Fri 31st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 16:19pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

Graphic images of abortion are profoundly counterproductive and damage the pro-life cause

Displaying these images outside an abortuary may change the minds of some women, but they will alienate the general public

By on Monday, 8 October 2012

Pro-lifers march in Madrid (Photo: CNS)

Pro-lifers march in Madrid (Photo: CNS)

A new US-supported pro-life organisation currently maintains a protest outside a Brighton abortuary, where it displays graphic abortion images. The purpose of this is ostensibly to show the women going for abortions the reality of what they are about to allow to be done to them and to their child, and thereby dissuade them from going through with it. I do not doubt the good motivations of this campaign, and do not believe the intention behind it is to bully or intimidate women. Indeed, I have defended their right to protest, against accusations of illegal “harassment”. I think it is also important, however, to give clear and total opposition to such tactics on the grounds that their effects are profoundly counterproductive, not merely to the express aims of such protests, but to the health of the pro-life lobby in Britain.

While there are some women who may be convinced into not having an abortion at the sight of such images, there are other women for whom such images will only offend, harden their hearts, and resolve them to go ahead, undermining any thoughts they may have had of keeping their baby. More widely, the impact such images have on the general public can also be toxic. Many people resent not only being shown nasty pictures unsolicited as they walk down the street, but having their children exposed to gory photography.

This natural disgust and resentment is then exploited gleefully by the abortion lobby, who proceed to caricature pro-lifers as cruel and unfeeling bullies who wish to browbeat and shame vulnerable women. Such mud sticks, and not just to some protestors but to us all, hampering serious attempts to change the culture and the law by mainstream pro-life groups. None of this is fair, but it is reality.

This is not to say that visual presentations of abortion or its consequences are never appropriate or effective. I was myself converted from being radically pro-abortion to pro-life while at secondary school, within 10 minutes of being shown an image of an aborted foetus. Even in that setting, though, the employment of such pictures can have mixed effects. One colleague of mine who has years of experience in both abortion counselling and in pro-life school presentations, has recounted to me how showing graphic images in schools can often provoke anger and defensiveness (including for fellow pupils who have had abortions) rather than sympathy for the unborn.

The diversity of effects these pictures engender is due to the diversity of human beings, their psychologies, and their perspectives. Organisations like the Vitae Foundation make the point that women in a crisis pregnancy situation have a host of “right-brained” emotional factors that feed into their decision-making, and thus arguments and images that might convince someone coming from a more detached and abstract “left-brained” perspective (such as my teenage pro-abortion self) will either have no effect, or push them in the opposite direction. The foundation’s research on the efficacy of graphic portrayals bears this out.

Other issues, such as the ethics of such images (the instrumentalised abuse and manipulated portrayal of dead human bodies), could also be raised in objection to these campaigns. A crucial point however, is that while pro-life protestors need to reach out to all kinds of people, and tell the whole truth about abortion, they have to realise that the efficacy of certain tactics will be hugely context-specific. In a voluntary and considered academic setting, graphic images may very well be helpful. Presenting them outside an abortuary, however, or indeed any public space, will largely lead to the alienation of women who might otherwise have been open to persuasion by a gentler approach, as well as the general public, without whom a lasting cultural and political change towards the ultimate end of abortion will never occur.

  • JohnMorizio

    I heartfully disagree. I was actually thinking about this topic the other day – I think there should be a documentary on NATIONAL TV PRIME TIME show displaying images of abortion and dismemberment – America will not stop Abortion until America SEES Abortion!

  • Davano

    Unfortunately, your article does nothing but hurt the pro-lifemovement. If the Holocaust in Germany can be presented and shown in graphic detail of the autracities that man can not only commit, but let happen. And create an anger in the depths of ones’ belly for the weak and the innocent lives that were treated like basic garbage. Then so too, must the graphic depiction of the dismembered human bodies be shown to bring light to the darkness that has held them captive. To open eyes that have believed it was nothing more than a blob of tissue. Now before them the truth cries out, NO I am what you were and now no more…hear my screams and rescue me.

  • Allan Daniel

    Pro-lifers have played the game politely for many decades to no avail. We still have abortion on demand–and now the prospect of killing the old and disabled in the near future is a certainty.  Let us face the facts and acknowledge that the the pro-life movement has been a failure. Most people don’t give a hoot whether a baby is killed during abortion or not. The pro-life movement is based on religious values–as it must be–but most people no longer share those values.

    We ought not consider the feelings of those guilty women who have killed their baby until they repent. They are enemies of God and man. Abortion is the largest mass murder in the world’s history and we have no right to fight the slaughter with the ineffective tools of civility. War is war. Show the pictures. It cannot hurt, but the few who still retain a dim conscience might be persuaded.

  • Davano

    *atrocities* it’s early here ….

  • Richard Collins

    I disagree. Your argument is specious; women (and men) may not consider the damage and danger of abortion if only presented with ‘nice’ images. The reality is what makes people stop and think and, the Abort 67 Group that operates in Britain using graphic images, is at pains to screen them when young children are about.
    One might also argue that children, sadly, are hardened to graphic images thanks to BBC News and violent computer games.
    We need more reality and less graphic euphemism.

  • Bea

    I absolutely agree with not displaying images like these outside abortion clinics.  If the intention of those outside is to help the mother choose life, I think the images mentioned do the opposite, they don’t offer help but rather condemnation.

    In other settings though I think they are ok, as long as there is a warning and younger children are not shown these.

    A side note: When at secondary school I saw some pictures of aborted foetuses while going through my mum’s bookcase.  I immediately became more pro life than I had previously been.  I offered to bring them to school during GCSE debates on abortion and was told that it would be too upsetting for other students at the school.  However, we were allowed to see PETA campaigns though and other anti animal testing images which were just as graphic, if not more so.  They were definitely upsetting.

  • Ryanchristopherday

    Very sorry Peter, I also disagree. I also have been thinking about this a lot and what needs to change for the general public is the false sense that abortion is something that is abstract. The whole pro-choice success is based precisely upon the rock that is ‘de humanise the unborn child’ make it an appendage or illness that needs to be deleted. Society has bought into this narrative and more significantly, people simply refuse/do not wish to be confronted with the reality, because if they accept it it raises fundamental questions and makes everyone a little uncomfortable. We show images of the Holocaust to children in schools for their education morally and historically, and rightly so. I could go on……..

  • Veuster

    I don’t agree. I should like to see Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop Nichols and all the other members of the hierarchies in Scotland and England & Wales standing outside abortion clinics with the most specific images of aborted foetuses possible, in order to make the women going into those clinics fully aware of what it is they are proposing to do. Are the images “upsetting”? Too bad. They are *meant* to be upsetting, because what the women propose to do *is* upsetting.

  • PaulHalsall

    Perhaps you would be better opposing Tory party policies, when the party right now is calling for child benefit to be denied to the new children of the unemployed, more or less compelling the mothers to abort.

  • Hermit

    What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.

    Abortion should be shunned because it is a great injustice against an innocent person in the womb and offends God grievously.

    The love of God and neighbour should convince all people never to resort to abortion. There will always be other just and satisfactory solutions for women in crisis pregnancy situations.

  • Bea

    I too think a TV programme would be a good thing.  However, the difference between that and showing placards on the street is that you can choose to change the channel/ not watch it at all, rather than be confronted with these images while walking down the street .

    If we are to offer help to these women so they can find the strength to carry on with their pregnancy, I don’t think that in that situation confronting them with images of aborted foetuses would be helpful.

    At a pro-life demonstration outside parliament last year the organisers invited youth defence from Ireland.  They brought with them posters and banners.  In that situation I think that is appropriate.

  • Peter D. Williams

    Ryan, you’ll notice that my argument is not that graphic images shouldn’t be used at all, just not outside abortuaries. In academic settings, such use can be fine. Not, however, in emotionally-charged public places where no consideration and voluntary consent is given. Given the inefficacy of such tactics, and the damage it does to the reputation of Pro-Lifers and thus the work they try to accomplish, why would anyone support them…?

  • EndTimes101

    This article is very damaging and you should keep your failed minority views to personal discussions. People like you who PUBLICLY create division are the greatest gift you could give to the Abortionists. We have had years of zero progress again mass human sacrifice because people with your view have always managed to cast enough fear, doubt, and guilt on those who naturally know better, to provide a morally strong and united front against abortion. You further divide an already divided and disorganised pro life movement.
    Look to the example of the death camps when the locals were forced to walk through them after the war. They went in laughing and joking….and came out ashen faced, finally but sadly realising TOO LATE what was on there doorstep. We all in Western Europe (except Ireland) have death camps on our doorstep also but it will never be acknowledged until we make people face the reality of what really happens behind those gates….terrible crimes of both of commission AND omission.

  • EndTimes101

     “the damage it does to the reputation of Pro-Lifers”

    You worry about people losing their reputations while behind the gates children are losing their lives! Unbelievable!!!

  • JabbaPapa

    Organisations like the Vitae Foundation make the point
    that women in a crisis pregnancy situation have a host of
    “right-brained” emotional factors that feed into their decision-making,
    and thus arguments and images that might convince someone coming from a
    more detached and abstract “left-brained” perspective (such as my
    teenage pro-abortion self) will either have no effect, or push them in
    the opposite direction.

    This is a load of complete freaking cobblers.

    Right or left dominant brains as described here are abnormal and psychotic.

  • teigitur

    On balance I think you are wrong Mr Williams. Though since you speak for the liberal, and often plain wrong, “Catholic Voices”, I cannot say I am surprised.

  • Peter D. Williams

    *Sigh*. If you don’t read and think before you comment, EndTimes101, you end up constructing straw-men, as you have here. I was talking about the reputation of the Pro-Life lobby, not Pro-Life individuals. PR matters hugely, because without credibility you can’t achieve very much in the cultural, let alone political, sphere. Thus, people showing graphic pictures, a practice that is often not merely inefficacious, but actively counter-productive insofar as it pushes people in the opposite direction, does not merely impact on the groups involved, but the whole Pro-Life lobby. To support such actions is certainly ‘unbelievable’…

  • AnnieB

    I disagree with you Mr Williams. Seeing pictures of aborted foetuses, seeing their innate beauty, made me realise the true evil that is abortion.

    We need to shout the truth about these atrocities here and now.

    This is wholesale genocide and the consequences are appalling.

  • Peter D. Williams

    Actually, in this article I am speaking as Executive Officer for ‘Right To Life’, and not as Speaker for ‘Catholic Voices’. Your comment would only really make sense if you were confusing us with our – now possibly defunct – liberal counterparts, ‘Catholic Voices For Reform’ ( ‘Catholic Voices’ ( ) is orthodox, and though not infallible, is certainly authoritative. If and when you can detect an area where we are “plain wrong” however, by all means do let me know.

  • teigitur

    Oh, where shall I start. So much choice. Well how about the BBC ‘ s “Popes British Divisions” Which “Catholic Voices” branded “superb” It was an awful programme and contained some real rubbish. Like; “you can pick and choose the bits of Catholicism that suits you, or the “Holy Father is out of touch with his views about abortion etc” Wrong enough?

  • EndTimes101

    “If and when you can detect an area where we are “plain wrong” however, by all means do let me know”

    Lose your haughty arrogant tone, that would be a good start….

  • EndTimes101

    Please try reading *and* thinking before you comment”

    Amazingly enough, people with views other than yours might have something to offer to the Pro-life movement!
    It is clear to me from your tone and whiny article that you have neither the personal grace to bring ANYONE over to your way of thinking, or the stomach to go toe to toe in a fight with people that kill children for breakfast.
    With ‘leaders’ like yourself, it’s perfectly clear to me my the UK Pro-life movement is such a dismal failure…….

  • paulpriest


    This is what happens when Pro-Life advocates don’t have a sound understanding of fundamental moral theology.

    The use of aborted foetal imagery is an intrinsic moral disorder which scandalises and desecrates our deceased unborn neighbour.
    Its usage is normatively gravely sinful and is actually a ferendae sententiae canonical crime [in the 1917 canon it was actually an excommunicable offence to desecrate either a body or to abuse/violate their graphic image]

    Therefore it may ONLY be used in the condition of moral dilemma – the negative double effect – where one is confronted with a possibility to prevent a direct, grave objective evil occurring.

    Therefore in grave, direct, critical circumstances when an abortion is imminent IT IS PERMISSIBLE to use such imagery.

    The situation must be grave, intrinsically unjust and reactive.

    Now Mr Williams argues that the imagery does serve an effective purpose in other circumstances.
    e.g. in a voluntary academic or sub-political setting with advocacy towards abortion reduction and legalislative restriction.

    Now this invokes problems for Mr Williams in that he has, on the record, dismissed and denounced Colin Harte’s Solidaritist position as naiive, ridiculous, stupid, misguided, untenable and even recently as ‘unconscionable’ – instead he chooses to side with John Finnis’s position of Incrementalism and gradualism regarding abortion legislation.

    In order to do so Mr Williams must, with John Finnis, adopt the position of which proposes an INTERPRETATION of Evangelium Vitae 73.3 which they believe permits actions whereby voting for restrictive abortion legislation is merely remote material co-operation in an unjust law – one is only participating in the just parts of the legislation and one bears no culpability or responsibility for other unjust aspects of the bill.

    BUT in doing so this automatically NEGATES the permissibility for ever using aborted foetal photographs [note: not graphic representations] in political, educational or voluntary academic circumstances as participation in such circumstances is not confronting intrinsically unjust circumstances – merely unjust ones.

    …and foetal photographs are expressly forbidden to be used in pro-active, non-grave circumstances where one is not confronting an intrinsically unjust circumstance.

    NOW: In order for foetal photographs to be used in such circumstances legislation, educational propaganda and pro-abortion activism MUST be deemed as intrinsically unjust – one must be resorting to the negative double-effect in moral dilemma to redress an objective evil

    But in Peter’s own paradigm – those circumstances are merely unjust – not intrinsically unjust [otherwise Evangelium Vitae 73.2 would be introduced and prohibit participation in restrictive gradualist incrementalist legislation - something Peter not merely defends - but promotes while dismissing any other position as 'unconscionable']

    a] Peter Williams is arguing that aborted foetal photographs SHOULD NOT be used where Catholic moral teaching says it is permissible to use them.
    b] That there are circumstances where they may be used – but Catholic moral teaching expressly forbids such usage IF Peter’s incrementalist position is valid.

    Hoisted on one’s own petard!
    By arguing that one is permitted to engage as an incrementalist in restrictive [non-solidaritist] abortion legislation with exceptions and compromises;
    One automatically negates the permissibility to ever use aborted foetal photographs while fighting abortion legislation or promoting common opposition to such laws in academia or the debating floors.

    Peter: Your very own principles prevent you from holding the position that they are ever acceptable in any circumstance. You declare they shouldn’t be used is the only place in your moral framework where they are ever permissible to be used.

    Now – to get back to their usage outside an abortuary:

    Why shouldn’t they be used?

    Peter makes the claim that women in crisis pregnancies are viscerally emotionally charged with heavily empathic ‘right-brain’ acuities which ‘de-rationalises’ their decision-making processes and the confrontation with aborted foetal imagery will lead to either nothing or might [I note the Vitae 'report' says 'probably'] lead to counterproductive hostility and  an emotional backlash which will reinforce the determination to proceed with the abortion…

    Primarily the use of ‘left brain/right brain’ analogies is without any authentic scientific credence – there is no academic foundation for such propositions. That they are more open to empathic intensity axiomatically implies that they are more susceptible to such imagery and more likely to change their mind when confronted with it – not the reverse…

    Secondly where is the evidence for this ‘counter-productive opposite effect’ other than Vitae’s reactional study/anecdotal ‘research’ performed in situations not involving women about to abort?

    Thirdly there is ground-based evidence that producing foetal imagery at that critical juncture has been effective – lives have been saved.

    Fourthly Peter is arguing that use of such imagery alienates other women whom are already pro-abortion but by such actions have their convictions intensified where gentle persuasion might have diminished them – but this is NOT the reason for their use outside an abortuary – they are guerrilla shock tactics aimed at convincing a woman about to abort that she will be murdering her child.

    I’m sorry Peter but yet again you’re appealing to utilitarian principles.
    Whether or not society or pro-abortion campaigners are outraged at such tactics or become more belligerently hostile and the situation is aggravated by further accusations of bullying/intimidation/heartlessness etc…it doesn’t matter!!

    That’s not the point of the action in itself.

    The morality at issue is the desperate attempt to save a life at a critical juncture as a desperate final recourse at the eleventh hour to confront an expectant mother with the intended results of what she’s about to do…

    An action which is permissible in Catholic teaching

    Irrespective of the consequences – the resultant negative perception, the media backlash, the intensifying of pro-abortion campaigners and their mendacious propaganda – none of these matter and should NEVER be part of the discernment process and examination of conscience before the person making that attempt to save a life performs the action…

    We are NOT utilitarians

    You are arguing that aborted foetal photographs should not be used because:

    a] It’s counterproductive and when it isn’t utterly ineffective it actually makes the woman more resolute to continue with her abortion  [because of the woman's addled cognitive functions [ aside - don't you think that's a little bit patronising and misogynistic?]]

    To which I say “Rubbish!” It might save lives – you have no substantive evidence to make such a claim of counterproductivity – and if it distresses those women who are about to abort or enrages those who are consciously choosing to abort without any moral reticence? TOUGH! Someone’s just been murdered and your neighbour just tried to stop you from doing it…

    b] It has negative consequences for the Pro-Life movement/

    To which I also say TOUGH! It’s an irrelevance in regard to the morality of the single act which was a desperate attempt to save a single life.

    How many times do I have to repeat?

    Catholicism has no time for the Caiaphas corollary!!!

    Someone is trying to save a life – it is permissible to resort to such tactics – and let the world perish in fire and water before anyone has the right to say that the person has either done wrong or should not have made the attempt because of the awkward consequences for others….

    Let right be done!
    And woe betide anyone who stands in Heaven’s way by saying it shouldn’t be!

  • Sweetjae

    Nicely put!

  • theroadmaster

    Without context, such stark images such as images of aborted foetuses can indeed have a counter-productive effect in relation to hardening pro-abortion sentiments rather than dissipating it.  Such depictions while not surprisingly causing people to be viscerally sickened, could have the unintended effect of forcing them psychologically to reject the cause of those who utilize such images i.e.eradication of abortion.  But when such pictures are put in the context of this death-dealing  industry e.g as posters in an exhibition or book form with accompanying text, then the effect may very well be the creation of a new pro-life perspective in the minds of those who view them.  The usefulness of graphic images when put in context can be seen in the considerable success that the anti-smoking message has enjoyed in recent years.  Perhaps this is the route that the pro-life activists should take wit regards to abortion.  Am image can speak a thousand times louder than words with a little text added to give background.

  • EndTimes101

     Game, set and match to Paul i believe  :-)

    On a more serious note, i have no doubt that abortionists have a fifth column inside the Pro-life movement. All this in-fighting and disunity is a big part of their strategy…. and it has been working a treat for years.

  • Sweetjae

    What is wrong with saying and showing the TRUTH! Though it is savage, brutal and horrendous image yet that is what it is! Christians are not going for politically correct (lies) attitude. We are in the middle of a war here…show them the real reality!

  • Just_a_simpleton

    I’m blown away by this! I bet Mr Williams wishes he had stayed in bed this morning now :)

  • Orapronobis

    Once again Peter you are massively off the mark.

    Isn’t it amazing how many traditional Catholics disagree with you when you write anything?

    Maybe it is time that you got the message.

  • paulpriest

    The CVeebie record of authoritative quotes…














    …and that’s just off the top of my head!!

    [from a comment I made on James Preece's blog]

    The CVeebies want to be the ONLY voice in the media speaking about ‘acceptable
    Catholicism’ – innocuous, inoffensive, accommodating, isolationist in
    not interposing/imposing its views but ‘integrationist’ in wishing to
    seek out a ‘new secularist-new humanist’ paradigm for dialogue and
    mutual benefit where we ‘agree to disagree’ on the ‘peripherals’ but all
    join together for social justice under the banner of ‘the common good’.

    Chesterton responded to the ‘less heat:more light’ mantra by declaring it was
    impossible to face the blazing sunlight of truth without both the light
    of wisdom and the all-consuming ardently passionate and uncompromising
    fire…to seek out the cool light is to dwell in the delusional icy dead
    moonshine of the lunatic.

    With this crowd it’s less sunlight, and not even moonlight – but limelight!

    Already ex-Abbot Jamison has told us the media is no place to evangelise [directly contrary to His Holiness' words on the subject] and the CVeebies have been told that it’s not about winning arguments – but about witnessing…and here’s
    where it gets crucial:
    They say:

    “clarifying misunderstanding,
    shedding light where there is myth and confusion,
    demonstrating empathy and compassion and a deeper vision
    …the enemy of such witness is a desire to ‘win’ and ‘defeat’.
    An attitude of rivalry and victory, of winners and losers, of ‘right and wrong’ – this is the language of battles and sieges, of war and persecution….
    [those who wield cudgels in defence of the faith/pope etc]
    …have to avoid being part of the same cycle of accusation and defence…’

    [Now this is the point where I want to knock Austen Ivereigh's block-off: Get this!!!]

    “As a model, take Jesus in the Gospel of John: Endlessly challenged, he never falls into the attitude of a persecuted victim”

    No Austen he didn’t – but I don’t think you’ve really read John’s Gospel
    have you?
    Our Lord and Saviour takes on all-comers brandishing Truth like a gleaming sword before Him – uncompromising, demanding, no accommodating or watering-down, no hegelian dialectical dialogue to find a ‘consensual common good’ upon which we can all agree

    - He is the Way, the Truth, the Life…and incidentally – the LIGHT!’

    …Now Austen, Jack & Kathleen[who?!] seem to wish us to enter into a
    Vichyist paradigm where not only is the media not the enemy – but the
    enemy is not the enemy! There is no war! We’re all together as a unified
    collective with differing truth-positions and all seeking out a homogenous end [self-fulfilment and the 'common good'] by different routes and alternate value meme-structures.

    The only enemy are those who seek to disrupt this holistic approach towards
    ‘witness’..those uncharitable, divisive, intolerant boat-rockers who
    wish to fight rather than being harbingers of peace – those who wish a
    continuance in the violent, sectarian, confrontational, aggression that
    really turns people off and makes them stop listening and walk away…

    [hence a denunciation of Catholic bloggers as the Ultras - the Taliban - The
    'Pyjamahideen' [whatever that means?]

    Instead of the salt of the earth – we’re called to be its monosodium glutamate and saccharine.

    Instead of Faith in a sea of doubt we are to provide placating inoffensive platitudes,

    Instead of Hope amidst the despair and nightmare chaos we are to provide
    faux-reassurance that we’re all basically nice people who mean well and
    things aren’t really that bad are they?

    Instead of Love amidst the sin, depravity and treacherous, murderous evil – we are claiming to be ‘there for them’ and ‘speaking out for them’ and ‘accepting them for who they are-where they are’…

    …and Truth – the Person of Christ – where does that fit in?
    With Catholic Voices one feels that it’s never ‘What would Jesus do [or
    say]?’ and almost always ‘What would Austen/+Vin want me to say?’

    A lot less “Faith of Our Fathers”and a lot more like “Sit down you’re rocking the boat”

    Ladies and Gentleman – I’ve got news for you:

    We’re at war.

    if some dewy-eyed, faux-sincere yahoo flashes their pearly-whites and
    tells you in a serious yet media-trained sing-song voice that we’re
    seeking a progressive conflict-resolution-scenario through dialogue and
    positive ‘reframing’?

    Get your sword out – because you’re going to have to join the fight in their place…

    Catholic Voices? [Catholics gone native!]

  • Patrickhowes

    Hving seen all my children come into the world,this was also quite gorey!Did it put me off no!Went on to have five more strong healthy boys.The difference is we carried bundles of joy home and have watched them grow into good Catholic boys who love Life!The gorey abortion pictures reveal the truth that it all ends there!Wha tvere it takes to reveal the horror of this crime,so be it!

  • John

    Do images of the victims in Nazi concentration camps make viewers pro-Nazi?

  • Patrickhowes

    you contradict yourself.By discovering the pictures in your mother´s handbag,it propelled you into action.Isn´t that what they are trying to do at the very last moment?As half an hour later it is literally all down the drain!?Excuse the vulgarity but I say it to shock not mock

  • Alexander VI

    With or without these images abortion will never be criminalised in the UK.

  • Hobgood05

    I dislike the images of the dead babies because it seems demeaning to their dignity. These are real people who have died. We should not exploit their images to make a point. Many women having an abortion have been convinced that this is the only option available to them. They cannot see another path. They only see a wall of gloom, loneliness and despair.
    Show them a better path. Show them happy children. Convince them that they will not be alone ( and make sure they are not!). Convince them they will survive and have joy again, and that this very child will be the source of much joy, too.

  • mollysdad

    If people are pushed in the wrong direction by being shown the truth, then that is a sign that they are personally wicked and obstinate in their sins. Jesus did exactly the same. He told the truth and made His enemies worse no less than He drew others to repentance.

  • Caroline Farrow

     “Many women having an abortion have been convinced that this is the only option available to them. They cannot see another path. They only see a wall of gloom, loneliness and despair. 
    Show them a better path. Show them happy children. Convince them that they will not be alone ( and make sure they are not!). Convince them they will survive and have joy again, and that this very child will be the source of much joy, too.”

    Yes – this is the very heart of pro-life outreach work. Thank you for those words of insight and wisdom.

    I think this is what many of us forget, framing the issue in terms of what may be achieved politically, which should only be one strand of trying to abolish the horrors of abortion. In terms of reaching desperate women, the clinic vigils need careful handling – they can be very valuable, but dealt with the wrong way they may do more harm than good. Giving women positive hope for the future is at least as important as the graphic and gory realities of the procedure. There is a place for graphic images, some women do need to be shown the reality and leaflets may work in a one-on-one situation, but a 7 foot  confrontational grisly banner, really is not the best approach. 

    I guess it’s carrot rather than stick.

  • Lazarus

    Mere rhetoric. Some abortions are already illegal. There are hopeful signs that more types of  abortion may be illegal in the future. 

  • Ryanchristopherday

    Problem is I don’t think that there is conclusive evidence that the inefficacy of such methods has been proved really stands up. My issue with this piece is its certainty in an area in which we simply cannot be certain. It is very difficult to be definitive about the good or otherwise of such methods because it isn’t a simple mathematical formula or statistical survey that will answer the question once and for all. I respect your opinion as an individual but this is a public, prescriptive piece in a leading Catholic publication not a living room conversation. 

    Also, children in schools do not give consent to the images they are taught in schools – so we cannot show them? Teenagers are pretty emotionally charged in my experience  And what exactly is a purely academic setting? 

    I have real sympathy with the PR concern behind this piece and respect you personally, but I simply cannot agree.

    P.S. I have enjoyed watching some of your debates in the marriage front – you should be lauded for your commitment to such causes and your willingness to enter the public arena as you do. You, and your colleagues in the media are constantly in my prayers.

  • Isaac

    Words of light and love. What a refreshing contrast to the anger (even rage) that seems to be the dominant emotion in the comments so far.

  • Catholicthoughtsblogger

    I think a lot of the commenters are being too hard on the poster. This is a genuinely difficult issue which needs to be thought about and discussed – it is far from clear what sort of impact these types of images will have on people who see them, and whether it is morally right to show them in public, where children could see them. So anyone who wants to see the end of abortion, which I believe we all do, should discuss the issue calmly, not simply throw abuse at anyone who raises the question.

  • Kevin

    The arrogance of this posting lies in the assumption that the alternative is efficacious, and that those using the images are “messing up” what would otherwise be a winning strategy. This is very insulting to those campaigners who do not make similarly presumptuous claims.

    The use of these images is logical and consistent with the practice of showing pictures of the victim in murder trials. Similar images have been used in every kind of campaign from road safety to Holocaust remembrance to current events, for example in Syria. One cannot convey the seriousness of a crime without condemning it, and one certainly cannot hesitate to condemn it because someone somewhere might have already committed it.

    No campaign for moral or social reform could survive an in-built fear of engendering guilt or discomfort.

  • Katie

    Can I just say something about the comment below whch predicts that abortion will never be recriminalized in Uk. I don’t think that criminalizing abortion is the point. The point is that women could come to see that they are killing another humen being. It’s the same thing with killing an adult. Most of us don’t do it and we don’t depend on the law to know that it woud be wrong.

  • karlf

     Agreed – it’s about changing the prevailing attitudes towards abortion.

  • la catholic state

    Very true Paul…..the implicit order is….if you are unemployed then it is evil of you to give life ie not to have an abortion is evil for the unemployed.  And then they play games with the pro-life electorate…tantalising us with hints and empty words about lowering the time limit of abortion.  Clearly they don’t give a damn about the fate of the child in the womb.  It’s all a cynical ploy. 

    Can’t any high-profile Catholic instruct them….not that they care anyhow. 

  • Lazarus

    I agree. If anything, I’m probably more sympathetic to the use of graphic images than not, and thus wouldn’t (certainly for the moment) agree with the conclusion, that we should ‘give clear and total opposition to such tactics’. But Peter’s raised reasonable questions of effectiveness and acknowledged the problem about instrumentalizing the dead children: his is not an unreasonable argument.

    In particular, we do need to think about effectiveness in anti-abortion campaigns. That isn’t the same as utilitarianism: no Catholic should claim that effectiveness is the only issue (which, essentially, is the utilitarian position), but it is AN issue.

    I appreciate that there is a danger of divisiveness in the pro-life movement by airing such concerns, but I think this is better handled by being careful about how we debate these questions (in particular the tone of the debate) rather than not raising the issues at all.

  • gabriel_syme

    The author worries about “alienating the general public” as though the general public were an intellectual or moral beast whose opinion mattered.

    Why should the reality of abortion alienate anyone who is worth being taken seriously? 

    The only pro-abortion arguments one hears are exceptionally cheap and vaucous.  They are not so much arguments as they are slurs, usually along the lines of:

    - restrictions are “insulting to women”
    - anyone who thinks different to me is an idiot

    etc etc

    A masterclass in the meaning of puerile.

    Bishop Devine of Motherwell had it right, when he recently said that a single picture of the results of the holocaust or the burma railway were worth a thousand words.

    So, too, with abortion.

  • thomas myob

    “Thou shalt not alienate public opinion”
    Dig up or hunt out the brits amongst the allies, there were two on our estate early fifties , who took local germans into the concentration camps they’d liberated, and accuse them of “hate” crime, while you’re at it.
    And to the tune of  ” M.python’s, as per 2012 olympics, always look on the bright side of life ”
    We could all sing together
    “always keeep your sepulchre’s ouside white, bedum, badum badum badum,
    always keep your sepulchre’s outside white”

  • leahydave10

    I feel that the true horrors and brutalities of abortion have to be displayed.

  • EndTimes101

    Too hard? Pro-lifers need to get serious, emotional and motivated if they are to have ANY impact against the culture of death and stop scoring these own goals.
    Consider the timing and not just the content of the issue raised. In the last week the pro-life movement have been handed an amazing opportunity. Various strategically critical members of Government including the current PM and health secretary have come out and said they think the legal abortion time frame should be significantly reduced. This is a time for the Pro-life movement come together and leverage with everything they have to take advantage of this window of opportunity. What do we get? A article in the premier Catholic newspaper criticising other Pro-lifers and their efforts. Thereby creating in-fighting, division, demoralisation and introspection in the ranks when the movement should be boldly projecting their message as one……