Winning the War of Images

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life
May 12, 1997

The battle to restore protection to our preborn brothers and sisters is in many ways a war of words, and a lot of effort has been invested in the pro-life movement to teach people how to win the war of words. There are, in the end, a limited number of slogans and arguments used by the defenders of abortion, and every one of these verbal weapons can be readily counteracted by the truth that the pro-life position contains. Ultimately, there is no way to rationally defend the killing of little babies.

Defenders of abortion have actually known this for a long time, and therefore have taken the offensive by using the power of images to appeal to the emotions of the audience and overpower the reasoning process. Take a simple example. Since 1995, much public attention has been given to the partial-birth abortion procedure as federal and legislation was introduced to ban it. Medically accurate diagrams of this procedure were shown in the halls of Congress and on national television, to the rightful disgust of the vast majority of decent people. The defenders of this procedure could not deny that it was real, and could not rationally defend it. Their strategy was discussed in a seminar at a national meeting of the National Abortion Federation: instead of focusing on the procedure, focus on heart-wrenching cases of women who allegedly needed this procedure to preserve their life, health, and fertility. Read their testimonies, shows pictures of them and their other live, healthy children, and get the public to feel their grief.

This very strategy was evident both on the floor of Congress and also at the White House when the President vetoed the ban in the presence of women who allegedly suffered such hard cases.

The power of the image is great. And it is not a power that should be reserved to defenders of abortion. We can use it just as effectively.

What, then, would be a powerful pro-life image to counteract that used to defend partial-birth abortion? The image of the moms who faced medically complicated pregnancies and bravely brought their children to birth is a perfect antidote. During the efforts to ban partial-birth abortion, a number of such women have made their stories known. In fact, they sought an audience with the President, but he refused to meet with them. The pro-life movement must pick up the slack, and give a voice to the heroic parents who gave life in such difficult circumstances.

We should not be afraid to pull the heartstrings of America in defense of life! This is not manipulation. It is, rather, giving a face and a feel to the truth we express in our propositions! Let those who have bravely chosen life in traumatic circumstances, and want to share their story, be given a hearing in the media, in our legislatures, in our Churches! Most of all, may we continue to give them a place in our hearts for all they have done to strengthen the rest of us to defend life!

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