Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa posted this excellent article from New Wave Feminists on Facebook. It’s an open letter she wrote to a fellow who insists that it’s essential to use large, graphic photos of aborted babies outside abortion clinics. There ensued a lively discussion about whether or not this practice is (a) appropriate and (b) effective. The fellow to whom the open letter was addressed boasted that he’s been a pro-life warrior for twenty years, and insisted that it was both right and effective.
O wonder of instantaneous social media: Abby Johnson responded. Johnson is the founder of And Then There Were None, which ministers directly to people who want to leave the abortion industry. She says that, while these graphic images occasionally do change people’s minds, they also often do something else: they tip the balance toward abortion.
She should know. She once managed an abortion clinic, and for many years saw protesters march around with their gory posters. Johnson says (emphasis is mine; and she gave me permission to reprint her comments here):
I watched them be ineffective for many years … from inside the abortion clinic. A perspective that most do not have. I watched for several years as women would literally run away from those holding graphic signs. They would come into my office and ask us why those people were holding them. We used that as an opportunity to point out how crazy the prolifers were and that they would do anything to prevent women from making the choices they felt they needed to. It was an AMAZING way for us to build camaraderie inside our clinic.
Then I saw the signs come down…and I actually saw women changing their minds. They started approaching the people on the sidewalk, asking questions…and then leaving our parking lot and going to the crisis pregnancy centers. Once the signs came down, we started to have volunteer escorts so that we could try to convince the women coming in not to talk to the sidewalk counselors…because they were having such an impact. When the signs were out there, we LOVED IT!!! No one was approaching them. We didn’t need escorts.
Read that again: they liked it when the gory pictures were out there. It made their job easier. Women literally ran toward abortion.
As I have said many times before, these graphic images are essential for showing ignorant or apathetic people the true horror of abortion . . . as long as the images are used in the right context. Waving them at women in emotional turmoil is the wrong context.
We are several generations past Roe v. Wade. We have the luxury of speaking to women who have lived with abortion for many years — women who can tell us what it’s like to make that choice, and who can tell us what would have changed their minds. We can talk to women who can tell us what doesn’t work. If our goal is to protect women and babies from abortion, then in God’s name, we must listen to people who know.
Note: I am closing comments because the last time I talked about the proper use of graphic images, I was subjected to months and months of incredible nastiness from people who consider themselves pro-life. I spend part of every day crying for my lost baby, and I am not up for another round of hearing that I’m not really pro-life. Please note that I will not respond to any emails on this topic, and anyone who comments about it on other posts, here or at the Register, will be banned. I have already heard what you have to say, and the rage and condescension only persuades me further that the pro-life movement needs to be purged of misogyny if it will ever gain ground.