Family Event Photos

The Saturday after Mother’s Day still saw a lot of anti-abortion protesters at the clinic. There were about 200 of them.  At one point another escort asked me what one anti’s name was and I answered, “I don’t know. That is one I haven’t seen, but I can’t remember all of their names. There are a lot of new ones out today.” An anti overheard me and said, “Yes, and there will be a lot more of us from now on. Get used to it. You aren’t going to win.” Psychic predictions from the sidelines.

Among the new groups was one of young people carrying shiny, new fetal-porn posters. I noticed a lot of Operation Rescue labels in the bottom corner of these new posters. This particular group had brought at least twelve posters, about four feet wide by two and one-half feet high each. All of them, old posters and new, displayed a graphic image of what was supposed to be an aborted fetus or sonogram pictures of a developing fetus. One person could carry each poster and after all of the clients entered the clinic, they lined up across the property line facing the waiting room windows. There were so many of them and the posters so large, they had to stand three deep and raise the posters up so all of them could be seen.

I know I should have taken a photo of them for you guys, but I neglected to do so. You will have to  just imagine the spectacle spreading across the sidewalk just beyond the clinic entrance. The sidewalk was so blocked, escorts discussed strategies for moving around them in case any clients arrived late. Luckily, we didn’t have to implement those plans.

This May 19th article by Robin Marty in RH Reality Check caught my attention. It was published the next day and described exactly what we are seeing at EMW. Marty describes this tactic perfectly:

  • Public protest of abortion using graphic material has been a staple of the anti-choice movement since the early ’80s, when activist Joe Scheidler advocated it as a means to engage in protest and “sidewalk counseling” in his handbook Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion. From fliers with graphic pictures that were handed out at public events and marches to larger photos outside of clinics where women would be terminating pregnancies, Scheidler was an enthusiastic advocate for the power of a gruesome image, although he did recommend that the ones at clinics be positioned away from the person doing the actual “counseling” of women prior to their entrance into the clinic in order to not scare them. He also encouraged the use of such photos at pro-choice events or when picketing the homes, private offices, clubs, and places of worship frequented by providers.

And, the new twist in those plans is:

  • Still, for the most part the target remained adults, and adults in places where anti-choice advocates assume the majority would support abortion rights. That is beginning to change as more protesters are seeking to give the photos wider distribution, and directly affect those under the age of 18. High schools  are becoming a favorite protesting place of late, with one “truth truck” driver stating that the giant photos of “dismembered fetuses” displayed on the side of his truck are the only way to get the message across.

Bringing the graphic photos to public events where young people are expected has backfired for the extremists more than once. Parents object to the politicizing of school events or family-friendly events. They object to their children being exposed to the photos. When and if a parent talks to their children about reproductive issues and abortion should be left up to the parents’ judgment. It is just one more way the anti-abortion groups prove they do not respect anyone’s right to decide unless it is to agree with their anti-abortion views.

Almost two years ago, protesters targeted a child’s middle school back-to-school night. Why was this child a target of their signs? The father of the child is the landlord for an abortion clinic in Germantown, MD. After public outcry about the graphic nature of the protests, this landlord decided to fight back. Voice of Choice was formed to help others targeted by these extreme tactics. 

The antis do not seem to listen to public outcry or reason. They are stepping up the in-your-face efforts at locations that have nothing to do with reproduction or abortion. This week in a Texas high school, abortion photos were found in the girl’s restroom. The… “material was scattered all over the restroom.”

The US isn’t the only one to see this uptick in distribution of fetal porn. In Calgary this month, 50,000 photo postcards were distributed in an effort to “reopen the debate on abortion.” Their target audience are residents in the ridings of “MPs who voted against a motion to study when life begins.”

  • Melanee Thomas, an associate political science professor at the University of Calgary, questions the organization’s tactics.

  • She says the postcard campaign may be aimed at young people.

  • “Part of it is to try to convert the young to a very particular way of seeing this issue, one that is, I ought to say, not legally balanced and not constitutionally balanced with the way that we have the Charter set up in Canada.”

Targeting the young is not a new tactic for the antis. They bring their children to protest at the clinics. It is their idea of a family event and it is a learning experience for their children that frequently reverses in adulthood. This story is only one example of how minds change from our childhood adherence to our parents’ doctrine to our own viewpoint through discussion, research and reading non-religious and/or scientific articles of the facts surrounding abortion.

Marty believes the distribution of fetal photos to the young seems to be about this message:

  • The message implied is clear: If you want these pictures to go away, ban safe abortion. Until you do exactly what they say, they will continue to bring their protests everywhere people gather. Especially family events involving children.

Good luck with that plan. Fostering outrage against your group rarely seems to sway people to a particular viewpoint.

We need to broaden access to abortion not ban it. We need to broaden access to birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies, not make birth control harder to obtain.

We need to support individual reproductive choices.

11 thoughts on “Family Event Photos

  1. They could use all the money that they spend on fetal born to buy groceries, diapers and even gas for mothers and fathers struggling to make ends meet. Instead of of standing on the sidewalk harassing women who have already made their decision to terminate they could be mowing lawns or helping with home repairs for people who are going to carry to term. Instead of purchasing fancy ultrasound equipment they could pay for the delivery of many babies or financially help out women who have to go on bed rest or stop working due to a risky pregnancy. They could use their stork van to deliver supplies to mothers and fathers who may have no reliable transportation. These are just the ideas I can think up off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more ways people who feel called to save “babies” and take of “mothers” can do so.

    • KYBorn,

      That’s a good list, but the problem is the anti-abortion groups only believe in “helping” women and the fetus before birth. One to add to the list is adoption of unwanted children in the US. We heard one anti bragging about “Let me adopt your baby. I have just adopted a child from Ethiopia. I am not just saying these things, but I really help children.” A couple of us within hearing of this thought it didn’t prove anything except he was offering an empty promise to these clients to adopt their baby if they would just carry it to term. Why go out of the country with so many in need here? I realize that gets into the whole area of evangelical adoption as a mission of many churches, but it is still an inconsistent There are so many ways they could put their money to use to help those people in need right in their community.

      Thank you, as always,

      • To carry a pregnancy to term and give birth it takes real commitment and raise the newborn it takes double the commitment 24/7 ,a promise from the anti to make such commitment is just that,a promise,empty words.They have proven that once the woman gives birth she is on her own.

  2. “It is just one more way the anti-abortion groups prove they do not respect anyone’s right to decide unless it is to agree with their anti-abortion views.”

    Even agreeing with their anti-abortion views is not enough. Enthusiasts of fetus porn also use it to retaliate against other pro-lifers during disagreements, or to bully other members of the movement simply for the sake of bullying them. One group has put up a Jumbotron showing a continuous clip of abortion footage in the middle of the March for Life route for the past two years, in spite of the organizer’s request that they not do so. The porn purveyor claimed that objections to the Jumbotron proved that the marchers needed “remedial education…as to the reason we march.” And yes, that is a direct quotation.

    • Lisa,

      I knew about the Jumbotron, but I didn’t know about the protests against it from the anti-abortion organizers. The “remedial education” comment is pretty consistent with the views of the most fanatic of those using the fetal porn posters, like Operation Rescue. Just wow.

      Thank you,


  3. My college did a campus survey once (it was a psychology class project) that included info about those posters and what people thought about them. By overwhelming majority, the folks who were “moved” by the posters already identified as pro-life. Those who were pro-choice or listed “I don’t know” on their position on abortion wrote things like “scary” “gross” “weird” “offensive” and so on. I think only one or two out of 300 thought they were “thoughtful.”

    Seems the anti’s just waste a lot of their money on these things.

    • Longtail,

      Thank you so much for sharing that! I have never seen a survey of people and their reactions to those posters, but I hear them described as scary, gross, unrealistic and offensive often by clients and their companions. You may be right, it is a waste of money for not having the results they wanted. It’s like the plastic fetus dolls. Those are a constant source of jokes instead of being an effective tool for changing minds. They are expensive too.

      Thank you, as always,

  4. I live in a beach city in Orange County, CA. I am 20 years old, and when I was 16(a sophomore in high school) a group of anti-abortion protestors had gathered on one of the corners where a lot of students would cross the street. I can’t remember everything exactly that happened as I got there a little after people started piling up. They had been blocking the buttong to push for the walk sign and everyone was too scared to walk through the throng of about 20 people(hat I saw), the one blocking the button had the biggest poster of fetal porn in the group.
    Someone apparently went out for an assistant principal who pushed the walk button for us and told them they couldn’t be there, a statement which they argued. I don’t know what happened afterward, but I never saw them again, and I’ve never heard of another such incident happening.
    Attacking schools is backfiring because they’re scaring kids who don’t even know what abortion really is thanks to less than stellar sex ed programs(or none at all).

    • Cristina M,

      I’m really glad the protesters did not come back. That must have been pure chaos with everyone backing up at the crosswalk. Fear is an effective weapon, but it is not one that sways people to believing what you want them to believe. It always seems to backfire. I agree with you about sex ed programs. This a trend I hope is reversing. Illinois just passed a bill making it mandatory if any sex ed program is taught it must include scientifically accurate contraception information. They allow abstinence-only to be taught, but it has to be in conjunction with methods of birth control and information about STDs. The only loophole is schools can opt out of offering any sex ed program. Still, I am hopeful this trend is turning to positive with information to help young people.

      Thank you,

  5. Profoundly so true. I had never thought of the angle of controlling womans sex lives before reading this though. Have long thought the antis are just pro birth. Once you are born they could give a damn less about how much you struggle to live. If they truly care about the children they can start standing on the other side of town in the projects helping children that are already post born that need them desperately. Nope
    . Not fun and popular doing that.

    • Cathy,

      Not fun, popular nor public enough. They do love an audience to witness how committed they are. It isn’t just about being pro-birth. It is all about controlling everyone’s sexuality.


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