Monday, March 3, 2014

Do Pictures Work? Choice Quotes [SK]

During the partial-birth-abortion debate of the mid-1990s, abortion-choice columnist Anne Roiphe wrote: "The anti-abortion forces will again display horrible pictures of the technique, which they call partial-birth abortion. Although few in the abortion rights movement take this approach seriously, it has emotional resonance and erodes public support for all abortion." (“Moment of Perception,” New York Times, September 19, 1996.)

She's wasn't the only one concerned. "When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose," wrote feminist Naomi Wolf. (“Pro-Choice and Pro-Life,” The New York Times, April 3, 1997.) 

Later, in a 1998 article in George Magazine, Wolf states: "The brutal imagery, along with the admission by pro-choice leaders that they had not been candid about how routinely the procedure was performed, instigated pro-choice audiences' reevaluation of where they stood." As a result, "the ground has shifted in the abortion wars." ("The Dead Baby Boom," George Magazine, January 27, 1998.) 

Cynthia Gorney, author of Articles of Faith, a book about the abortion wars, says that serious damage has been done to the pro-abortion side. "One of the dirty secrets of abortion is it’s really gruesome, but nobody would look at the pictures. With partial-birth, the right-to-life movement succeeded for the first time in forcing the country to really look at one awful abortion procedure." (Cited in Larry Reibstein, “Arguing at a Fever Pitch,” Newsweek, January 26, 1998.)

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times published a joint op-ed piece by Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, acknowledging that abortion-choice advocates are in deep trouble because pro-lifers are reframing the debate around pictures. “In recent years, the antiabortion movement successfully put the nitty-gritty details of abortion procedures on public display, increasing the belief that abortion is serious business and that some societal involvement is appropriate.” (Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman, “Abortion’s Battle of Messages,” Los Angles Times, January 22, 2008)

In "Amazing Grace" (the story of William Wilberforce) there's a great scene where Wilberforce wines and dines some members of parliament, then takes them on a cruise up the river to see a slave ship. The sight and smell were revolting and sickened everyone. Though his incremental approach had years to go before achieving ultimate success, Wilberforce's visit to the slave ship--a modest first step that didn't save one slave that day or even the next--eventually helped right the British Ship of State. 

I think we're doing the same thing when we use selective visual aids to reframe the abortion debate away from "choice" to what's being chosen.

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