The rhetorical case for protecting the unborn has succeeded. The debate is over. It would be, that is, had the Supreme Court not issued – in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words – a “difficult to justify,” “heavy-handed judicial intervention” in Roe v. Wade 40 years ago. Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans support making abortion generally illegal after the first three months of pregnancy. A staggering four-fifths support bans in the last three months. So if the pro-choice movement is just a paper tiger subsisting on the likes of distasteful “war on women” memes, how is it still so powerful?
Never underestimate the media as an ally. True, people cannot justify the unjustifiable killing of a distinct, self-directing human life. But in this multimedia age, intellectual arguments simply do not carry the day. Only pictures can tell a story and inspire people to action. Without pictures, dizzying sophistry about zygotes and blastocysts lull readers into false complacency, while veiled accusations of waging “wars” on science and women cow them into silence.
Pictures change all that. No one knows that better than the media.
LifeNews reported the other day that The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the LA Times refused to run an advertisement showing a hand holding a 20- to 24-week-old baby, pictured above, created by Heroic Media. The pro-life organization said they were told the ad was “too controversial.”
Objectively speaking, there is nothing controversial about the picture in the ad. It is a human fetus pictured during a stage of development an overwhelming majority of Americans believe ought to be protected by law. The text of the ad asks for support to “stop abortions from being allowed after 20 weeks when a child feels pain” – again, something a vast majority already support.
The only potentially objectionable content is, perhaps, the call to “Stop the War on Children.” As a reason for not running the ad, however, this does not wash. First, the Chicago Tribune, after refusing the initial ad, did accept an alternative ad, pictured below. The alternative ad features the very same copy as the original, including the “War on Children” reference. The only difference is the imagery.
Moreover, the Tribune does not seem to have a problem with “war on” references. The first four links that came up on a Google search for the phrase “war on women” at the Tribune were these:
- On the “News” page under “Featured Articles,” the Tribune on April 11, 2012 ran Krystal Ball’s piece entitled The Republican ‘War on Women’ Is Real: The GOP has launched the worst assault on women’s rights in a generation.
- On the “Home” page, the Tribune on January 4, 2013 ran Mary Sanchez’s piece entitled War on abortion targets reproductive health care for poor women.
- On the “News” page under “Featured Articles,” the Tribune on September 4, 2012 ran Patricia Zengerle’s piece entitled Democrats charge Republicans with "war on women" at convention.
- On the “News” page under “Featured Articles,” the Tribune on April 12, 2012 ran Zerlina Maxwell’s piece entitled Reproductive Health Laws Prove GOP ‘War on Women’ Is No Fiction.
There were more Google results, as well as other examples of “war on” and “anti-women” references on the Tribune’s own site under “Related Articles” for the above linked pieces. But there is no need to belabor the point. If “war on” and “assault on” rhetoric is “controversial,” it is only disqualifyingly so when it comes to disfavored causes.
But as I said, in the battle for minds, rhetoric has only won the abortion-rights camp between a fifth and a mere third of America. In the battle for hearts, I’d wager their ranks are thinner still. They are right to fear photos like these. Their proliferation would lay waste to what remains of their cause.