When it comes to criticism of the pro-life movement’s image and presentation, John F. Brick is spot on. Pro-life protesters run the risk of becoming either a boring joke or a non-credible force in our world. Our rhetoric needs a facelift in a jaded culture. The signs we hold, the messages we give have to appeal to the culture we are in.
His three action points at the end of his article are highly valuable in the demonstration world: Be Aware of Cultural Context, Stay on Point, and Better Signs and Slogans.
One might ask how the ACP’s signs fit into all this given that they run the risk of being tuned out or inflammatory. But the truth of the matter is something the Brick may have not elaborated on long enough: abortion is inflammatory. We can’t get away from that and I’m not convinced that it’s reasonable to expect every person to tune in and be engaged with our message. Can photos of abortion be seen as commodifying the dead? I think in some contexts, yes. I think it’s unhelpful and damaging to cry “Killer!” to people walking into clinics while holding bloody signs. So one thing I appreciate about the Anti-Choice Project is the actual wording used on their signs. It’s the only word needed to make people think: “Choice.”
They aren’t there to scream at women about being murderers of babies or to wave swastika symbols over the pictures of dead children. There is nothing in the message but a call to thinking. I think that in using graphic images, this distinction and this discretion is absolutely critical. Because like Brick says, “…protest plays a crucial role as the first face of the movement visible to the general public, and for that reason, it is critical that their rhetoric be of the highest quality.”
I had my brother make me a vinyl sticker for the back of my vehicle that hopes to give a fresh twist on old Pro-Life rhetoric. I hope lots more people will develop even more exciting, thought-provoking imagery as well. (I have applauded the products in the Secular Pro-Life store before for this very reason; they are reaching the culture where its at; we need more of this!) We have the passion. We have the will. So why aren’t we seeing more, new, better signs? We have to constantly be employing our intellect and creativity to keeping the pro-life movement fresh and relevant.