Abortion

Abortion

On the previous blog by my friend, “Blogginfem,” an interesting discussion ensued about the use of graphic images by pro-life and pro-choice advocates.  We are all very familiar with the images of “aborted fetuses” that appear at pro-life rallies and protests.  In response, the pro-choice folks tend to discount the photos, suggesting that they are really “only” miscarriages, that the fetus is too far formed, that’s it’s a fetus that was found in Canada, as if that makes a difference.  At the same time, there are the images of women lying in a pool of their own blood after attempting to self abort.  The pro-lifers then dutifully pooh pooh the images as well.

The discussion made me wonder if these images have any kind of effect on the abortion debate?

Abortion

Abortion

Let’s take the fetus pictures first.  I’ll be honest.  In the years that I represented abortion providers, I never looked very closely at those pictures.  First of all, I get grossed out pretty easily.  I can’t watch horror movies, don’t like the sight of blood, don’t look at pictures of the kids starving in the Sudan.  So, I’ve never really examined those photos for “accuracy.”  But the bottom line is that I have seen in person the results of a late second trimester abortion and some of those pictures displayed by pro-lifers look pretty darn close to what I’ve seen in person.  Let’s face it – abortion is not pretty and pro-choicers would be better off just admitting that at some point in the pregnancy the fetus is rather well-developed and, despite that, the abortion doctor is still going to do what the woman has asked him to do.  Yes, the vast, vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester but the pro-lifers are doing what any other interest group in the country does – they focus on the extreme.

Abortion

Abortion

Today, when you go to a pro-life event, there’s always someone holding these graphic pictures (and they are usually the octogenarians in the movement) and it’s possible that someone who is passing by might be disturbed enough to “convert” right on the spot.  But the battle over abortion rights will be fought in the middle and without having conducted some kind of poll, my gut tells me that when someone who hasn’t given the issue much thought sees these pictures, their first reaction is probably to avoid looking at it and their second reaction is total disgust that a group of perhaps well-meaning advocated forced them (and perhaps the children in the car) to be dragged into this very difficult issue.  And that’s where I think the pro-lifers are making a strategic mistake.  Indeed, at the last few protests I’ve attended, I’ve seen fewer signs like these.  Perhaps their movement is getting smarter.

I’ll write about the use of “pro-choice” signs in the future but, for now, I think advocates of abortion rights should just stop wasting time on this particular issue.  First of all, it’s free speech.  The signs may be ugly, they may not represent the “normal” abortion, they may even be inaccurate.  But they are protected by the First Amendment.  Second, their use might be actually working against the pro-life movement.  And, third, we are always quick to argue that abortion is a woman’s choice.  Well, it’s a woman’s choice to look at the picture or not.  I trust women to be able to sort out the truth and to make the right decision.

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