It would be foolish to call their handouts literature. Literature has recognized artistic value, is written by scholars or researchers, and is the output of a literary writer. No, the anti abortion materials are not literature, not by any stretch of the imagination. It would be more brutally honest to say that the minds creating their works are so malignant as to be horrifyingly amusing. All of the materials creatively stretch and, at times, ignore evidence-based medical research. Visually, their materials use ethically-challenged imagery. Their page designs (or lack thereof) and font choices ignore readability and economy in favor of the “more is better” mentality. And while their stuff is ugly in appearance, their content is made all the uglier with unadulterated propaganda.
Name-calling, a propaganda technique, links a person or idea to a negative as illustrated in “The abortion industry is motivated and driven by money and greed.” Or, in one example, completely dedicated to the Allentown Women’s Center, the fetal image alongside a dime is captioned “Abortion is not the answer. The AWC is not on your side. They are a business. They don’t care about you . . . and they don’t care about your baby! Choose Life. Walk away!” As you can see in
the image, the writer loves random underlining (as of shouting), indiscriminately using a variety of font styles and generously accenting words with exclamation marks. Again, is more better?
Take a closer look at the image of an alleged 10-week fetus and a U.S. dime. The size of a 10-week fetus is 18-22 mm while a dime is 17.9 mm. Is the comparison misleading imagery or an outright lie? And when all else fails, the author uses the propaganda technique of transfer which links the authority or prestige of something well-respected such as church or nation, to something she would have us accept. In an effort to convince an abortion-minded woman to carry her pregnancy to term, the author uses the image of a red heart with a purple cross with the words pro life (appealing to the church).
And beneath this image, the
words “Remember . . .Christ was conceived out of wedlock and so were many famous people including President Obama.” Now that’s a real doozy of a comparison. Christ conceived by the Holy Spirit and Obama conceived by his father’s seed. The comparison has a ten on the ICK factor.
In another tract, the author again shares the love of rampant underlining, the haphazard use of a garden variety of font styles and several propaganda techniques. Lacking any particular authority, the author, uses the transfer technique, to link the authority of external sources to help the reader make a connection that appears to be credible. Unfortunately, many of the external sources are from religious organizations (who specialize in religion, not abortion) and a publication house that is no longer in business.
The author unashamedly uses the special propaganda appeal of fear mongering claiming breast cancer connections to abortion and post abortion sequelae. Despite extensive evidence-based research that finds no cancer connection and no mental consequences to abortion, the author plays on deep-seated fears of impending doom. And for good measure, the dangers of contraception are tossed in to further the fear factor and to offer Natural Family Planning as an alternative. And if the reader is not convinced to “just say no” to abortion, the author tosses factoids about sexually transmitted infections. Too bad the factoids are incorrect. Frankly, I’m thinking masturbation is about the only sexual taboo that’s missing with this hodgepodge.
Both of the above tracts fail miserably to stick to one message. Instead, they beseech the reader to turn away from abortion, provide spurious information on available resources, use high inference language, grotesque yet inaccurate imagery and ask loaded questions. Moreover, instead of consistent, thoughtful message, they bludgeon their reader with their desperate, no holds barred antiabortion agenda.
A particularly absurd piece, that appears to be a glossy bookmark, quotes Dr. Seuss “A person is a person no matter how small” (breaking copyright laws) and displays human fingers holding what is alleged to be an amazing photograph of six-week ectopic-situated fetus. But here’s the rub: At six weeks, the fetus is between the size of the tip of a pen and a pencil eraser. The human fingers displayed are clearly out of proportion to the fetus. The reverse side of this bookmark contains a jumble of statements that offer misinformation and outright lies. For example, week five to six is when the heart begins to beat, not three weeks, as written. Also, it is week six or seven when small buds appear that become arms and legs. Aesthetically arresting imagery does not excuse intentional fabrications.
One of the most spectacularly cynical and perverse tracts that antiabortion activists use is the comparison of abortion to the Holocaust. Printed in Nazi red and black colors, the handout explicitly compares the murder of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust to women having abortions in the United States. Abraham H. Foxman, Anti Defamation League National Director and a Holocaust survivor said, “No Christian who understands Jewish suffering should resort to inappropriate comparisons to the Holocaust to send a message that abortion is wrong.” The tract is exemplary in its propagandistic appeal using the name-calling technique linking abortion as a Holocaust and using the logical fallacy to deliberately promote their antiabortion appeal by suggesting that the U.S. government is like Nazi Germany. Of course, there’s no mention of what American women want for their own reproductive health in this work, no mention that Nazi Germany was pro birth for Aryan women, and no mention that the U.S. government does not target particular groups with mass killings. Why let facts get in the way of a outrageous horror story?
There are anti abortion pamphlets that are professionally designed and then there are anti abortion handouts that are amateurishly cobbled together. Aesthetics aside, these homemade tracts fail to articulate the compassion and unconditional love that Jesus so passionately offered for all humankind. Looking through a stack of antiabortion activists’ tracts that have been given to women and their companions (and then tossed out), it becomes obvious to me that these activists’ have forgotten compassion and unconditional love. Instead, their handouts consistently use fear-mongering as their number one preferred tactic. Fear tactics, combined with misinformation, outright lies and unethical imagery, create a body of work in the anti abortion industry that any ethical person would be embarrassed to distribute. But from my experiences, the anti abortion activists are not embarrassed and that should tell you something about them.