Choice Joyce: Show the Lies

Choice Joyce

Essays from a pro-choice feminist liberal skeptic infidel activist (and animal lover)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Show the Lies

Annual “Show the Truth” tour traumatizes communities with offensive lies

In mid-August, the anti-abortion group “Show the Truth” embarked on a multi-city tour of southern Ontario, covering Windsor, Leamington, Chatham, London, St. Thomas, Sarnia, Woodstock, and Stratford (see links below for several news stories).

The tour involves showing large photos of alleged aborted fetuses, in an effort to shock people out of their complacency with the “truth” of abortion. However, the tour caused great offense to probably thousands of people, including many with anti-abortion beliefs, because of the protesters' tasteless, in-your-face shock tactics. Hundreds of people wrote angry letters to the editor or called police to complain. One woman in Stratford said she would pursue pressing charges against the group for traumatizing her 10-year old daughter. The fact that the tour inflicts real harm on communities and families exposes the lie of the protesters’ "pro-life" position.

A common theme throughout most of the letters and editorials, is that the fetus photos were assumed to be true representations of abortion - even if they were deemed inappropriate to show in public. But the "Show the Truth" tour has absolutely nothing to do with truth. It's pure propaganda. How is showing a hugely magnified fetus, totally removed from its original context, supposed to tell us anything about abortion?

Something that's totally erased from these pictures, indeed from the entire debate, is the women who make the difficult decision to have an abortion for various compelling and personal reasons. What gives the protesters the right to show graphic photos of fetuses that once were a private part of a woman’s body and life? If being “pro-life” is supposedly all about respecting life, then why are the protesters treating both women and fetuses with such outrageous disrespect?

The photos are totally unrepresentative of modern abortion practice. The vast majority of abortions are done in the early stages, when the embryo or fetus is the size of a cashew or much smaller. Yet, the protester photos are grossly enlarged, and usually depict later-term fetuses. I’m reminded of what an abortion clinic nurse once said, after she had just viewed a horrifying anti-abortion film replete with these types of pictures. I’ll let Dr. William Harrison, an abortion provider from Arkansas tell the story:
After the video was over, [a friend] said to her, "I suppose you are accustomed to seeing this." She, appropriately appalled by what she had just seen, replied, "I have never seen anything like that in my life!" Well, I've never seen anything like that either, and I see the face of abortion almost every working day.
One might ask why there’s such a huge discrepancy between what abortion doctors see every day, and the photos shown by anti-abortion protesters. According to doctors who can tell the difference, it's because many photos actually depict natural miscarriages or stillbirths. Also, a 1998 book by Cynthia Gorney (Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars) relates how some photos have been cleverly staged by anti-choice photographers using stolen body parts from hospitals. Some of these older photos date back at least 40 years, to a time when abortion was illegal. If any of them actually show an abortion, it's the height of irony that the anti-abortion movement wants a return to the very thing their pictures are protesting. But in fact, anti-abortionists cannot prove their photos are of abortion at all. They have no documented legitimate sources for most of them, if any. For all we know, they could have been created in Photoshop - and until they prove otherwise, that's probably what we should assume.

Showing false and highly offensive pictures in public may or may not be legal, depending on the circumstances. Regardless, it's neither moral nor appropriate. If you wanted to protest child sexual abuse, would you show a large colour poster of a 6-year old being raped? The protesters unwittingly sabotage their cause, because the only truth the public sees is the face of fanatical extremism.

Links to news articles:

* Stratford City Gazette, Aug 20, Abortion protest graphics upset girl, mom
* Woodstock Sentinel Review, Aug 19, Pro-life group protests
* Stratford Beacon Herald, Aug 16, Onlookers angered by graphic anti-abortion presentation
* London Free Press, Aug 15, Abortion protest group is doing nothing wrong
* London Free Press, Aug 14, Pro-life protest rattles region (St. Thomas)
* Chatham Daily News, Aug 14, Wrong place for message
* Chatham Daily News, Aug 13, Anti-abortion protest held


  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger jenna said…

    I never thought about those pictures being anything but real. People can look at magazines and realize models are photoshopped but not look at these pictures and realize the same thing. I don't know which group it was came to my college campus at the University of Kansas. I did not like being subjected to the material but there wasn't really anything I could do about it. I really like your website.

  • At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have a challenge for you, Joyce. I will show you a video of an abortion doctor actually performing an abortion on a fetus. The viewpoint you receive is one of the fetus itself, in an ultrasound video. You actually get to see the woman having her unwanted fetus removed from her.

    Just how confident are you that abortion is morally acceptable? If you are confident enough to watch something like that without rethinking your stance, then you win my challenge. If the video awakens in you some kind of regret or doubt in your position, then I win. You and I alone would know of the challenge taking place, and I would not publish any results from it (you, of course, are free to do whatever you will).

    Please understand that I'm not trying to change you or convert you. I simply want you to be privy to all the information from both sides of the debate. Since you are such an important player in the pro-choice/pro-life debate, I think it's important that you be informed.

    What do you say?

  • At 2:08 PM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Thanks Mage, but I've seen the Silent Scream, and there's nothing to see. As for the ridiculous over-the-top narrative that goes with it, please read this:

    Anyway, I observed an 8-week abortion once. It was a simple, quick, and drama-free operation, with no pain or blood. I could not even see any fetal parts in the pan afterward, as it takes a trained eye to find needles in a haystack.

    I'm fully in favour of showing people what a typical abortion actually looks like. It would be an effective antidote to the morbidly false exaggerations and scare-mongering of the anti-choice. Incidentally, the most important part of what an abortion looks like is of course the patient and her experience.

  • At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very well, Joyce. Of course, we disagree, and I doubt that anything you or I could say would change our views, since they are both views that come out of very deeply held presuppositions, mine about God, and yours about humanism.

    Question: Are you in favour of the current legal system today in which there is no legislation whatsoever on abortion (i.e. partial-birth abortions are not illegal anywhere in our country, depsite some local hospital policies that do not allow for it)?

  • At 7:26 AM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Of course. Full explanation here:

    Anyway, why are you worried about "partial-birth" abortions in Canada? (intact D&X is likely what you mean, PB doesn't mean anything). There's no evidence intact D&X's are ever performed in Canada. I think it's neurotic the way the anti-choice like to invent things to obsess over.

  • At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OK. We really don't know how often IDX occurs in Canada, if at all. But we do know that it is not illegal, though again, hospital policy and internal regulation may restrict access to IDX. The issue of IDX has become basically a battleground over which the pro-life and pro-choice groups debate over, even though IDX is rare. It becomes a philosophical debate, because if IDX is morally wrong, then it must follow that a fetus which must be removed by IDX is in fact alive and human. Thus, the floodgates open, and the debate becomes a debate over which point we give the right to life to human fetuses (feti?).

    That's why I'm concerned about IDX (or PB). Even if it never happens here, the question is one of philosophy. When does life begin? If we ever conclude that it begins before birth, then we have a deadly serious question to answer.

    It would seem that the CMA's position on when life begins is at fetal viability, the point of 20 weeks or 500 grams(thx for providing the PDF of their policy). Therefore, it would seem that after this point, if and when abortions occur, it would or should only be for elective reasons (you point out that would be for "lethal fetal abnormality"). In effect, then, an abortion after 20 weeks gestation could almost be called "euthanasia". Do you agree with that assessment? How do you feel about euthanasia?

  • At 10:22 AM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Abortion is not euthanasia because fetuses are not persons. Most anti-abortion arguments fail because they assume without question the fetus is a person with rights. It is not.

    In pregnancies after about 18 weeks, intact D&X is often the safest and easiest method for the woman. That's why it's done and that makes it an ethical method. If intact D&X's are not performed in Canada, they should be. Lack of doctor training is the main problem, I believe.

    The issue of when life begins is subjective and unanswerable, but it's also not relevant to the abortion debate. Women need and have abortions regardless of what the fetus is or its moral status. Abortion is not about the fetus - the point of abortion is to preserve and enhance the woman's life (her whole life) AND the lives of her family. Please see my article "The Fetus Focus Fallacy" -

  • At 3:27 PM, Blogger Beijing York said…

    Hey Joyce, I hope you're checking in.

    I wanted to let you know you've been nominated for Best Feminist Reproductive Liberties Blog at the Canadian F-Word Blog Awards:

  • At 11:29 AM, Blogger Michael Kosicki said…

    I do agree that using pictures of aborted featuses may seem a little harsh and may not be the best way to tacle the problem. I believe it is obvious that introducing ban on abortion right away would be catastrophal, resulting in many botched abortions, dissatisfied women etc. But I still don't see you as "the force for good".

    Why don't you ever talk about right to have a baby? Right to take up a challenge against the major trend of being independent and successful. Why don't you fight the stigma, which surrounds women who decide to give birth against all the odds? This makes women slaves in the same way early XX century hypocrisy did. Government should be paying more attention to this instead of a dismissive "have an abortion".

    When it comes to bashing the photos, your accusations are simply allegations. The Photoshop argument works both ways (we might as well assume they're not), 1998 book is not an argument (are they the same photos? is the group aware of it?), miscarriages is just a tiny argument (would fetuses look less human if they weren't miscaried?). All your arguments don't change the fact that at least 500 post 20 weeks abortions took place in 2005. And at least some of them not for medical reasons. Why shouldn't it be regulated? (I'll come back to status discussion).

    Why don't you ever try to involve men? Almost all pro-choice (please don't say anti-choice, it's as obvious as pro-life tagging you as anti-life) arguments are focused on women's right to their own wombs. What about men's sperm? And even if they can't be as involved as women are, are they not responsible for that choice at all? I recon they should and the fact that they often choose not to think about is pitiful.

    And what is your stance on fetuses humanity and life anyway (apart from the fact you think it's immaterial)? I mean human cloning is still science-fiction (yes, dundruff) and a different discussion altogether and I would kill the egg and chicken without much ado (no, not cruelly).

    (sorry if you answered some of those questions, didn't have the time to read the whole blog).


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