Graphic Images and Love

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at the blog about the images of graphic images of aborted babies, which were on display along the route of the March for Life.  If you’re interested, the posts are here, here and here.  (Don’t worry, if you follow those links you won’t be confronted with any such images)

For years, I have been very uncomfortable with those images, but I haven’t really been able to articulate why.  They are disturbing, certainly, but my disquiet was not just an aesthetic judgment.  Nor was it any squeamishness about facing the reality of abortion — I know precisely what is involved in that abhorrent practice.  Nor do I have any doubt of the need to awaken people’s consciences to what is really going on in America, thousands of times each day.

Although I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason, I was uneasy about the use of those images in pro-life public advocacy.

Last night, I realized why.

I attended an excellent presentation that Archbishop Dolan gave at Fordham Law School on the Gospel of Life and the Law.  One of the key points he made in the question and answer session was that there are two pillars of the pro-life message: truth and love.  He noted that we are very good with the truth, but often lacking in the love.

That point, which I had heard many times before, really struck me, and I was thinking about it on my way home.  Later in the evening, I happened upon the discussion at, and that’s when it all clicked together.

The discussion about the graphic images has always focused on their effect of the viewer. We’ve thought about how effective the images are to convince those who are undecided about abortion, or to convert those who are pro-abortion.  And we’ve worried about the negative effect on those who are captive audiences and have those images thrust upon them, and especially on women who are post-abortive and have not yet healed.

But suddenly it struck me — what about that baby herself?  How does the use of these photos show love to her, who has been the victim of a terrible injustice?  She is an individual human person, someone’s daughter, made in the image and likeness of God, unique and unrepeatable, and deserving of our love.

To me, the use of these images to make a political point is to treat that poor lost girl or boy as an object to be used — which is the antithesis of love — and not as a brother or sister to be mourned.

Who would ever wish that their body be used in such a way?  Who would ever want that for a loved one?  Can any of us imagine that being the right way to treat the remains of our dead son or daughter?

Archbishop Dolan is right, as was St. Paul before him (see Eph 4:15).  We do need to speak the truth, but we have to do so with love, always with love.  And that includes love for that particular lost baby.

There is a lot of truth in those images — that cannot be denied.

But there is very little love.


2 Responses to “Graphic Images and Love”

  1. Peter says:

    There is one great paradox that I do not understand about abortion in the US. The rate of abortions for a great many years has indicated that Catholics have a slightly HIGHER rate of abortion than those of other religious denominations. The last statistic that I saw indicated that Catholics account for about 31.5% of all abortions. This matter deserves a good deal of inquiry. I have always thought that a large Catholic population tunes the Church “off” concerning sexual matters, because of disagreement with the Church position on contraception. People (especially younger ones) mistakenly lump abortion in with sexual issues, rather than a LIFE issues. Nonetheless, it is strange that among our own, there are more abortions than in the general population.

  2. Ed Mechmann says:

    Census figures say that 25% of Americans are Catholic. The most recent figures I’ve seen from the Gutmacher Institute say that 28% percent of women who have abortions identify themselves as being Catholic. This slightly larger representation may be, at least in part, because Hispanic women (a large percentage of whom are Catholic) account for 25% of abortions, even though Hispanics make up only about 16% of the overall population.