The popular question, what about children seeing the images, has been addressed in a very concise article on our blog, but I want to tell you a first hand story of what happens when children see the images.
When I joined the team at the CCBR, my youngest brother was 4 years old. Whenever I would take the Reproductive Choice Campaign truck to my hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta, I would park it at my parent’s place. One day, while having coffee with my parents, my brother came into the living room to ask my Mom a question. It was not the first time he had seen the truck, but it seemed to be the first time he actually noticed it, and recognized the picture for what it was. He paused, looking out the front window, and then turned to me. Matter of factly, he asked “why is the baby’s foot not stuck to the baby?” In no more than one sentence, I explained to him that some babies get killed when they’re still in their mommy’s tummy and when that happens, they sometimes break. He considered that for a moment, and then ran off to play. I don’t think he really understood, but my explanation was enough to satisfy his curiosity.
Fast forward a couple years, and I now live in Ontario, working out of CCBR’s eastern office. On my most recent trip home, my now seven year old brother was helping me do some baking. As we worked together in the kitchen, he asked “Caroline, you take care of babies in Ontario, right?” I explained to him that in a sense, yes, I did take care of babies, but not how he was thinking. I told him that sometimes people kill their babies before they are born, and what I do is try to stop that. He was silent for some time, and then, in a very small voice, he asked “Caroline, if I was in Ontario, would they kill me too?” I was shocked and horrified, and I felt like my heart was being squeezed in a vice grip. “No!” I exclaimed. “No, they only kill babies before they’re born, not after.”
I felt horrible that he even thought it a possibility, and I wondered how I could have answered his question in such a way that he would not have come to that conclusion. Allen is a very sweet kid and I didn’t want to break his heart or hurt him in any way. Just a few days earlier, he had come to me and very quietly asked if I could help him. He explained to me that one of his older brothers had climbed up some straw bales to peek inside a pigeon nest, and as a result, the nest had fallen to the ground with the baby birds inside. He didn’t want his brother to get into trouble, but he couldn’t ignore that it had happened because he didn’t want the baby pigeons to die. I grabbed his hand, and told him to show me where the nest was. Then together, because where the nest came from was too high for us to be able to put the nest back, we gently carried it to the chicken coop, and put the baby pigeons in under the warmth of the heat lamp where they could receive care along with the chicks. So, as I struggled with how to appropriately answer him, I thought back to the pigeon chicks.
Bringing it up, I told him that if he hadn’t told me about the birds, I couldn’t have helped him save them. Paralleling that to the work CCBR does, I explained that I tell people about babies being killed because I know it’s wrong, and I want it to stop. I told him that people don’t know that babies are being killed and so I show them pictures of the babies that have been killed, and I pointed out that just as he had helped save the pigeons by telling me about it, I can help save babies by telling other people about it.
It was a lot for him to take in, and we worked quietly as he considered it. When we finished, I slid the cookie sheet into the oven, and told him that if he went to play, I would call him once the cookies were done. He hopped off the stool, then paused and said, “It’s good that you’re in Ontario then, hey?” and ran out the door.
Every time I think back to that moment, I want to cry. I want to cry because Allen has to grow up in a world where innocent babies are killed, and the knowledge of that hurts him. I want to cry, because selfishly, I don’t want him to understand why I live so far away. I don’t want him to accept that I can’t see him more often. But in true childlike fashion, he knows that killing babies is wrong, and he also knows that if it is happening, something has to be done about it. When we receive emails from people who are upset that their children have seen the pictures, I completely understand their pain because I have felt this pain myself. I understand that they don’t want their children to be exposed to this horrifying truth, and I commend them for it. And so, let’s work together for a Canada in which children won’t have to see these pictures, and let’s do that by fighting for a Canada in which children won’t become these pictures.