Choice Joyce: August 2008

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