by Gail Quinn
May 23, 2003
Things are looking good these days. The snow's gone, car windows are open, and there are festive flowers just about everywhere.
I was soaking up all this one Saturday afternoon as I drove along St. Charles Street in Baltimore, near Johns Hopkins University. There were students milling around, and lots of families taking advantage of the beautiful day. A young father was teaching his son to ride a two-wheeler.
Then, jarringly, snaking its way alongside the road was a large graphic display of pictures of the remains of aborted babies. Two men were beckoning people to come look at the photographs.
Such displays are not uncommon. Stationary ones are often erected on college campuses. Some people drive trucks printed with gruesome photographs of aborted children through towns or on highways, or they park them in public areas with heavy foot-traffic. In the summer, I am told, these pictures can also be seen trailing behind planes skimming low across the sky over crowded beaches.
The photographs are disturbing. And should be. They are instructive and can make a persuasive case to college students that abortion is a terrible thing. Elected officials and others who support or vote for abortion should see the results of their agenda. High school students could be shown the photographs, followed by a structured discussion. People need to know that when an abortion is performed a human being ends up dead.
But displaying these photographs is not always appropriate or wise — such as on highways where children still in car seats will be confronted with them. Or in places where families gather. A young mother in my office intended to take her young daughter to the National Mall. The child cried and pleaded — she didn't want to go. Coaxing her to explain, the mother learned that her daughter remembered seeing "dead babies" on a truck parked near the Mall the last time they drove by — and didn't want to see them again. It's difficult to argue with the proposition that the little girl shouldn't have seen those pictures in the first place!
Those who skim the beaches with these photos trailing behind airplanes, or drive trucks with the gruesome pictures on highways, do not, I'm sure, intend to traumatize children. But one can reasonably expect that to happen.
Any educator can tell you, that to be effective, education should be age-sensitive. At what age are gruesome photographs appropriate? Four? Six? Ten? What do such photographs say, for example, to a five-year-old? That someone killed babies and maybe she's not too safe either? Children who are sensitive and impressionable deserve not to be traumatized needlessly by such violent images.
One picture may be worth a thousand words. But where children are concerned, we need to be keenly aware who we are speaking to and what that picture may be saying.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.