the making and displaying of these signs we tend to forget that these people are, in fact, people. But I think this can be taken even further to include things such as use of stock photos from the internet or the ever-growing popularity of the internet memes. Sure, they’re fun to read and fun to write, but who are these people, really? They’re just regular people, with names and families and histories, who were brave or foolish enough to once post their photos on the internet to eventually become the nameless face associated with a certain pun, or stereotype, or agenda.

  • JoFro

    I dunno! We don’t know the names of the thousands of concentration camp victims, yet it was seeing those horrific images that made us realise the horror of what was going on in those camps.

    Maybe always using these images at rallies is horrific but that is the only time the people will ever see those images.

    Interestingly enough, it was seeing the mangled twisted remains of an aborted fetus that made me more convinced this horror needed to be stopped.

    I bet you there were others who saw those images and it finally hit them that this was a tiny human person and not the “blobs of tissue” they’ve been told their entire lives!

  • Emily

    I have always disliked these graphic signs, thanks for articulating the problem with them :)

  • leogirl87

    “Would you care about my rights if I was gay?” Of course we would. Nobody is advocating the murder of gay people.

    • Christy000

      It’s a strawman

    • Niemand

      Actually, quite a number of Christians in the US and in various African nations are advocating murdering gay people. Ok, some of the more enlightened ones are simply advocating sending them to concentration camps, but two guesses about what would start happening there.

      • Christy000

        So you think all Christians think this way?
        I’m asking because you say that the more enlightened ones want to put them in concentration camps. I don’t know any Christians who thinks this way. I’m not denying that they exist, there was the Uganda laws, but it’s presumptuous to think that Christians either want to kill gays or put them in concentration camps and most likely fear mongering from political groups.

        • Niemand

          No. There are quite a number of Christians who are not like that at all. For example, quite a lot of Christians take the “love your neighbor as yourself” thing and “leave judgement to God” things seriously. But not all. And the claim that “nobody here”, whether “here” refers to the “enlightened west” or Christians is just not true. I’ve heard US politicians who identify strongly with Christianity and “family values” advocate murdering gays or putting them in “camps”. They exist and pretending that they don’t, as the original post implies, is doing a disservice to everyone, including Christians.

  • paulpriest

    You’re wrong….for the 1.76Billion obvious reasons

  • Guest

    The problem is that you are simply factually wrong. A fetus does not have a personality. Most abortions happen in the first few trimesters, when the zygote is an undifferentiated mass of cells. It has no spinal cord or brain. It has no ears or eyes. It cannot feel, hear or think. A personality is something that develops gradually. Even newborn babies do not have a personality. They have no sense of self (they consistantly fail the mirror test), they have no preferences, they have no memories. All these things develop slowly through the process of the baby interacting with the world. Through social interaction, through learning, the baby becomes a person.

    As for a fetus being a unique life, most pro-choice advocates would agree with you. The point is that simply being alive does not give something the right to impose demands on another. The mother’s right to her own bodily autonomy comes first, especially since she is consious, capable of suffering and choice, and the fetus is not. We allow pigs to be killed and eaten despite the fact that they are capable of suffering, feeling fear and have more personality than an early-stage gamete (they may also pass the mirror test). If you were being eaten by a lion, you’d think it fair to shoot the lion to save yourself, even though every lion is a genetically unique form of life and has some personality, more than an early stage gamete at least.

    I think you know that a fetus is not a person NOW. As you say, they cannot speak for themselves. They haven’t any opinions about the topic of abortion because they haven’t yet grown the parts needed for having opinions, or had the life experience necessary to learn how to form and evaluate opinions. Yes, if the fetus lives, one day it will have those abilities and be a person, with all the rights a person is entitled to, but at the point when abortion is viable, it is not a person. But the mother is. A full person, with the ability to hold opinions, make choices and claim her body as her own domain, inviolable.

    • Christy000

      “capable of suffering and choice, and the fetus is not.” You know for certain that the fetus is not capable of suffering? How?

      • Niemand

        How do you know for certain that whatever you ate for dinner last night is not capable of suffering? If you’re a carnivore, it almost certainly was, far more than a fetus. Do you simply not care? Even if you’re a vegetarian, if an embryo which has no brain at all should be considered potentially capable of suffering, then a plant is also potentially capable of suffering. As might be, say, the chair you’re sitting in or the computer you’re using. Perhaps it’s wincing at your argument and wondering why you consider an embryo capable of very little information processing more important than it.

        • Christy000

          I’m not for the argument that protecting a life should be on the basis of whether or not it could suffer. There are some people who are incapable of pain, but their lives are as worth as much as somebody that can feel pain. I don’t know whether fetuses can feel pain or not, but people of the pro-choice persuasion usually go with any evidence that they can’t feel pain, like the research by the British Obstetricians & Gynecologists. They do this to help justify the pro-choice argument, because they do feel that being able to feel pain is a reason to protect somebody or something’s life.

          • Niemand

            I’m not for the argument that protecting a life should be on the basis of whether or not it could suffer.

            Then what basis are you using?

            There are some people who are incapable of pain, but their lives are as worth as much as somebody that can feel pain.

            Fetuses are incapable of feeling pain both because they have no working spinothalamic tract and because their brains are not developed enough to process pain. Or any other sensation. Or consciousness. This is the equivalent of a persistent vegetative state (at best-the embryo is effectively brain dead, having not developed enough to have any brain activity). How is the life of people who are in a PVS “worth living”?

          • Christy000

            The basis that it’s a human being. I’m not for determining whether or not somebody’s life is not worth living. That opens a whole can of worms.

          • Niemand

            it’s a human being

            So what? I’m serious about that question. What is it about human beings that makes them special, different from any other living being, more worthy of protection?

          • Christy000

            So do you believe humans should be treated as any other animal? Are you wanting me to point out how humans are supposedly more intelligent, so you can point out how there are animals more intelligent than newborns and fetuses? Or are you wanting me to bring up religion and God?

          • Niemand

            No, I asked you what it was about humans that makes them in some way special. Why don’t you want to answer the question? Do you not have an answer?

          • Christy000

            What if all humans die off, and an asteroid came hurling to the earth? What animal would have the technology to stop it? You could say that if we aren’t around, another animal would evolve with intelligence to study astronomy and science. The fact still remains that we were the first to evolve to understand science as good as we do, excluding the possibility of whether there is life that lived on earth that now lives in space or recolonized on another planet that we are unaware of. We are the ones now. I suppose you could answer that it definitely wouldn’t be a fetus. We can say the same about somebody with a form of mental retardation.

            The fact that there are people that look after weaker members of our species who are considered burdens, while animals are more likely to kill off a deformed member of their species or an animal with mental problems because it is a burden, shows that we are special. It hasn’t always been this way of course. The fact that we now do is an improvement. If we start killing off the ones considered a burden, it would be devolving. Any animal would look after it’s own species first. The fact that we don’t always, shows that we are special too, as well as other examples. These are just examples.

            Tell me, the killer whale that killed the woman at Sea World, should it be on trial for what it did? After all, the killer whale isn’t no different from any human being. People aren’t special in any way. I’m for treating animals humanely by the way, and think that we should reduce suffering, but that shouldn’t be a justification for killing an innocent when there are other options available. Nor should it be the only factor in determining whether an action is moral or ethical.

            But I’m sure sooner or later you’ll say that a fetus isn’t a person, and you weren’t talking about people but human beings.

            Anyway, I think that your question is most likely dishonest. If so, you can say that this is a non-answer and continue with your insults.

            If you seriously want an answer to that question look up philosophers who believe in human exceptionalism. Surely they would give a better answer than doofy me.

          • Niemand

            What if all humans die off, and an asteroid came hurling to the earth? What animal would have the technology to stop it?

            What if an asteroid were hurling towards the earth right now? Would humans have the technology to stop it? If “ability to stop an asteroid” is your criteria for who is and is not worthy of saving, I have to admit that I’m not worthy of saving since I have no idea how to stop an asteroid from hitting the earth. (Also, it’s certain that no person prior to maybe the late 20th century was worth saving.)

            You’re implying but very carefully not saying that human intelligence is the deciding factor in what makes humans special and more worth saving than other animals. Is that in fact your position? Because if so it is profoundly dishonest to claim that a fetus is of any consequence. An embryo has literally no brain-the stationary neurons have not yet formed. The majority of abortions occur in the embryonic period. The early fetus definitely has no consciousness. It is, at best, the equivalent of a person in a persistent vegetative state, except that it has never been a person, never had thoughts or desires or will to live. If it is ok to detach a person in a PVS from life support, why not a fetus? An early abortion is, essentially, just detaching the fetus whole from its life support system, aka the erased pregnant woman.

            I honestly don’t see how you can hold your position. Everything you said or implied that you value about humans-intelligence, potential ability to save (or destroy) the biosphere, ability to feel guilty for hurting others and willingness to impose consequences for doing so, willingness to look out for each other are characteristics that fetuses don’t have. The only one thing that you said that does give value to a fetus over, say, an elephant or a chimpanzee or a Turing capable AI for that matter is this: “Any animal would look after it’s own species first.” And that sentence is all about simple prejudice: my group first, wrong or right. If someone said, “Any society would look after its own race first” would you consider that an acceptable position? If not, why accept your position?

          • Christy000

            That wasn’t the only thing I said. You wrote exactly as I thought you would, hence my statement: “I suppose you could answer that it definitely wouldn’t be a fetus. We
            can say the same about somebody with a form of mental retardation.” You asked what made human beings special, and that was just one factor, but not the deciding factor of whether or not it should be allowed to kill.

            “If “ability to stop an asteroid” is your criteria for who is and is not worthy of saving,”

            I’m not the one saying who’s worth saving. You were the one that proposed it. I did say that we shouldn’t kill a fetus because it’s a human being, and looking after other human beings weaker than us evolved in us, according to your worldview. Before you say it, I know evolution occurs and don’t deny evolution.

            “The only one thing that you said that does give value to a fetus over,
            say, an elephant or a chimpanzee or a Turing capable AI for that matter
            is this: “Any animal would look after it’s own species first.””

            No, that wasn’t the only one thing. Look at my second paragraph. By the way, why don’t you get on to animals about that?

            This is what I think is wrong with people that propose animal rights. They really just don’t want to give animals the same rights as us, they want to degrade humans and put them in the same position that we treat animals today. I’m all for animal welfare though.

          • Niemand

            You asked what made human beings special, and that was just one factor,
            but not the deciding factor of whether or not it should be allowed to
            kill.

            So then what is or should be the deciding factor?

            I’m not the one saying who’s worth saving. You were the one that proposed it.

            I find this statement bizarre. I asked what you thought was special about humans that made a human fetus or embryo worth saving and you responded by saying that only humans could stop an asteroid heading towards earth. Leaving aside whether this is true or not (the answer may be that humans can’t stop it either, at least not with current technology–I’m hoping it’s not a relevant question any time soon), if you didn’t mean that as a response to my question, why did you bring it up? Again, you’re very carefully avoiding saying what your actual position is. Possibly because you don’t have an underlying justification, just a knowledge of what you want the answer to be and are twisting wildly to find a way to make it “true”.

          • Christy000

            “I find this statement bizarre. I asked what you thought was special about humans that made a human fetus or embryo worth saving and you responded by saying that only humans could stop an asteroid heading towards earth.”

            No, I asked you what animal would have the technology to stop an asteroid. I was being facetious, because I know this whole discussion is useless. Oh look, I’m twisting again.

            “So then what is or should be the deciding factor?”

            We evolved past thinking it’s alright to kill a human being. We need to find better ways than deciding who to kill to ration things and stop overpopulation. You ever notice how people who talk about the need to reduce the number of people are always wanting other people to do it? They always seem to put themselves above the rest of the human population. It’s scientism, since I think the big thing about this is really allowing scientists to experiment on zygotes, and the like. They’re hoping the stigma would be erased even further than what it was in the 60s and 70s when scientists experimented on aborted fetuses.

            Anyway I’m done with this, because having fake debates like these are pointless. I’m sure you’re thinking that a reader might read this, and begin to agree with you. Then again, I admit that I’m not really good at explaining things. Anybody who reads this should look more into it, and not just get their opinion from a discussion from blog comments. I already said that if you wanted to have the answer explained better to you, ask somebody more knowledgeable about the subject.

          • Niemand

            I was being facetious

            Hey, facetious works for me. But you need to be facetious in a way that supports rather than undermines your position for it to work.

            We evolved past thinking it’s alright to kill a human being.

            Are you sure you’re really a human? Because human history doesn’t really support this claim…

            We need to find better ways than deciding who to kill to ration things and stop overpopulation.

            I agree. For example, it is ridiculous that certain people aren’t given access to life saving medical care because they are poor. We need to stop killing these people. Oh, wait, that’s a form of killing the Catholic church supports. Never mind. Poor people totally deserve to die to avoid the possibility that they might use birth control to have sex without having babies that they don’t want/can’t afford/aren’t in a position to raise.

            It’s scientism, since I think the big thing about this is really allowing scientists to experiment on zygotes, and the like.

            Ah, so it’s the evil scientists wanting to “experiment”, not women who don’t want to be enslaved and murdered by “pro-life” forces that are pushing for abortion. Sorry, no. There simply is no logic to that position. Unfortunately, the majority of abortions occur after the period when an embryo would be useful for making ESC or similar and those that are performed at that time period (maybe 25-30%) are mostly medical abortions so that the uterine contents aren’t collected by any medical facility but are passed at home. In short, the evil scientists are getting nothing out of abortion.

            Anybody who reads this should look more into it, and not just get their opinion from a discussion from blog comments.

            Again, I tend to agree. For example, someone reading this might want to consult a text on embryonic and fetal development and find out things like just how late a developed brain is present in a fetus, how difficult to distinguish from a chicken embryo a human embryo is, and how often and badly the process can go wrong. I recommend not reading the latter at lunch.

          • kel

            Niemand, you’re being an ass. And I say that in honesty, not in spite. Be nice.

            It is simple.

            Humans are of value. I’m sure that you are a great person and that you lead an at least remotely enjoyable life :) Also, you probably don’t throw your life around willy-nilly – you probably go to the doctor, eat (mostly) healthy food, and avoid walking in front of speeding cars and any confrontations with grizzly bears. As you should! Because your life has some weight and some value and some need to be protected. So does mine. OK – you and me and Joe Shmoe are of value. Pretty clear. Right?
            Little embryonic cells floating around? Their value isn’t as clear or as easy to nail to the floor. BUUUUUT! …. I’d hate to make such a tragic mistake as to destroy something of such great value. I assume you are a good person with a good heart and good intentions – and I assume that you’d hate to make that mistake as well.

            I enjoy my life and I value it – and in turn, I value your life and my grandma’s life, and the kid down the street’s life, and the people who live in absolute poverty, and that little bunch of cells called an embryo that are just waiting to enjoy the life that you and I are privileged to live.

          • Niemand

            Sorry about the double commenting, but it occurs to me that you are shifting the argument a bit. Above you asked how one can know for certain that the fetus is incapable of feeling pain. The answer is “because it doesn’t have the structural neurologic features we believe are associated with the ability to feel pain and the ability to be self-aware.” If we are wrong about what causes self-awareness, etc, then how do you know that your chair isn’t in pain from having to support you or your keyboard doesn’t find your typing painful?

          • Christy000

            Was this known when abortion was legalized? Thanks for the veiled insults.

    • Rivka

      Scientific, factual error above. Most abortions happen long after the fetus has developed a brain and other organs. The brain and most of the organs are already formed at around 5 weeks after conception before many women knows they are pregnant.

      • Niemand

        Slight correction: There are no stationary neurons before about week 8. Also, a significant number of abortions occur on or before week 5 of pregnancy. About 1/3, IIRC, but will look it up if you like.

  • Guest

    If you really want to end abortion, you should be investing in research into how to make artificial wombs, so that women who were considering abortion could transfer their fetus into a wombtank instead, where it could be adopted and looked after by anyone who was willing. This would give mothers who wanted abortions a viable option which didn’t involve killing the fetus or having to wait nine months to give it up for adoption and get their life back (assuming they even could).

    Or maybe some pro-life women (or even men) would be willing to have an at-risk zygote transferred to their womb so that they could carry it to term? The men would need to have a womb transplant first, which ought to be possible, with enough research. You should not be willing to advocate forcing someone else to do something you’re not willing to do, after all. And yes, making abortion illegal would involve forcing women to remain pregnant against their will.

    Free contraception, especially for things like implants or depoprovera would also decrease the rate of unplanned pregnancies and therefore abortion. Tax breaks and more help from the government for parents might help, and how about making child support from the father payable from conception instead of when the child is born?
    Good sex education is schools has also been shown to reduce the rate of abortion.

  • Jeff

    “It is a self-proclaimed aim of the pro-life movement that the world recognize the unborn child as an unique life and a particular personality — and subsequently not kill him. Simple request, really, this not-killing-people business. Those supporting the conservation of abortion have yet to articulate a successful evasion of our ethical demand, though from what I understand, they’re working on it.”

    Really? You don’t know the basic pro-choice argument in favor of continuing to allow abortion and keep it accessible?

    The argument is this: we dispute the notion that a fetus is or has a personality. We dispute the notion that a fetus has any right that supersedes the rights of the person gestating it. We dispute the notion that a fetus is a person.

    • Rivka

      I think the older attitude was disputing that the fetus is a person. i think the current attitude is more sort of disputing the principle that an innocent person can never be killed not matter the circumstance.

  • Lady Sneerwell

    “A Truth thats told with bad intent

    Beats all the Lies you can invent ”

    - William Blake

  • ortcutt

    We’ve really been amiss in not giving names to human zygotes, including the ones that God has doomed to not implant. I suggest we make signs with Ziggy the zygote.

  • sheri

    These pictures save babies from suffering the same fate that the baby on the picture endured. Your platitudes are fine for Monday morning quarterbacking, but we are still in the game! Figure out whose side your on.

    This is life and death for the love of God, not philosophy class.

  • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

    just awesome :O

  • MeredithEugeneHunt

    The lethal fault of the argument that bloody graphic images depersonalize the victim and therefore should not be used is that the images are not the person. They are not even the body of the person, and therefore they are in themselves only symbols. They are powerful, useful symbols. The danger is not that the impersonal image made of ink and vinyl will someone make a person less of a person, it’s that people will simply become numb to the images. But if we want to discuss depersonalization, how about the use of the species-non-specific term “fetus” 25 times in our essay about depersonalization. Fetus is the new n-word. This whole article is straining at gnats. If we want to humanize the pre-natal victims of abortion, showing an image of dead victims is the least of what we should do. We should actually ACT as if they are persons. We should act the same as if they were born persons.

  • Steve O

    How to respond… Your mistake is understandable but I think you need to think this through more before you put it to print. Ones manner of death or life or career choice is not a reduction of a person but an addition to. What you are saying would be like suggesting that putting Babe Ruth into the baseball hall of fame is somehow reducing him to Just a baseball player. Of course he has an identity larger than any moment or period of his life. and of course any attempt to depict anyone in word, art, photography, can only give a portion of their individual being. But that does not make it a reduction necessarily. I can make it a highlight. So small a life have the unborn led that any depiction SEEMS to be more about whatness. But are we not really establishing instead that they HAVE AT LEAST a whatness and its the same whatness as you or me. A whatness that implies in bold reality the existence of a Who.

    We live in a world that denies their existence as anything but a participation in their mothers existence. They are not in the public’s eye’s a human being but rather a part of a human being. Pointing out their humanity is not depersonalization but rather personilazation by means of establishing they have personhood in virtue of their humanity and by establishing the very concreate and particular way in which their life is snuffed out.

    You don’t establish a persons personhood by naming them but rather by showing them or some part of their life and letting the senses make the arguement. To put it another way you experience their life with him or her as the case may be. you glimpse their humanity and their invidual life in whatever experience you can attain of them. The point of putting people who have been maimed tortured killed or brutalized into a picture that depicts this experience is to put others front and center with one fact: This was someone who deserved better. The corrollating reasoning is because they are a human being and human beings deserve better. but the reason you feel that in your GUT is because you are experience the individual through photography.

    Christ on the cross elicits the compassion of Catholics. You can’t be certain that his face resembled this or that depiction. His whoness is in way obscured by time. I’ll never know his particular gestures or the different things that might have endeared him to me. But seeing any man have his flesh ripped off his knees and back and then get nailed to a cross he had to carry himself to his final point of demise simply for being innocent would elicit the compassion of any halfway decent man. You would have to be a very bad catholic indeed if you wanted to remove the crucifixes and I’m banking your not. So I wonder how you can not see how the paralells cause problems for your arguement.

    I would display signs of the unborn in the manner a catholic would display and for pretty much the same reasons a catholic would display a cross: to elicit a sense of incongruency and sorrow for a crime perpetrated on an innocent in order to bring about a change in behavior more consistent with how one should treat another, muchless an innocent. The suggestion that either sign depersonalizes or dehumanizes the individual depicted makes no sense in either case for the same reasons.

  • Dawn

    “The corpse is not a logo.” If my mother or my child was brutally slain, I would not want explicit photos of the dismembered remains up on billboards to educate others or expose to the world what happened. That would be too painful and would rob the body of my loved one of the dignity it deserves, has been given by God.

  • hope

    Hi Marc, you make some really good points in this post. I’d never thought of it that way before. I thought you’d like to know about an awesome cause trying to personalize the babies lost to abortion. It’s called the 50 Million Names project, and the goal is to collect names for all the lives that have been lost to abortion in this country. Please check it out, and it would be great if you could post about it on the blog. Here’s the link: http://50millionnames.com/2013/11/19/honor-the-babies-give-them-names/


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