I don’t love the Anti-Choice Project. It makes me uncomfortable. I can’t look at the images and not feel sick to my stomach. I hurt for the abortion victims shown. I hurt for the women driving by the signs who’ve had abortions or experienced miscarriages. And I hurt most of all for the children who see these pictures and unwillingly experience a slight loss to their childhood. The world isn’t all smiley faces and butterflies after all… and I ache for their innocence lost.
When asked to write for this group, I hesitated. In junior college, I stood by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform with pride. I felt confident that the signs we were displaying on college campuses were good and right; the audience was perfect and children were not exposed. But ACP was different. They were out there out on street corners — in public places. This was just outside of my comfort level. So I consulted a few close friends. I was worried about associating myself with a group that I wasn’t sure I supported 100%. I wondered if it somehow made me inconsistent with my ethical code and questioned whether or not I’d be embarrassed to link to articles I’ve written.
Obviously, I concluded that writing for the group would be okay. They simply asked me not to say anything disparaging regarding graphic imagery in posts while otherwise giving me free reign. I could handle that. Still, I didn’t expect my personal feelings on the matter to change.
But they have. And yours should too. I don’t believe all pro-lifers need to cheer for or monetarily support the Anti-Choice Project (though that’d be helpful). But I do think we have to unequivocally tolerate and even hat tip a bit of respect to this and other graphic imagery groups. We all want the same thing — to save babies. Of course the ‘ends don’t justify the means’ (which is why we shouldn’t tolerate violence against abortion providers) but I think it’s important to consider the high stakes here. Graphic signs may be abhorrent or anger-inducing, but in and of themselves, they are not going to cause anyone to make the decision to abort. There may, on the other hand, be a chance that these signs could dissuade someone from aborting. In some ways, the dichotomy was that simple for me. If your child’s life was in jeopardy, and there was some procedure that could be done that may save his life — though it hurt someone’s feelings — would you still want to do that procedure? And what if it was someone else’s child? Would you still want to green light the potentially life saving procedure, even at the risk of offending someone?
This is just black and white logic applied to individual lives. But what about the entire cause? The argument has been made that graphic use imagery does more harm than good to the pro-life cause as a whole. Perhaps we will be seen as extremists or lunatics or vile. And while we certainly ought to consider how we come across to people, I’m not convinced hiding the truth is an act of charity. Historically speaking, seeing evils perpetrated against human beings (be they Jews, blacks or babies) has been instrumental in effecting social change. No one in their right minds wants their children to see piles of Holocaust victims, nor do we want to offend someone whose relative was killed at Auschwitz. But who is willing to stand up and says these images aren’t important? If Jews were still being systematically killed on a wholesale level, would we want to relegate pictures just to museums or places where people had to choose to see them? Or would we want the images out there, educating a public, crying out for justice… considering the sad feelings not with callousness, but simply an unfortunate side effect of a war that demands drastic measures? Or who is willing to stand up and argue that politicians would’ve eventually made laws ending segregation without televised atrocities and pictures of lynchings? Would conversations in a senate chamber or a few bumper stickers have done it? Maybe. I admit, maybe. But at what cost and after how many more lives had been lost?
I am very close to someone who had an abortion sheerly out of ignorance. She was scared. And she was soothed into the procedure by being told it was just “extra tissue” that they’d remove. Today, she hates seeing images of abortion. They cause her pain. But it is a pain she accepts. She hopes they are helping women to see what is really happening. She recognizes the need for them…
I wonder if abortion has become so normal in our generation that even the pro-life intensity has gotten lethargic. Have we forgotten that these are individual lives being lost every day? Or are they just nameless, faceless blobs that we feel some vague, moral imperative to protect… as long as we don’t offend anyone in the process or scandalize a child. Why wouldn’t we want to do whatever we could to stop the killing?! How jaded are we?
I used to get upset when I’d hear graphic image defenders say things like “lives trump feelings.” As a mother, it goes against every fiber in my being to want to expose my children to evil. But, I realize that they are right. Is there a nicer way to say it without sounding like we are insulting wonderful parents who are trying to protect their children? Maybe. I’m all ears for a concise, compassionate response to concerned parents. In the meantime, we are living in a state of war. We don’t get the luxury of raising our children in Mayberry. We have to adapt. We have to compromise a bit of innocence for the greater good. We have to do our best to practice artful distraction if we aren’t ready to show them the truth. This is understandable. I’m still doing this with all my younger children, while still being prepared to discuss things on a simple level with them should they catch a glance. But the truth must eventually get out. And words aren’t enough. The atrocities of abortion must be visually implanted in our children’s brains before the snakes of relativism make their way into their thinking.
It’s not ideal. It makes me uncomfortable. It’s not natural. I don’t like it. But we don’t get to provide a “natural” childhood blissfully unaware of wrongdoing anymore, not while a war is being waged on the most vulnerable members of our society. So I recognize the need for these signs. ACP protesters certainly don’t love the signs or love being insulted, spit on or harassed. I’m sure they’d rather sit at home, donate to a crisis pregnancy center, buy a pro-life t-shirt and call it good. But more needs to happen. Our generation needs to be shocked into critical thinking since it clearly doesn’t happen naturally. I am sad that this comes at the cost of offended women and confused children. But I am even sadder when I go to sites like this and can see the loss of real, meaningful, unique lives in real time and know that there is something that maybe could make a difference. I am thankful there are groups and individuals out there doing the challenging job of bringing the horror to light. This is why I maintain that all pro-life people don’t have to necessarily love the ACP… but all of us have to respect what they’re doing.