Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
I never know quite what to think when I read stories like this one, where two pro-life protesters in Britain were arrested for displaying graphic banners featuring photos of aborted babies.
The campaigners, Andy Stephenson, 35, and Kathryn Sloane, 19, say they were simply peacefully protesting outside an abortion clinic when police stepped in. Staff in the clinic had called for help claiming patients arriving for appointments were traumatised and upset by the pair’s 7ft by 5ft banner, which showed an embryo aborted at eight weeks.
When officers ask Mr Stephenson and Miss Sloane to take down their banner, they did so - but immediately replaced it with a near-identical banner of a ten-week-old foetus. At that point the duo were arrested and taken to a police station until the early hours of the morning. In a month’s time they will be told if they face prosecution for causing ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
These protesters say that their banners are graphic and disturbing because abortion is graphic and disturbing. They also argue that their case constitutes a violation of their right to freedom of expression.
But I am not so sure.
While I am 100% pro-life, I am not sure anyone should have a right to display graphic and disturbing photos in public places. I am raising my children to be 100% pro-life as well, but I don’t want someone else deciding for me when they are ready to see horrifying images of dead babies.
In the end, I think these kinds of graphic tactics do very little to promote the cause of life.
I am open to someone telling me otherwise (anyone?), but I think very few people would have a conversion of heart upon seeing someone displaying graphic banners of dead babies. I think it’s more likely that the demonstrators will be seen as bullies, whack-o’s, or angry, uncharitable people.
I do believe that images can be a powerful part of pro-life ministry, but the most powerful images would be those of living babies, in utero. If you want to change women’s hearts and minds in favor of nurturing and protecting their unborn children, why not support organizations like the Knights of Columbus who are working to provide crisis pregnancy centers with ultrasound equipment?
I’m just not convinced that “peaceful” protesters displaying violent images are saving any mothers and babies from abortion at all.