“So, what are you doing this summer?”
It was a common question – one I got asked by distant relatives, friends, and acquaintances dozens of times over my four months away from school.
“I’m working for CCBR,” I explained. “I’m in Mississauga for the summer, doing their four-month internship.”
“CCBR?” the lady questioned.
“The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform,” I clarified. “We do pro-life activism all over the GTA, talking to people and using pictures of abortion victims to show how terrible abortion is.”
I watched the expression on her face change to one of distaste as what I had said sunk in. “Oh,” she said, “those people.” Her mouth set in a firm line. She definitely didn’t approve. “Don’t you think that’s a little… controversial?”
I tried to explain. “There are definitely people who react strongly to our signs. Abortion hurts so many people, and when the topic comes up, often their natural reaction is to lash out. But we know so many people whose minds have changed and babies who have been saved – we know that it’s effective, so we can’t stop just because of some opposition.”
“I know, but those pictures are so disturbing. Why do you have to shove it in people’s faces like that? I mean, it’s important and I support pro-life and all, but that’s not really the right way of doing it. Don’t you think there are better ways of going about it? More peaceful ways, that don’t turn people against everything pro-life?”
I mentally sighed. It was the same thing again – the same thing I encountered many times while doing activism. So many people who are genuinely pro-life, yet don’t feel comfortable supporting what we are doing because we use abortion victim photography (AVP).
It’s too controversial. It makes people mad. Do something more peaceful. Don’t raise a fuss.
I’ll be the first to admit that our work is controversial. Sometimes, it offends people. Sometimes, it makes them feel angry, afraid, guilty, or lonely. Sometimes, people lash out and react violently to our activism, even though we never use violence ourselves. Sometimes, it gets us in the news, where mainstream media points out how terribly inconsiderate we are.
Abortion victim photography does raise a fuss.
So why do we keep using it? Because it’s effective.
I’m quite sure none of us enjoys getting yelled at or assaulted. If there was a way to change as many minds and save as many lives without making a fuss, we’d change our strategy in a heartbeat.
But when I look around at other pro-life endeavours, I’m not sure such a way exists.
Take We Need a Law’s summer billboard campaign, for example. WNAL set up 33 billboards for several weeks across Canada, stating the simple fact, “Canada has no abortion laws.” No blood. No pictures. No descriptions. No mention of what abortion is. Not even so much as an argument in favour of one side or the other. Just a simple statement of a legal fact.
The result? Controversy.
The billboards raised a fuss. They offended people. People felt angry, afraid, guilty, or lonely. They lashed out and appealed to authorities to try to twist the law. The billboards made the news many times, just as we did all summer. The uproar they generated with a simple statement of fact matched the controversy of CCBR’s use of abortion victim photography.
Because the method doesn’t matter. It’s not about AVP. It’s not about how we go about spreading pro-life ideas. It’s simply about the fact that we do.