It has come to the attention of a number of my colleagues and I that there are not only a number of people outside the pro-life camp but also some who consider themselves part of it who feel that graphic abortion imagery is wrong because it is comparable to pornography. I was at first tempted to ignore the comparison because I felt it ludicrous and unfounded. Obviously, abortion imagery depicts an injustice while with pornography, the images themselves are the injustice—abortion imagery exposes a travesty, while pornographic images are a travesty. However, since the accusation is persisting, it warrants a careful analysis and response.
In considering this comparison, it is important to note how pornography is defined. According to one online dictionary, pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.” I think it is clear to all that abortion imagery—evidence of the violence abortion does to the pre-born child—is not in any way comparable to pornography, which consists of images of an explicitly sexual nature. Abortion imagery is not used for even remotely sexual purposes, but rather to decry the inhumanity of this barbaric procedure and to point out what the results of recreational sex—so glorified by pornography—can bring about. Pornography is part of the culture of promiscuity that has contributed to abortion so greatly.
In this instance graphic abortion imagery, which displays the tiny victims of abortion, is analogous to Holocaust imagery, which show older victims of systematic violence. However, I am sure that we can agree that pictures of the Holocaust are not analogous to pornography—and that this would be an offensive claim to make—just as attending the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC would not be analogous to visiting a Playboy Club or pornography store. When thoughtfully considered, the pornography comparison reveals itself to be an extremely offensive comparison to make—both to the victims and those who stand to reveal their fate.
After searching through past critiques of graphic abortion imagery, I found that abortion advocates have often used this accusation, and that there have been detailed responses given. So as not to reinvent the wheel, I would like to share one succinct rebuttal to this notion:
John Jansen of the Pro-Life Action League:
“The difference between graphic abortion pictures and pornography can be seen in their respective reasons for existence.
“The clear and obvious purpose of pornography is to elicit sexual arousal in the viewer. In so doing, pornographic images distort the reality about the human body, and about God’s plan for human sexuality.
“Pornography takes the truth and twists it into a lie — namely, that sex is primarily about individual gratification — and as a result, its psychological, emotional, and moral damage is devastating.
“Graphic abortion pictures, however, have precisely the opposite effect. Showing images of aborted babies presents the truth of what abortion really is, and the reason for displaying them is to elicit sympathy for unborn children and awaken consciences about the gravely evil nature of abortion.”
Because the charge that graphic abortion imagery is comparable to pornography is a serious one—the implication being that showing graphic images is immoral—we have decided to respond on this website, as we plan to discuss pro-life issues from a religious and moral perspective as opposed to a pragmatic, strategy oriented perspective. We believe that this charge is completely baseless to the point of being offensive, as the implications of the accusation is that all photographic evidence of murder victims, including injustices of the past regularly shown in our classrooms, can be characterized as “pornographic.” To compare documentation of the fate of so many of our pre-born neighbours to imagery designed to incur sexual arousal is one that has no intellectual foundation, and one that should be discarded due to lack of coherence and credibility.”