Morality of Graphic Pictures

Graphic Abortion Billboard Trucks Break Through Canada’s Media Blackout

By Hilary White

CALGARY, August 9, 2007 ( – In contrast with the media blackout that pro-life Canadians are used to expecting at their demonstrations, media coverage of the Reproductive Choice Campaign trucks rolling on Calgary streets this week has been lively. The trucks feature three-metre high photos of aborted children and an email address for more information.

Local papers and radio stations were joined by CBC and Global News who took video footage, while CTV News Calgary has run a two-minute television news spot three times in the last two days and included the sponsoring group’s website address. This coverage constitutes a frenzy compared to the nearly total media blackout that is traditional at pro-life events such as the annual March for Life event in Ottawa.

The Calgary Sun headlined today’s article, “Graphic abortion images shock Calgarians” and carried the CTV story verbatim in print form. A smaller local paper, Fast Forward Weekly, ran the headline “Little truck of horrors” and quoted Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, the truck’s sponsoring group, responding to the accusations of shocking onlookers. “If there is nothing wrong with abortion, the images shouldn’t bother them,” she said.

A talk radio station, CHQR 770, has been broadcasting their report on the trucks every half hour from noon yesterday to five pm today. 630 CHED radio in Edmonton will carry a live 30-minute interview with Gray and she will be on 940 Montreal at 10:35 am EST for ten minutes.

CTV’s video spot, which is available online, clearly shows close-ups of the photos and reporter Najuma Yagzan says, “You can clearly distinguish a body, hands and feet.”

Jose Ruba, a cofounder and staffer of CCBR who today drove the support car accompanying the trucks, told that this was likely the first time the GAP pictures had been seen on English-language Canadian television.

“We had the GAP photos in Ottawa in 2004 when Planned Parenthood was giving Henry Morgentaler a lifetime achievement award and the national French-language TV used the images. But even when the CBC covered the controversy over the GAP display at UBC [in 2000], they only filmed the GAP images from 30 or 40 feet away.”

“The whole story at UBC then was about the signs, but they didn’t even show them. So today’s coverage from so many sources was a big win for us in that they showed the signs,” Ruba said.

Onlookers interviewed by CTV agreed that the images are “shocking” but also that they depict something true. “I’ve had nothing to do with it personally, so you don’t think seriously about it, but looking at that, you can see the murder aspect of it all,” one man said.

CTV offered a counter argument from a spokesman of Sexual Health Access Alberta (SHAA), but declined to mention that the group is an abortion advocating organization that until September 2006 was called Planned Parenthood Alberta. SHAA’s Executive Director, Laura Wershler, criticised the tactic saying, “In those circumstances there’s no opportunity for meaningful discussion or debate.”

But Stephanie Gray told that she and her group were still waiting to hear back from Wershler on their offer of a public debate. Gray said, “I contacted Laura requesting a debate partner and I’m waiting to hear back from her and this is months ago.”

CCBR said they contacted Wershler on November 16, 2006 on behalf of the pro-life club at the University of Calgary. “I emailed her a sample debate format and agreed that the debate should be a civil one with a neutral moderator.”

“I’m still waiting to hear back from her,” Gray said.

Wershler did not return calls from by deadline.

Onlookers interviewed by CTV, however, showed no signs of psychological trauma from seeing the photos. In one street interview, a young woman appeared unsettled but admitted that the images were depicting the reality of abortion, “To me, that’s really harsh, but that’s reality I guess. It’s what happens when you have an abortion. But, wow, that is graphic, yeah.”


There’s been a lot of debate around the question in pro-life circles on whether the strategy of showing aborted babies is effective and moral. In regards to the morality of this question, let us examine the facts.

First of all, it must be admitted that, in its substance, showing the truth can never be evil. This seems to be a rather obvious point, but it bears repeating here in this debate. Whether it is prudent is another matter entirely, but insofar as the morality of the issue goes, the truth of something can never be considered an evil means, since the truth is, by its very nature, a good, and indeed the highest good. Therefore, showing the holocaust of abortion can never be considered an evil means since an evil means necessarily draws on immoral or false foundations. For instance, someone may work hard to get rich. This is, at least, morally neutral. However, stealing to get rich is a different matter entirely since it involves an act which is contrary to the natural moral law. Yet, one cannot say that merely showing a sign of the brutality of abortion is an evil act. How could it be since it is grounded on the truth of what an abortion is?

St. Paul exhorts us to, “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11). But how precisely are we to expose abortion? For forty years, abortion has not been exposed for what it is. There have been theoretical, intellectual debates which have been useful, but their impact has been neglible. A full and entire exposition requires the sacramental presence of visual imagery. We are visual culture which is influenced heavily on what we see. No other culture in the history of mankind has been so impacted by the visual sense. Therefore, to effectively combat abortion, especially in a dumbed down culture such as ours, visual imagery is a necessary tool for communicating the truth.

Furthermore, if we examine the Christian (and Catholic) view of a “just war”, the Church clearly understands that there are indeed circumstances that necessitate tolerating one evil to counter a much graver one. The Catholic Church, for all its emphasis on peace, has not buried its head on the question of a nation’s right to defend itself against aggression. It allows for the moral alternative for one person to kill another – not because killing is a good thing, but because defending one’s country and killing aggressors is a better outcome than being overcome by the aggressor and having greater evils imposed on it.

And yet if it is justifiable to kill in a “just war” for the preservation of a nation’s liberty and even survival, it is no less justifiable to peacefully show the truth of abortion so that mass human genocide may end once and for all. It is not a matter therefore of choosing an immoral means at all, but rather choosing a significantly lesser evil (harmful consequences on some constituencies) over a much more heinous one.

In regards to this question of showing the effects of abortion on unborn children, we understand and appreciate that there are painful and harmful consequences to various individuals in society who will see these images. Women who have had abortions and young children may be adversely affected. And while these are legitimate concerns and will indeed cause great pain to women who have undergone abortions, one must always bear in mind that the evil in NOT acting to expose abortion in this way merely subjects millions of more unborn children to this barbarity every single year around the world.

But there are other ways of defeating abortion“, our opponents will say. Really? Which ways are those? We have been in the desert these past 40 years and we have not gained in any significant way. In fact, it’s just gotten worse. We need to change the public’s perception of abortion on a massive scale and the message needs to be communicated effectively and efficiently for victory. There is only one way to do that, and that is to show the culture what their choices have wrought.

Abortion cannot be defeated without extraordinary sacrifice and pain. There will be no easy victory over abortion but one which will require us as a culture to face the brutal reality of what abortion is in order to ultimately reject it. Having theoretical arguments on the question of abortion around a water cooler at work is a waste of time. It doesn’t work. We have 40 years experience as proof that it does not work.

Today in this culture, we have a false sense of freedom. It is a “freedom” completely detached from objective moral truth. In times past, it would be called out for what it was: not freedom, but license. License is a much more accurate word for what we have in our culture today since license does not require any moral contraints at all. This is where the whole abortion debate – indeed all moral debates – is situated in. In order to break the hold that license has on our culture, we must show the consequence of license in real and stark terms. No one can suggest that viewing those images will not radically impact the perception of what an abortion is. At the very least, it will weaken the resolve of those who wish to keep it legal. It has to. If it doesn’t, let me respectfully submit that no other strategy has a hope in ever overcoming abortion.

But the real issue in this whole thing, and the one that seems to be completely forgotten, is not the adverse affects these pictures will have but rather why abortion is allowed to happen in the first place. Because the outrage expressed by pro-abort fanatics at this method of communication is really the outrage of what abortion really is.

The real outrage is not the offense. It is that the truth of abortion and its ugly consequences is finally getting out.

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