Should We Use Graphic Pro-Life Pictures?



October 11, 2007

The CTV News clip below shows coverage of the Canadian Centre

for Bioethical Reform’s Reproductive “Choice” Campaign in Calgary


by Jon Dykstra
(first appeared in the September 2002 issue of Reformed Perspective)

Greg Cunningham is an “in your face” kind of guy. Last year he began putting 7 by 22 foot pictures of aborted babies on the sides of delivery trucks, which were then driven all over California. On the Memorial Day weekend this year (May 25-27) he took it up a notch, renting a plane and trailing a 30 by 100 foot banner behind it. The banner showed parts of a 10-week-old aborted fetus: an arm and two legs laid out on top of a US nickel to give spectators an idea of the size of the bloody remains. He flew the plane over the Santa Monica beaches, showing the picture to jam-packed holiday weekend crowds.

And then he went on a radio talk show to take calls.

Most of the callers were upset, the abortion supporters were rabidly so. “Who are you to put me in a position to have to explain that to my child?” one caller demanded. Another protested that, “Children are going to see this, and then mommy and daddy are going to have to explain.”

The pro-lifers were upset for a different reason. They were worried that Greg’s endeavor would give all pro-lifers a bad name. Wasn’t there another way Greg could do this, one caller asked, a less fanatical way? Did Greg really have to show these gross pictures?

YES – graphic pictures are needed

Though Greg didn’t touch on them all, there are at least four reasons why we should make use of graphic images in our battle for the unborn.

First off, we need to use these pictures to restore meaning to the word “abortion.” In most minds the term “abortion” no longer describes the bloody and torturous death of a child. No, in most minds this word has become an almost positive term: it is a “solution” to a problem, a “right” that women have, a “choice” that was fought for, a “victory” that was won. This word should conjure up terror, but it is at best associated with mild regret.

So women having abortions never truly know the horror of what they are doing.

Greg’s bloody pictures let them know the truth. It takes but a glance and suddenly the positive term “abortion” becomes linked with negative words: Dismemberment, Pain, Death…Horror. Or as Greg put it: “If they give me a glance I’m going to put this picture in their head and they are never going to get it out. And every time they hear the word abortion this picture is going to go off like a bomb in their head.”

In a culture that watches TV instead of reading books there is a very obvious second reason to use graphic pictures. When people don’t listen to words anymore, pictures are all that’s left. Some commentators have called this the “post-literate age” – we don’t read and reason, instead we watch and feel. We are in many ways, beyond logic (see “Rocks, Babies and Biology 30” in this issue) – we weren’t taught to think analytically, so, convincing as the pro-life argument is, it isn’t very effective in this culture. Fewer and fewer people have the attention span to even listen to our arguments so pictures are a must.

The third reason is a practical one. Throughout the history of social reform, graphic pictures have proven their worth. Anti-Semitism is fought with pictures of bodies, stacked liked firewood, at Nazi death camps (the movie Schindler’s List was praised for it’s graphic portrayal of the Holocaust). The civil rights movement in the US only started gaining ground when the nation got to see TV images of blacks being brutally beaten. Here in Canada cigarette packages now feature pictures of diseased lungs and cancerous mouths. Campaigns against drunk driving include photos of mangled cars. Gang violence in the US is being fought with pictures of bullet-riddled corpses.

People may not want to see the pictures, they may hate you for showing them these disturbing images, but history shows that graphic pictures do work. They make the issue real to viewers in a way that words simply can’t. One only has to think of the graphic images from September 11 to know this is true.

The final reason is also practical. In Canada more than 100,000 children are killed each year with abortions. In the US more than 4000 children are killed each day. We are losing the battle and every day we do, more children die. That means there is an urgent need to find and develop new tactics. We’ve tried polite persuasion and it hasn’t worked, so now it is time to try more extreme measures.

NO – there are other ways

Some of the pro-life callers to the radio talk show protested that it was wrong to use these disturbing pictures when other approaches could still be tried. Maybe this is a legitimate point…if we actually go out and try these other approaches.

Instead of using the pictures, maybe we could ensure everyone in our church has a “Precious Feet” pin on the lapel of every jacket they own. These pins are life-size imprints of the feet of a baby ten weeks after conception, and they are great conversation starters. They are available at most local pro-life organizations, or on the Internet at

Instead of the pictures maybe we could get a pro-life bumper sticker on every car in the church parking lot (RP is giving some out for free – see our ad). What a sight that would be! Passersby would be confronted with one pro-life message after another.

And if that still isn’t enough, if the people in our neighborhoods still don’t know about the horror and evil of abortion, maybe we could get everyone we know to start wearing pro-life shirts. They are easy enough to buy or make (and if you’re looking for some catchy slogans to put on them, check out this issue’s “In a Nutshell”). Instead of advertising silly companies and brands, our family and friends could start advertising life on everything they wear.


Thousands of unborn children die each day, and thousands more will continue to die until we win this war. So clearly we have to do more. If you don’t want to thrust pictures of aborted babies into the face of every passerby you meet, fine, but then you must ask yourself what exactly are you going to do?

“Nothing” is not a Christian response.

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