Pro-Lifers, Gory Pictures and the First Amendment

The Abortion War still rages.  The battles are mostly private affairs, often taking place in conversations between lovers in cars, or in college dorms or over coffee at Starbucks.  Babies' lives are fought over in private counseling sessions at Crisis Pregnancy Centers, in doctor's offices and in the Yellow Pages or on the internet, one baby at a time.  Some battles occur in living rooms between daughters and parents, or in church offices between pastors and a parishioner.  Some are fought between a husband and a wife.  It's a one-baby-per-battle war.  More than 45,000,000 souls lost Baby Battles since 1973.  And still the war rages.

Occasionally a battle involves not only one baby, but the whole of the unborn class of humanity.  That's when the Abortion War goes public, makes headlines in one city, or across the nation, and often ends up in the courts.  One such public battle started a couple of weeks ago in my hometown.

In the flurry of black-Friday shopping, right here in metropolitan Atlanta where I live, an Abortion-War battle took place, involving pro-lifers, gory pictures and the First Amendment.  The driver of an Operation Rescue "Truth Truck," bearing banners emblazoned with enlarged photographs of aborted babies, was arrested here on charges of disorderly conduct, citing a provision in the law that prohibits "the display of obscene and vulgar images visible to persons under age 14." 

The charges were indeed dropped within the week after local authorities received an informative letter on the First Amendment from the American Center for Law and Justice, who wrote at the behest of Operation Rescue.  Case closed; battle won. 

Not quite.  It simply moves on to another community.

The other day I spoke with Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, an organization of lawyers on the front lines of First Amendment litigation involving a host of issues, not the least of which is abortion.  On the one hand, the picture is bright, in that abortion is a straightforward political issue and its opponents (and proponents), whether in actual speech or in pictorial substitutes, are indeed protected by the First Amendment, a principle which has been upheld again and again by various courts at all levels of jurisdiction.

On the other hand, according to Mr. Thompson, the principles of the First Amendment are initially left to interpretation by community officials and individual police officers.   Arrests of pro-life spokespersons, initiated  either by citizen complaints or even by the political beliefs of the individual officer, are therefore quite common.   

Operation Rescue and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, two ardent and sometimes controversial Pro-Life organizations, are pushing hard against media-erected barriers to a fair fight over abortion.  Just as in many other cultural and political battles of the current age, our mainstream media have taken a side (pro-choice to abort) and use the bully-pulpit of mass circulation to frame the debate, or in the instance of abortion, shut it down altogether whenever they can get away with it. 

Having been denied recourse to mere words and anything even coming close to fair-and-balanced media coverage on this most passionate political issue, some pro-life groups are resorting to the one-picture-is-better-than-a-thousand-words approach.  And they're causing quite a stir, pretty much from coast to coast.  It seems that folks who aren't even a little hesitant to rally the crowds round the "choice" to kill a baby in the womb, get downright riled when the bloodstained pictures of the act itself make it into the public arena, especially around children.

Children can learn the practice of homosexual "fisting" from picture books in their schools and gaze upon the real blackened lungs of dead smokers in jars, but we should protect them from the visuals of abortion, some say.  Liberals often seem immune to logic; their illogic here does not square with First Amendment rights. 

As Mr. Thompson confirmed for me, the use of photographs to call attention to grave injustice has a wealth of historical precedent, and is absolutely protected by the First Amendment.  He mentioned the ease with which people of other generations and places had spoken of heinous acts such as mass lynching of blacks and even the Holocaust, but once confronted with the pictures, these same people were horrified at what was taking place.  And so it is with pictures of aborted babies.

To a population which has been brainwashed to accept the abortionists' propaganda that we shouldn't worry over it because it's not a baby after all, the actual photographs of abortion are abhorrent and stir a great deal of emotion.  "It's just a clump of cells," the abortionists have told us  over and over again, until a great many among us have believed it. 

But when one is actually confronted with enlarged pictures of little hands and feet, agonized expressions frozen in the throes of a violent death upon fetal faces with real eyes, noses, mouths and ears, the realization is dizzying, agonizing to those still trapped in the mindless state of denial. 

So, of course there's going to be a fuss over it; of course we do not want to see what our own choices have wrought.

A police officer, usually trained to separate personal feelings and beliefs from his work, is nevertheless a human being.  And since 1973, abortion has affected vast numbers among our population.  Nearly everyone now knows someone who has had an abortion, or has at least considered one.  Nearly everyone has a sister or a brother or a cousin or a friend who has been touched by this pervasive "choice."  A large proportion of women have had abortions, and they serve as police officers too. 

So, how do you think it affects them when they see up close and personal something they have been taught to think of as something else entirely?  How does an officer react if he has been party to an abortion once he sees the tiny hands and feet of a real baby now dead?  Just seeing the tormented, very discernable, bloody face of a totally innocent baby's head, being held by surgical forceps would be enough to cause rage in any sane person.  So, how would you feel if you suddenly were faced with a heinous act you yourself had partaken in or supported?

Precisely.  Before we excised the word, "sin," from our public vocabulary, we called that feeling the justified torment of shameful guilt.  

The wave of guilt, anger and anguished denial appears to have completely overcome some of these officers.  In Atlanta two weeks ago, the arresting officers not only locked up the driver of the Truth Truck, they destroyed the pictures and did damage to the truck.  Mr. Thompson told me of another such incident, which happened a few years ago in Royal Oak, Michigan.  There, too, the police officers did a great deal of physical damage, and in resulting litigation (Plaintiff represented by Thomas More Law Center), the community's taxpayers paid out in excess of $25,000 in damages.  This kind of personal anger on the part of law enforcement officials doesn't come cheap; these are not the acts of dispassionate professionals. 

The last time a political issue stirred this much passionate anger on both sides of the debate occurred over 100 years ago, and the issue was slavery.  The abolitionists vs. the slavers.  It wasn't pretty; it played out badly.  It took a Civil War, another 100 years of institutionalized denial and a national movement for civil rights before the wounds even began to be stitched up so they could start to heal.

The Abortion War began in 1973, 34 years ago, and still it rages.  What will it take to stop it?  Only God knows.  But every time one of us sees a picture of an aborted baby, he can be certain of this one thing:  God has personally witnessed the private killing of each and every one of these babies, and I think He is counting.  If seeing just one abortion picture is enough to cause rage in a man or a woman, what can we imagine God is feeling?

Abortion is an American "choice" that may well have consequences, which haven't even begun to be known.  I shudder just to think of it.  May God have mercy on our souls. 

Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  She welcomes your comments at
If you experience technical problems, please write to