Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Still thinking about it...

I am still thinking about Greg Cunningham’s video, about which I blogged yesterday.

Images from it disturbed my sleep and made me aware I should be doing so much more for the unborn.

I am also aware, of course, that Cunningham’s approach is strongly contested by, for example, Life, whose caring and educational work I hold in high regard.  Niall Gooch is their Education and Research Officer for the London region.  

[UPDATE: Niall has pointed out that he tweets in a personal capacity, not as a representative of Life.)

On Twitter, (@niall_gooch) he said: 'Cunningham is one of the worst things to happen to the pro-life movement in Britain in years. He's taking us backwards.’

I asked him for his thoughts behind this comment, and he kindly sent a series of points to explain his reservations about Cunningham’s approach:

In short, my objections to public display of graphic images: (they're a mixture of pragmatic/principled)...

1 Violates the dignity of the dead child 
2 Many of those images are fake/manipulated 
3 We have no idea how the images will be perceived by ppl who've experienced *any* kind of pregnancy loss. 
4 Children will see them
5 It's horrible PR for prolife & I know of no evidence that it helps win minds permanently. 
6 It is unChristlike 
7 It not only appears self-righteous, confrontational & judgmental, but can actually engender those sins in ppl.
8 It poisons other prolife work, eg schools - we at LIFE have lost numerous schools for this reason.

I am still mulling this over.

It seems to me that there are two principal questions.

One is: is the approach taken by Greg intrinsically wrong?  If so, there is nothing more to discuss, for we may not use the ends to justify the means.

If there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Greg’s approach, is it prudent?  That is, will the benefits (if any) outweigh the risks (if any)?

Of the objections raised by Niall, 1, 4, 6 and 7 strike me as ones that suggest the means may be intrinsically wrong, 3, 5 and 8 are more about the tactical aspect.  2 is a separate case: it strikes me as a serious allegation, and I have asked Niall to clarify and await his response.

So I propose to think out loud firstly about 1, 4, 6 and 7, and then (perhaps, in a later post)  3, 5 and 8.  Then, if I have time and anything further to say, I may try to reach some conclusions.

1 Using such images violates the dignity of the dead child.

This is an argument with which I have an immediate and instinctive sympathy.  However, under examination I think it breaks down. Cunningham’s point is that we violate the dignity of the aborted child more by covering up his murder than by using photographs to prove it.  If one considers the case of a born child murdered, where there was photographic evidence that would convict his murderer (or even simply prove that he was a murder victim, not dead by natural causes) I do not think that publicising such a photograph (if it was necessary to do so in the pursuit of justice) would violate the child’s dignity.

4 Children will see them.

Again, this is an argument that resonates strongly with me.  However, does that mean that using such images is inherently wrong? I am not sure.

6 It is unChrist-like

I am not convinced. I am always wary of the ‘what would Christ do?’ line of argument, as He so frequently astonished even those who knew Him best.  He certainly had no qualms about telling unacceptable truths, and confronting evil directly and unapologetically - even ‘offensively.’

7 It not only appears self-righteous, confrontational & judgmental, but can actually engender those sins in people.

Again, I am not convinced. It could engender those sins, but so could many things that are not intrinsically evil.


As I say, I am thinking out loud here: I would welcome others’ views. To my surprise, I am inclining towards Greg Cunningham’s point of view,  (or at least, I am not wholly convinced by the arguments against it made so far)  but I am not yet decided or sure and am very much open to discussion and persuasion.


Megan Hodder said...

My very quick thoughts:

I think first we need to ask what it means to 'help the unborn'. We have to remember that although the pro-life case is not primarily a philosophical or academic argument, but an effort to build a culture of life. There is no point convincing expectant mothers that the child in their womb is a person from its conception if they are simply not receiving the material, financial or social support to raise that child. It is a purely pyrrhic victory.

I think the first point of Cunningham's you mention is verging on a tu quoque. The authentically pro-life response to a violation of a person's dignity is not to prolong that indignity further by publicising it, and turning that tragedy into an (ineptly wielded) tool. If life begins at conception, then so does our responsibility to value and respect that life.

Your analogy with the murder suggests graphic images serve a practical purpose. But as I say, when 98% of abortions are performed under Ground C - in other words, when the abortion is seen by the mother to be her only option, due to by a lack of a support structure, a lack of money to care for the child, an abusive or controlling partner, or social stigma, what purpose do they serve?

The idea of the average woman seeking an abortion as a naive teenager is false: many of the women who come to these clinics are older, have been through pregnancy and childbirth already; they know about foetal development, they know what their child looks like at ten, twelve, fourteen weeks gestation. They know what abortion entails. They feel they don't have an alternative.

Of course we must tell the truth. But the salient truth here is that life is valuable from its very beginning, and should be protected and supported from its very beginning: we can uphold that truth in a way that practically assists mothers, and does not exploit the suffering of unborn children.

I've written in more detail on graphic images here: http://whistlingsentinel.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/graphic-images-in-clinic-protests/


adiutricem said...

Still thinking about this, which for me could take a bit.

I am aware of the "dignity" assertion and I am not willing to concede that it is indeed a violation of the dignity of the dead to show these pictures. Maybe it is, but I have not advanced to that point yet.

I might scour my back-issues of the Human Life Review; this topic has come up many times in print as you can imagine.

Let's say for the moment it is perfectly moral to do this. I would think that if "millions" of people have seen these images, and they are as effective as Cunningham asserts, then there should be tangible results.

I find it hard to believe that no pro-life or pro-abortion group has commissioned a study to determine what the effects are of showing graphic images to people in either camp, or neutral. Maybe I will dig around a bit.

blondpidge said...

Like you I oscillate on this one.

On the question of children, I admit that I wouldn't like my eldest to see these images, my eldest is particularly sensitive. I have a leaflet with an image of a deceased 24 week baby, killed then delivered intact. As you can imagine, having given birth to 3 babies in the past 3 years, it is far too close to home.

The images strike a visceral note, particularly amongst pregnant and post-natal women and do need to be used with care. I guess that testifies to their effectiveness but if I'm honest, even as an informed pro-lifer, I couldn't cope with them in pregnancy and struggle with them now.

When it comes to the issue of schools, Andy Stephenson has been very successful with presentations in schools locally. Although data would be useful to quantify reactions, most pro-choice schools boycott when they hear that A67 have visited a certain school. The students emerge aghast at what they have witnessed and convinced as to the horror that is abortion. Showing teens the graphic videos makes abortiom very hard to justify. It forces the pro-choicers to come up with sound ethical arguments as to why killing unborn babies is acceptable and shows the realities beyond the vague and reassuring clinical language. Removal of the products of conception is witnessed for what it is.

Recently an amazing young man who leads some of the London 40DFL vigils said to me that he wondered whether or not I was projecting my horror onto my children. He grew up surrounded by these images and though still heartbroken over abortion, they never caused any psychological damage, but steepened his resolve.

Patricius said...

When the truth is so comprehensively denied what real alternative is there to the simple presentation of the facts in visual form?

We live in a visual age- Cctv footage is used to convict burglars and corrupt policemen. How does a refusal to broadcast photographic evidence protect the human dignity of those whose dignity has already been completely trashed by their having been already brutally murdered?