In defense of gruesome aborted baby pictures

Last Friday, I was at Tenth and Fee Lane volunteering at a display set up by Created Equal and IU Students for Life. The gruesome sandwich board size pictures of aborted fetuses are meant to educate young people about the reality of abortion and provoke conversations with students about this horrible atrocity.

I was surprised at how positive the reaction was to the display during the time I was there. A number of students thanked us for being there and said they were pro-life. There were only a few negative reactions. (The most aggressive negative reaction I saw was from a man who was infuriated by the display.) The positive reaction probably should not have surprised me as much as it did, considering surveys showing adults in their 20’s tend to be more anti-abortion than Generation X or Baby Boomers. Millennials have grown up with much more detailed images of unborn babies than their predecessors did, so that could be one reason.

The pictures themselves are shocking, and there are people on both sides of the abortion debate who oppose the use of graphic images. Let me address abortion opponents’ objections to the photographs.

Graphic images have been used throughout history to expose great evil. Images of bodies piled high in liberated concentration camps demonstrated the depravity of Nazi Germany in a way words cannot. The image of a brutalized Emmett Till showed the brutal way blacks were oppressed in the South, and Till’s murder is what motivated Rosa Parks to refuse to obey an unjust law forcing her to give up her seat on the bus to whites. Images of starving children in Africa have effectively pushed relief efforts for famine.

Now that historically effective method is being used to show the horrific results of abortion. Americans are easily distracted by arguments for or against abortion, and the fact that abortion is largely hidden from the public view allows tens of millions of people to be blissfully ignorant of the slaughter that happens in their cities. But abortion pictures cannot be explained away as “the products of conception.” You see even in early-term pregnancies that surgical abortion kills a fully-formed human being. The pictures shock the conscience.

I supported much more judicious use of aborted baby pictures until I personally saw how they changed minds and forced people our of their comfort zone by confronting them with reality. I know that people have been convicted of sin and accepted Christ as their savior at Genocide Awareness Project displays. Pictures make it impossible to deny what abortion does. The gruesome pictures are used because they work.

I was very impressed with Students For Life, which has reactivated and had a pretty big group of (almost entirely female) students at their training meeting the night before. It says a lot that these women are willing to stand with a controversial display at possibly the most heavily trafficked intersection on campus. I am looking forward to watching them stand for life over the course of the next school year.

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