2007 Bernardin-O'Connor Award for Pro-life Journalism: Best Pro-Life News Story
Disturbing Images ‘Focus Americans’ on Injustice of Abortion
By Michael Wojcik, News Editor
Diocese of Paterson, NJ
March 22, 2007
CONVENT STATION - You probably have seen them and it's impossible to forget them - photos of aborted babies, made even more heartbreaking by close-up shots of their tiny mutilated arms, legs and heads.
So why does the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), known for using photos of aborted babies on the posters and placards and in the videos of its pro-life media campaigns, feel the need to display images so gruesome and disturbing that they upset many in the public?
"We have to show the rest of society what abortion is and we have to use images," declared Bill Calvin, CBR's Missouri/Kansas director, who spoke Sunday, March 4, at a fund-raiser for the Legal Center for the Defense of Life Inc. at the Madison Hotel here. CBR's display of these horrible images allows Americans to "open the sterile doors (of the abortion mill) and see the little boy, the little girl, their arms being ripped off, see them being poisoned, see them being burned," said Calvin.
In many ways, California-based CBR is mirroring many other social movements that have shaped the United States by "forcing people to see the injustice by using graphic images," Calvin said. For example, the civil rights movement was kicked started in 1955 by newspaper and magazine open-casket photos of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American, who had been beaten beyond recognition and murdered by a group of white men, he said.
Calvin reported that pro-life advocates don't need to "get up in front of people and preach a new morality.
"In some ways, that's not the case. Americans are against killing children," said Calvin, a Legal Center co-founder and its first president and a former Morris Township police commissioner. "Our challenge is to educate people that the baby in the womb is a child and is just as worthy of protection as the born child."
Armed with that critical information, "people will take the right action." For example, girls who find themselves pregnant will visit a crisis pregnancy center. Americans will vote for pro-life political candidates, Calvin said.
Founded in 1990, the privately funded, non-profit CBR has been working for what it calls "prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn, the disabled, the infirm, the aged and all vulnerable peoples" through education - often through the display of those disturbing images.
"Abortion will continue to be trivialized as 'the lesser of two evils' or as 'a necessary evil,' so long as it is allowed to remain an invisible abstraction," said Gregg Cunningham, CBR's executive director. "Pictures make it impossible for anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty to maintain the pretense that 'it's not a baby' and 'abortion is not an act of violence'... we are out to change the way people perceive abortion."
Despite its in-your-face media tactics, CBR remains totally non-violent- opposing violence against abortionists. The organization also refuses to engage in civil disobedience. All CBR activities fall in the legal bounds of the First Amendment, its Web site states.
'The media is telling our message'
Frank Diorio of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Sparta, exercised his "free speech" rights last year by joining CBR's "AbortionNo" campaign. For several months during U.S. Congressional mid-term election season, the retired engineer drove one of several large trucks emblazoned with billboard-sized posters that displayed images of aborted babies. He helped drive home the horrors of abortion by driving thousands of miles, traversing Pennsylvania.
During his PowerPoint slide show presentation during the Legal Center's brunch, Calvin showed clips from the more than 65 stories that local TV news outlets reported when CBR's trucks would come to their area. Some stations showed the disturbing images - with a warning to viewers, while others either blurred the images or refused to show them.
"When (these news outlets) say the images of abortion are so horrible, they are telling you our message," said Calvin.
These TV news clips gauged the reaction of passersby. Some were angry, saying, "I don't care to see that" or "It's very graphic, very inappropriate." But some praised CBR's message, like one woman, who said, "It's very shocking but it's also a reality people don't want to deal with."
CBR also had commissioned banners to promote its abortion-awareness message that were towed by airplanes.
With that in mind, Diorio has joined CBR's successful Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). Groups of pro-life advocates travel to college campuses around the U.S., displaying mural-sized photos of aborted pre-born children. The exhibit "compares the contemporary genocide of abortion to historically recognized forms of genocide," CBR's Web site states.
On these campuses, GAP participants in a respectful manner try to engage students in debate. The reaction to the grizzly photos and the GAP advocates varies. Some pro-abortion students start up a fiery debate, yell at them, flash them inappropriate gestures or ignore them. GAP has visited about 100 college campuses, including Seton Hall University, South Orange, and has been seen by more than 1 million students, Calvin estimated.
"When they (pro-abortion students) leave (the GAP exhibit), they may not be pro-life, but they are open to the idea and are willing to think about it," noted Jane Fullerton, Tennessee Right to Life's education director, in a CBR video about GAP. "We've also had some 'closeted' pro-life students come by and say. 'Thank you for coming...we really needed to know that someone else cared.'"
The brunch raised funds for the Legal Center, which provides pro-bono legal help to defenders of life of the unborn, elderly and infirm. Founded in 1989, it maintains an army of dozens of lawyers around N.J.- "rapid-deployment force" - which works to protect the speech of sidewalk counselors, provide legal help to those facing litigation because of their pro-life activities and advise the local police of the demonstrators' rights, among other activities. The group also will represent women who have had botched abortions, said Richard Collier Jr., Legal Center president.
The Legal Center also provides advice to pregnant women and gives counsel to pro-lifers setting up crisis pregnancy centers and shelter homes and defending rights of elderly and infirm. It also sponsors seminars to inform attorneys and citizens about the rights of pro-life demonstrators, said Collier, a lawyer for more than 30 years.
At the brunch, a representative of Eagle Forum, a pro-family organization, presented Collier with an award "for his work for God, family and country." Collier accepted on behalf of the Legal Center and its founding members.
"There are people out there not making any money, exercising their free speech, rescuing the babies and going to jail," said Richard Traynor, one of the Legal Center's founders, calling the center's 18 years fighting of justice "remarkable." "People are entitled to justice. It's a God-given right, but that justice doesn't come cheap. We need lawyers to fight for it," he said.