Graphic imagery hurts pro-life efforts


On Oct. 5, the Washington Post published an article describing the experience of Lexi Fretz, whose stillborn son Walter’s picture was used in the infamous anti-Planned Parenthood video without her knowledge. The article, “When a photo of your stillborn baby appears in a viral antiabortion video,” reports that Fretz herself is a Christian and “pro-life.”  Ms. Fretz’s highly personal story was co-opted when 19-week-old Walter’s body was used as a prop in this video.

How exactly can the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) claim to work for the greater good when they misappropriate a photo of a stillborn baby from a personal blog and proceed to place it in a completely incorrect context as supposed evidence for a political argument? Regardless of stance on the issue of abortion itself, the propaganda techniques used by anti-abortion groups such as the CMP’s “Human Capital” project are past the point of appropriateness and are therefore ineffective.

Reading this mother’s story has made me realize where I am inflexible, even when I usually strive to empathize with those who disagree with me politically. The CMP’s methods not only discredit their organization, but invalidate and undermine the efforts of all other pro-life committees – even those that express their ideals and exercise their democratic rights in a respectable manner.

Anti-abortion propaganda frequently cross the line blindly and recklessly. Anti-abortion campaigns such as the video created by the “citizen journalists” of CMP (whose credentials are no-where to be found on their website), leave nothing inspiring in their wake to motivate change or bring about a change in opinion to those it targets. Obviously, these groups enjoy using the harsh shock tactics that the CMP Planned Parenthood video provides through their questionable investigative effort, but there must be a better way for pro-life groups to diffuse their message without shaming and hurting women whose  stories that they oftentimes have not cared to learn more about.

Another example of this ineffective, ignorant tactic is the common practice of college pro-life organizations around the country arranging the scene of a cemetery, commemorating thousands of lives lost, in a chosen location, representative of the number of abortions performed in a given amount of time.

Again, I cannot overstate the importance of understanding and accepting the opposing side of this abortion issue, and various pro-life organizations even do some positive work, such as providing pregnant women in need with free diapers. However, the highly emotional context of this display, because of the connotations our culture has with cemeteries, makes this strategy apathetic to women’s stories of their abortion that happened for medical reasons or from pressure from a partner or unavoidable life circumstances.

The huge overlying message that I personally take away from these cemetery displays is not that those crosses symbolize unborn babies who are murder victims, but instead, the displays represent a number of women’s deeply personal stories and decisions which have been cast aside without attempts to empathize with, trust, or respect their choices.

Many different facets and arguments exist when it comes to debating the morality and legality of the performance of abortion procedures. It’s an issue where opinions and emotions are complicated, and perhaps there is no black and white. Of course we will choose “sides”, but why do we have to do so without mercy in regards to those we disagree with? Perhaps, you don’t like the choices some people have made in their lives.

Perhaps, you want to exercise your democratic rights to promote the ideas that you hope will become policy. Perhaps, you hope that the law will not allow anyone to ever legally make the decision you oppose again. Fine. But all of those things can be achieved while recognizing the validity in an individual’s choice.

It is through compassion, respect and understanding that individuals may inspire a change in attitude instead of procuring explicit and harsh depictions based on false information and incorrect contexts that undermine a conviction as a whole.  Respect and love other people, even when they have taken an action that you never would make in your own life. After all, the acts of shaming and public ignominy bring no light into this world.

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