Wednesday, January 19, 2005

More on Graphic Images

I have been doing more research on the use of graphic images as a tool to end social injustice, as described by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. They have a good page regarding the efficacy of this tool:

I have a feeling I am going to be in the minority on this one, but I cannot change my opinion even after reading very well-written and logical arguments in favor of using them. Why do you suppose that is? Is it because everyone else in the pro-life movement is so well-adjusted and I am not? Well, I’m not, obviously, (!) but I can’t be sure that’s the answer. I would like to hear from more women on this issue.

Perhaps I won’t have many supporters precisely because most post-abortive women who cannot face the images also cannot face the text and the other reminders of their abortions. They won’t be looking at my blog. They won’t be anywhere near the pro-life movement. According to the Elliott Institute, when polled, fewer women will report they have an abortion in their past than is possible, knowing as we do the number of procedures that have been performed. Many of us deny we’ve ever had one, which I did for many years.

Consequently, they aren’t here to support me when I say that the images are intolerable. They can’t be here. They can’t see it, they can’t hear it, and they won’t think about it. Yet, those who have been doing this for thirty years say the images are important to recovery.

Images and sounds can be used effectively to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder. It is called “exposure therapy:”

“Exposure therapy is one form of CBT that is unique to trauma treatment. It uses careful, repeated, detailed imagining of the trauma (exposure) in a safe, controlled context to help the survivor face and gain control of the fear and distress that was overwhelming during the trauma. In some cases, trauma memories or reminders can be confronted all at once ("flooding"). For other individuals or traumas, it is preferable to work up to the most severe trauma gradually by using relaxation techniques and by starting with less upsetting life stresses or by taking the trauma one piece at a time ("desensitization").”

The patient is being reintroduced to something traumatic and is deliberately re-traumatized, but in a safe place with assistance. If exposure alone were effective, there would be no PTSD or PASS, as everyone would eventually desensitize to the triggers that bring about emotional turmoil and the physiological stress reaction. We see enough violence in our world to be desensitized to a great deal of it. This doesn’t happen to PTSD sufferers though, which makes it clear that the therapy is only effective because of the therapist’s assistance and the safety therein.

The woman suffering from PASS who runs across your photos by accident is not desensitizing. She may feel threatened by the photos and turn away, as I did. She is avoiding. She is dissociating. She is running away. She is not coming forward to help you, because she cannot. The internet is not a safe, controlled environment. I don’t surf in the presence of a licensed therapist just in case I come across something that upsets me. Therefore, I question not the actual use of the photos – since they do work for those who don’t have the experience – but what I consider their overuse. Not every website has to have the photo of tiny arms next to a dime on the front page in order to show what abortion looks like. Place them in a more strategic area, place a warning, and put at least one more action between the viewer and the photo. People are curious about these things, and they will make an effort to click one more time. They will see your pictures, and they will have the desired effect on the people who don’t know the truth.

Post-abortive women already know the truth, whether they find it in pictures, sounds, doctor’s offices, gynecological exams, or even the mere word, “abortion.” Post-abortive women who are traumatized cannot be helped or brought into the pro-life fold without compassion and care, and that must include attention to those things that cause them pain. And there are so many of us now. Too many.

Yes, our pain is of our own making. But mercy and forgiveness must prevail. The ex-Bishop of my Catholic diocese has the distinction, poor man, of being the only American bishop convicted of a felony. He was driving home one night and hit a pedestrian with his car. The accident victim died at the scene. The Bishop was charged with hit and run, but not with the man’s death. Apparently, the accident itself could not have been avoided. Still, I am positive that the Bishop suffers anyway from guilt about the man’s death, as his supporters report. Do you think it would be emotionally healing for him to show him morgue pictures of the accident victim over and over again? It was a violent accident. How would it help the bishop to know what his dead victim looked like? He was there when it happened, even if as he reports, he didn’t know what he struck. In hindsight, he knows what made the hole in his windshield. He knows already. He lives with the man’s death on his soul every minute of his life, and guilt is a part of that whether we mitigate his responsibility for him or not.

The tiny arms and hands. Little feet. Heads. To some, the photos are tools against social injustice. For post-abortive women, these are our children. If you asked me if you could use a photo of my dead child to save the lives of other children, I would give you a resounding “yes.” He would want that, too. But I do not want to see it (again) for myself. Fair warning – that’s all I ask, so I can look away while the people who need it can look and look and hopefully, learn.


At 6:58 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Great post and I agree. "Abortion Concern" is a post-abortion website out of New Zealand and they post on their front page that "this is a safe site" by which they mean none of those pictures. I think this would be a good addition to those pro-life websites that don't show these pictures.

There's a group that goes around to college campuses with huge blown up versions of these pictures. They stay at the campus for 2-3 days. Have any studies been done to suggest that the abortion rate goes down after they've been in an area?

If the people who promote the use of these pictures displayed an interest in measuring the actual impact of the photos, that would impress me.

At 4:11 AM, Blogger Wandering Pilgrim said...

I got into a discussion with one of my smaller, senior classes. The boys (a-hem) were the most "pro-choice" (grrrr....). Finally I got annoyed and said, "FINE. You want to see what it looks like?" "YEAH!" (it's a Catholic school, so I knew I wouldn't get into trouble for this). So I went on the Net and typed in the Priests for life address, and within two clicks I was at the photos. They weren't impressed, or so they said. It may be that with all the violence we see in the media generally that we're becoming jaded to these kinds of images. There's so much gore in the movies and on TV anyway, so when they see real pictures, it doesn't always register. Which is scary in itself. Unfortunately it registers with exactly the wrong people, sometimes!!! (sorry, again!)

At 6:44 AM, Blogger GrannyGrump said...

I really think that the pics need to be handled with great care. It makes a lot more sense to show pictures of healthy fetuses, with information about what percent of abortions take place at that age and how many that amounts to a year. The gory "after" photos have their place, but I don't think it helps to shove them in people's faces.

Yes, they work -- but in the situations where they work, wouldn't a nice, sound, whole live fetus pic do the same?

At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a post abortive woman, I had an abortion at 19 and I'm 24 now and I have viewed several sites containing graphic images lately. The fetus in the coffin, the scattered arms and legs, as well as the ole' babies in the trash can. I'm not effected. I'm pregnant now and will have an abortion in two weeks. You have made in error in judgement if you really think these images will have a significant impact. Peta has been showing grisly images of slaugter and cruelty for years. Yet I've seen people who winced viewing video of screaming cattle vomiting blood after having it's throat cut, being skinned alive, and their meat being dragged through feces on it's way to McDonalds go out the next day and slobber all over their Big Mac. If someone really wants that Big Mac or feels they need that abortion, they will still get it.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Dear Anon, I don't disagree with you at all about the gory pictures. We can become and are desensitized to violent images and violent acts. I hope you will visit to read again, because I will be posting about dissociation this week.

Dissociation is how we separate ourselves from the emotions that are naturally, biologically, and rightly engendered at seeing violence done to fellow members of our species. But it is a very, very poor coping mechanism that leaves us damaged.

You are also correct in that these pictures and words will only work on those who are open to the effect. People will always kill other people because we can't legislate or wish away aberrant and maladaptive behavior.

I saw pictures of aborted fetuses before I had my abortion. And then I saw my real aborted baby, in little baby pieces. It was 1979, and young people were more immature and less exposed to violence, then. You have grown up in a different world, one made more violent by the people in my generation and that of my parents. I am very sorry for that.

I love a good steak, but seeing a cow in the field doesn't make me hungry, and neither would watching it be slaughtered. I'm glad that's someone else's job, though, because people have to eat.

But psychologically that has nothing to do with the death of human infants in the wombs of human women, or pictures of dead human beings. Our brains don't respond the same way, because a dead cow is not intrinsically threatening to our own lives.

I made no judgment that these pictures have a significant impact. I have been told by others that they do. I will never use them or link directly to them. I believe hurting the one to save the ninety-nine is wrong, because as Christians, we are taught in Scripture that the Lord leaves the ninety-nine in order to save the one.

In fact, I personally believe (and my conviction is growing) that if Jesus Christ Himself was standing at the door to an abortion clinic, the LAST thing he would do is shove a picture of a brutally killed infant in my face to keep me from going in. He would talk to me about positive things instead, like the value of each and every human life.

I have a link at the sidebar to 4-D images of the child in the womb, alive. I don't know how far along you are, but I can tell you researchers say he or she has enough of a neurological system by eight weeks to feel the pain of being aborted. Slaughtered cows are put out of their pain before they are killed. Infants in the womb have no such protection.

You have the legal right to choose to abort your child. That doesn't mean you have to choose it, or that you have to do so in ignorance of the damaging effect it might have on you now, and in the future when you want to keep your children.

A fetal infant is not a Big Mac or a cow. You have new life in you, life that is a part of your own genetic make-up. You and your child are communicating on an autonomic level via hormones. He feels safe. He is exercising his reflexes. He is growing, maturing, and loving the sound of your voice. Your own body and the subconscious part of your brain have welcomed him and made a place where he can grow. So even if you don't want to go on with your pregnancy, you are already his or her mother. It can't be undone, just terminated, and "it" is your child.

Please consider all of the information available to you now that may not have been available to you five years ago. I encourage you to look for scientific explanations, to see what women are learning when they want to carry their pregnancies to term, because those aren't lies or shady truths aimed at making you feel better about your choice to abort. The program, "In the Womb," keeps rerunning on the National Geographic Channel. It is not a political statement. It is a documentary based on physical, measurable, objective evidence of how very much alive the child is and has been from Day One.

My prayers are with you regardless of your choice. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger carole said...

The graphic signs...sigh!!!
13 years ago, when I first saw those signs I wanted to punch somebody in the face... I felt like I had been sucker punched
I wasn't expecting to see them, (I was driving by an abortion clinic that I didn't know was there)
I certainly didn't stop to have a conversation with those holding the signs...i just wanted to get far away from them.

Post-abortive women make up a very large chunk of the population. We can't listen to or rather SEE something that is that is so painful, so the signs actually hurt the pro-life movement.

I have noticed those that are the most obsessed with the signs are usually men, and tend to be all about "the baby". They don't really care about the women.

At 5:46 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Carole, I agree with you; there is also a post-abortive segment of the pro-life movement who, in spite of going through healing progams, etc., seem too steeped in shame to talk openly about how these things make them feel - as if they would be accused by those who use them of being anything less than pro-life. But part of healing is being set free of the shame that mankind imposes on us - I'm not done with this subject, and we can look forward to a new post from my most recent experiences very soon.

Thank you for your support, and for adding your own voice to mine. It makes me feel so much better to know I'm not alone; I hope the more we speak, the more the pro-life movement will understand that this approach has not worked in three decades, and won't work as the post-abortive population grows and grows. It's one thing for us to stand up and say, "we've killed our babies," and quite another for someone else to call us killers, isn't it?

Let's hold on to hope, and keep shouting from the rooftops! Many blessings to you, Carole!


Post a Comment

<< Home