I’ve got a long-standing and deep dislike for graphic abortion photos. I remember as a teen, going to the March for Life, and having a certain breed of angry old men standing on the sidelines with huge posters of dismembered, bloody babies, yelling that abortion was murder.
We know! I would think to myself. Why do you think we’re here? Point those things somewhere else! I don’t want to see them!
My own, visceral aversion to such horrors colored my ability to think clearly on their merit as a rhetorical tool. I thought they were unnecessary and excessive. This year at the March, I saw a guy from the Genocide Awareness Project calmly standing in front of a large display comparing such photos to those shown of the holocaust and other mass atrocities. He was making the case that only when we are confronted with the brutal reality of such horrors does the public find the will to change them. I felt something in me budge, just a little. A point conceded. A lightbulb, dimly glowing.
My friend Hilary White, who spent 15 years staring into the abyss of the abortion industry as both an activist and reporter for LifeSiteNews.com, has been hammering the same point lately. Fr. Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life, has often said the same: “America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion.”
I’ve resisted this for years. But it’s time I faced the truth.
A few days ago, a Facebook friend sent me the following image (I’ve blurred the identity of the poster to preserve their anonymity):
As you can see, the link she was commenting on was to our coverage of the most recent Planned Parenthood video from the Center for Medical Progress.
To be honest, I was stunned.
I didn’t think even these videos could move people who had long-since settled on their positions. But like my opposition to using these images in the first place, it appears I was wrong.
Then, this morning, I came across this piece by Daily Beast columnist Ruben Navarette, Jr. And…wow. Just read it for yourself:
For the last 30 years, I’ve supported abortion rights. This year may be different.
The only thing I hate more than talking about abortion is writing about it. It’s no accident that, in 2000 columns over a quarter century, I have never—ever—written about abortion. I’ve avoided the topic like a root canal.
But that is getting harder to do with the release of what are now five gruesome,albeit edited, undercover videos by The Center for Medical Progress depicting doctors and other top officials of Planned Parenthood discussing, and even laughing about, the harvesting of baby organs, as casually as some folks talk about the weather.
It’s jarring to see doctors acting as negotiators as they dicker over the price of a fetal liver, heart, or brain, and then talk about how they meticulously go to the trouble of not crushing the most valuable body parts. This practice is perfectly legal, and for some people, it is just a business. With millions of abortions each year in America, business is good.
Who could forget Dr. Mary Gatter, Council President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Directors, when, in Video #2, she tells undercover investigators that it isn’t about the money—before she zeroes in on dollars and cents?
“Let me just figure out what others are getting, and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine,” Gatter said. “If it’s still low, then we can bump it up.”
Then, going for broke, she added: “I want a Lamborghini.”
I want a shower.
Most recently, in Video #5, Melissa Farrell, Director of Research at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Texas, talks cavalierly about the cost of extracting “intact fetal cadavers.” It is, Farrell says coldly, “all just a matter of line items.”
This raises the possibility that no one wants to discuss—that some of the aborted fetuses exited the womb alive and they were either killed or left to die, their “cadavers” intact. Also in the latest video, Abby Johnson, the former clinic director of that same Planned Parenthood office, said her branch made about $120,000 a month selling aborted fetus tissue and organs.
All for the sake of research, no doubt. Make that a long, hot shower with lots of soap.
David Daleiden, head of The Center for Medical Progress, issued an unsurprisingly stronger statement: “Planned Parenthood’s system-wide conspiracy to evade the law and make money off of aborted fetal tissue is now undeniable. Anyone who watches these videos knows that Planned Parenthood is engaged in barbaric practices and human rights abuses that must end.”
I agree with that assessment, and I’m pro-choice. At least I thought I was until recently. These days, each time, I express concern, outrage, disgust, or horror over another video—which should come with warnings that they may produce nightmares—some supporter of the organization responds by attacking me and insisting that I was never really pro-choice to begin with.
As I’ve only realized lately, to be a man, and to declare yourself pro-choice, is to proclaim your neutrality. And, as I’ve only recently been willing to admit, even to myself, that’s another name for “wimping out.”
At least that’s how my wife sees it. She’s pro-life, and so she’s been tearing into me every time a new video is released. She’s not buying my argument that, as a man, I have to defer to women and trust them to make their own choices about what to do with their bodies. To her, that’s ridiculous—and cowardly.
“You can’t stand on the sidelines, especially now that you’ve seen these videos,” she told me recently. “That’s bullshit! These are babies that are being killed. Millions of them. And you need to use your voice to protect them. That’s what a man does. He protects children—his own children, and other children. That’s what it means to be a man.”
I didn’t like the scolding, but I needed to hear it. For those of us who are pro-choice, the Planned Parenthood videos are a game changer. As to whether that means I’ll change my view, I’m not sure. I’m on the bubble. Ask me in a few weeks, after the release of more videos.
Yes, there’s still some residual hardness of heart, but this is a significant admission. This is the kind of thing these videos are accomplishing. For those of us who understand what goes on, it seems so obvious that abortion is indescribably cruel. But denial is a powerful thing. It was long-past time that our culture was confronted with this reality. I only hope it’s enough of a wake-up call to lead to lasting change.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.