If you’re a person, like me, who has suffered the harmful impact of abortion in your life, the news lately has been brutal. Stories about abortion are everywhere. The Planned Parenthood/Susan G. Komen story is still developing and my file of abortion myths is growing by the hour on that story.
But in the news too was the controversy over graphic images of aborted babies airing as a commercial during the most-watched TV event of the year this past weekend. Radaronline reports that Gloria Allred pressured broadcasters to block the ads, threatening to bring the matter before the FCC in a demand for equal time. [This is a CORRECTION to an earlier version of this story which misstated that the matter had gone before a judge.] A ruling was issued by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcast activity and is not a judicial commission, agreeing with WMAQ in Chicago that the sponsor was not a legitimate political candidate and stating that sponsors of ads do not have a universal right to purchase broadcast time.
What is interesting to me is Gloria Allred’s basis for blocking the ads. She did not argue that it would be distressing to view children harmed by abortion procedures, but rather the images might incite pro-life violence against abortion workers. In propaganda tactics, such a move is known as The Big Lie. The way it works is this: when you know your own actions are indefensible, you manufacture a gross offense on the part of an opponent, or create a suspicion of guilt by association by bringing up wrongdoing not even linked to your adversary–a charge in this case that anyone against abortion is dangerous.
Her letter reads in part: “in light of the fact that we now live in an environment in which there is a frequent harassment and sometimes violence against doctors, healthcare providers, and clinics that provide abortions, it is particularly dangerous to air such an ad without the other side being presented. I am sure you are well aware of the tragic murder of Dr. George Tiller (an abortion provider). Even before he was murdered by Scott Roeder (an anti-choice activist), Dr. Tiller was the frequent target of violence against him.”
Reality check: The fact that a handful of abortion providers have been killed is tragic and wrong. Violence has been publicly and loudly decried by every major pro-life organization working in the pregnancy help movement as well as most in the political arena. And for our purposes, it’s important to note that anti-abortion violence is also exceedingly rare–as Allred is certainly aware. Before Tiller’s death in 2009 there had not been a fatality as a result of anti-abortion violence since 1998. And before 1998, there were 5 fatalities linked to abortion center violence. That’s over a span of 39 years.
By the way, one of the offenders was executed, another committed suicide while imprisoned and the others are incarcerated–no one considering such a crime could imagine they could act violently with impunity. Allred also omits Scott Roeder’s diagnosis of mental illness reducing his actions to that of an “activist.” Her inferences are intended as a slur on the peaceable millions who support and encourage pregnant women to choose life and who lawfully exercise a right of free speech to educate the public about what abortion is and what it does to the people involved. Censoring the ads also served to cloak the gruesome truth behind the curtain of privacy which already protects abortion providers from government oversight of the many deaths which have resulted from their practice.
The ads did air in some markets. I won’t link to the ads here because if you are hurt by abortion you already know the harm done to you and yours. But I also won’t keep still.
I believe those who have been bold to witness the truth of abortion by displaying the images have the moral high ground here. Yes, it is heartbreaking to see a battered human body, but our Lord has said the truth is what makes us free, when we face it with his love.
Open our eyes and our hearts, God, and help us all to see.