Graphic abortion victim photography: Effective or offensive?

'People need to know what is happening,' says Cameron Côté from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform. 'We have to put this out on display because injustice that isn't visible, inevitably remains tolerable.'

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In Mississippi, back in 1955, a 14-year-old black boy named Emmett Till was abducted, tortured and lynched after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store. He was brutalized, his killers were acquitted.

Needless to say, people in positions of authority wanted to move on and were eager for people to forget what happened to Emmett Till. His mother had other ideas. She insisted on an open casket funeral for her son — she wanted the world to see what these villains had done to her boy.

Photos of Emmett's mutilated corpse made international news and people were forced to face the ugly truth of racism. Emmett became a posthumous hero within the civil rights movement.

The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR), a Canadian pro-life education group, is using Emmett’s example to tackle another human rights issue: abortion. For years they have been taking to the streets with large signs featuring abortion images. They also have a large billboard truck that features aborted fetuses that they drive through cities across Canada, in the hopes of engaging people in conversation and forcing them to face the reality of abortion in this country.

The contentious nature of the CCBR's work is certainly magnified as of late by the Supreme Court's recent overturning of a pivotal abortion case in the United States. While often misinformed outrage over Roe v. Wade boils over even here, north of the border, many in Canada remain entirely unaware that there are zero legal restrictions on abortion in this country. Abortion is fully publicly funded for the entire pregnancy, up to and including partial birth abortions, regardless of reason. This puts Canada in the company of countries like China and North Korea in terms of abortion laws. No other modern democracy has zero abortion laws on the books.

There is no denying that Canada is radical in its pro-abortion position, but some wonder if our lawlessness on the matter really merits activists displaying the bloody aftermath of abortions in the public square. The use of graphic abortion imagery undoubtedly generates conversations, but questions remain even among the most ardent pro-lifers as to whether this brand of activism paints a picture of all pro-lifers as extremists, and if it really manages to change any minds on the issue.

We joined Cameron Côté, the Western Outreach director for the CCBR, along with some members of his team to learn about why the group engages in such contentious activism. We also discussed how they respond to criticism of what they are doing, the realities of abortion in Canada and found out if they are indeed causing people to reconsider their positions on abortion.

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