Today’s post is by Herb Geraghty, Executive Director for Rehumanize International. He originally gave these thoughts on Twitter here in response to Live Action’s recent release of horrifically graphic photos and videos of the remains of the five children aborted very late in pregnancy. The fetal remains were obtained by Lauren Handy (Director of Activism for Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising) and, last week, were provided to D.C. police with the request for autopsies to determine whether abortion providers violated federal law (Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, Born Alive Infant Protection Act). The police investigation is ongoing.
I understand that people have very strong disagreements about sharing imagery of violence, be it in the form of abortion, police brutality, or war. I just encourage everyone to try to imagine that those who disagree with you may actually be acting in good faith.
In the context of children killed in the womb, I can say that I know and respect women who have experienced abortion and/or miscarriage who have expressed that seeing these images is very harmful. I also know and respect women who have experienced miscarriage and abortion who use these images in their advocacy.
A few years ago, when I expressed discomfort with the photos at a demonstration, one of these women explained to me that she shows people these images because she wishes someone showed them to her before her abortion. She felt that if she saw the reality of what abortion was she would have never made that choice for her and her child. She desperately wants to spare other women from the trauma she experienced. Exposing the reality of her choice was a form of healing for her. Her story has always stuck with me and I often think of her and her child when I see those “graphic images.”
I understand the perspective that showing people these images is in some way disrespecting and instrumentalizing the children pictured, but I also understand the perspective that doing so is an act to reaffirm their obvious humanity that is so often ignored and denied.
At the end of the day, I can’t tell anyone how to feel about the use of abortion victim photography in pro-life advocacy. I believe that people who have experienced trauma from abortion and miscarriage deserve to be listened to and respected. But this group, like any group of people, is not a monolith.
In terms of “effectiveness,” I know people who have said that these images don’t lead to productive conversations and hearts changed on the abortion issue. However, I also know people who became some of the most effective pro-lifers I know BECAUSE they saw these images.
In the case of the pictures that were recently released, I already know of one pro-choice person in my personal life who was sent the article and is horrified and is rethinking her position on at least later abortion. I’ll be there to talk to her about it when she’s ready.
I’m sure there are other people who saw them without warning on their timeline and immediately looked away who may never trust another anti-abortion person again, or at least not for a long time.
I don’t know the exact perfect way to make every single person in the world pro-life. If I did, I would have done it already and there wouldn’t need to be a pro-life movement anymore to waste all of our time infighting. All I can do is what I believe is best. In general, I think my energy is best spent working for peace and justice – not tearing down others who work for peace and justice in a different way than I do. When I see pro-lifers spending more energy attacking other pro-lifers than working to end abortion or support pregnant people who have chosen life, I am always so disappointed.
We are not each other’s enemy.