Challenging Language & Graphic Pictures
One advantage of publishing a paper is you can print your own letter if it's passed up by another publication. So I offer this reject, responding to an article in the Arlington Catholic Herald. It examines an issue debated in pro-life circles since the beginning-explicit language & graphic photos.

I would like to compliment The Herald for the article People of Life by Our Words and Deeds. The author is absolutely on-target when she says that pro-lifers must always ask themselves, "Who is the audience?" As a long-time sidewalk counselor, I never use gruesome pictures of aborted babies outside abortion mills. They create a barrier between me and the mom I'm trying to reach. Her baby at that point is her "problem" and she's pretending the little one doesn't exist. Focusing on the baby is not in the infant's best interest, because it almost guarantees the mom will see me as an "enemy" and refuse to talk to me.

Does that mean these pictures are "negative" and should never be used? Absolutely not! This country is in serious denial about what abortion is and does. The pictures don't condemn, they inform. They are not "negative," but factual. Do they work? Yes! The country is more pro-life than in 1973. The partial birth abortion debate with pictures showing the gruesome process has aroused the horror of many. But even in the early days, the photos changed hearts. In 1972 before Roe v. Wade, pro-abortionists got a referendum to legalize abortion on the ballot in Michigan. Michigan right to life did mass literature drops showing beautiful photos of fetal development using "positive" language. They had absolutely no impact on the polls (60% pro-abortion). Two weeks before the vote, pro-lifers changed tactics distributing millions of copies of the very graphic Life or Death brochure. On election day 63% voted against abortion.

Educating the general public requires giving them the hard truth. Two very successful programs in the U.S. today are GAP [the Genocide Awareness Project] and "Wake up, America!" GAP erects large displays on college campuses. They include photos of aborted babies, slavery, lynchings in the south, and the German holocaust. Trained speakers engage students in reasoned argument and many are touched. GAP coordinates with local crisis pregnancy centers to refer women needing help and post-abortion counseling.

In a similar vane, "Wake up, America!" takes pictures of abortion to the streets. Participants stand on main roads with 8-foot photos showing both fetal development and abortion. As motorists approach the display, large signs warn them what's ahead so they can turn off on a side street if they choose not to look. In an interview with Life Dynamics, Joe Scheidler of Chicago, a hero of the pro-life movement who spearheads the project in Illinois, said they plan to add a picture of Jesus weeping at the end of the display.

The hard truth can be expressed in a compassionate way. In my own life many women have revealed their abortions to me under unusual circumstances. One experience I found particularly astounding occurred at a party following my daughter's UVA graduation in 1992. We were in the back yard of the campus ministry house. I had been released from the Erie County Detention Center in Buffalo only 48 hours before, having spent 24 days in jail with Operation Rescue's "Spring of Life" project. After a brief conversation about my prison time, a young woman (a perfect stranger to me) said (in front of the group), "I've never told anyone this, but I had an abortion 16 years ago." Clearly that woman knew that I hated abortion with my entire being, but she also knew neither I, nor any of the others, would condemn her.

Let us not, in our zeal to be "compassionate," forget that the hard truth spoken in love can change hearts and minds. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well he minced no words about her adultery. "You are right when you say you don't have a husband. You have had five and the man you live with now is not really your husband." [John 4:17-18] Only after facing and acknowledging her sin could the woman repent, accept forgiveness, be healed, and become the town evangelist. We must love the aborted woman enough to tell her the truth in love, mourn with her over the baby she herself killed, embrace her with God's message of mercy, and help her to move on.

Does God approve of graphic pictures and the hard truth? Look at the crucifix.

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