The photographs are graphic and detailed, showing the fingers or toes of aborted fetuses whose entire frames are no bigger than a cellphone. Since the mid-1990s, they have appeared all over the country — carried as posters by protesters, handed out with pamphlets or, in some cases, mounted like billboards on the sides of trucks.
Like many others, I often wondered about the source of these images. Who took the pictures? Where did the fetuses come from?
I had a chance to find some answers while reporting in late September on the death of James Pouillon, the anti-abortion protester who was shot and killed in Owosso, Mich. [See Saturday's presentation on the subject in The New York Times.]
Mr. Pouillon was holding an anti-abortion sign at the time, with a baby on one side and an abortion on the other. At his memorial service, I met Monica Migliorino Miller, who told me she had a lot to share about the use of abortion imagery.
A theology professor at Madonna University and the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, she said she had firsthand experience retrieving fetuses after abortions and photographing them. When we met two days later in her university office, she handed me proof: a series of 4-by-6-inch prints that she shot, which have been turned into portraits by Stephen McGee.
Read the whole thing, and don't miss the photo gallery at the top of the post (is this the first time anything associated with the New York Times has carried images of aborted fetuses? I wonder...).
According to the blog post, Dr. Migliorino Miller thinks graphic images of abortion shouldn't be aimed at children, and should be treated with sensitivity and respect. I would agree with that; when pro-life protesters wave oversized bloody images of aborted children I think this tends to be counterproductive.
But at the same time, it has to be acknowledged, I think, that we need these images of the unborn to be available. There are those who claim that all of these photos show only "late-term fetuses" and that at the time most abortions take place, the unborn child does not even look human. While from a moral perspective it wouldn't matter at all whether the child looked human or not, it is a lie that a child aborted in the first trimester does not look human; and it is a lie that can easily be countered by some images of children in the eighth or ninth week of gestation, which quite often is the point at which the mother first realizes she is pregnant.
The trouble, sometimes, is finding the right place to draw the line. When do we, in our pro-life activities, make use of the photos of unborn babies killed by abortion, and when do we avoid using these images? To me, the two most important considerations are that the person with whom we are discussing life issues should be willing to see the images, and the situation should be such that we can warn those not prepared for the images not to look at them.
Many pro-life websites do exactly this, when they warn visitors about to click on photo links that the photos are graphic and may be disturbing to some. No one has to view the images who doesn't wish to see them, but the images are there, ready to counteract the "spin" put upon abortion by those who call themselves "pro-choice," yet who ignore the deadly consequences of the choice they favor.
I think that people like Dr. Migliorino Miller are true pro-life heroes, in that they make it possible for everyone to see the humanity and intrinsic dignity of the unborn human child. The truth about abortion, that every "choice" in favor of abortion results in a dead human baby, is one that would be much harder to show were it not for the availability of these kinds of pictures. While there are times and places were showing the photographic proof that abortion is murder is not appropriate, these images still play an important role in educating people about the unborn and about what "choice" really looks like.