Undercover investigators in recent weeks have added to the evidence that we already had that the abortion industry, and Planned Parenthood in particular, sells the body parts of the babies it kills.
As one of those who is close to this project through my partnership with Operation Rescue, and who knows the key players in this investigation, I have been asked by some reporters whether these videos represent a new strategy that replaces for the pro-life movement some of the older strategies like showing graphic pictures of aborted babies.
My answer: not at all. On the contrary, these videos fit into a coherent strategy that I and other pro-life leaders have taught for decades and that is rooted in the history of social reform: social injustices thrive when they are hidden; therefore, you expose them.
Planned Parenthood sells baby body parts. That is undeniable, and Congress as well as the individual states will now play their role in investigating the extent to which Planned Parenthood has broken the law. But whatever direction those investigations take, another investigation has also begun: the American people are being given a chance to look abortion in the eye.
I have always said that America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion. The abortion debate is too abstract; words lose their meaning, and an abundance of words can justify anything.
But when instead of abstract philosophical and legal debates about freedom, choice, and the Constitution, you talk about selling hearts, livers and brains, or see the pictures of them, you cut through the rationalizations and confront the reality of the injustice. That is exactly how the anti-slavery movement, the child labor reform movement, and the civil rights movement accomplished their goals.
It is how the pro-life movement will accomplish its goal, too. Expose abortion.
This is done in three distinct ways, in which the undercover videos fit in two places.
The first way we expose abortion is through images and descriptions of the procedure itself and what it does to the baby. Read articles and speeches defending abortion, and you will practically never read any description of the procedure. You will hear about choice and rights, but not about the body parts. But when the procedure is exposed in all its gory details, defending the practice becomes virtually impossible.
The second way to expose abortion is to expose what it does to those who undergo the procedure. The testimonies of mothers who have aborted their children reveal the devastation it brings to them — the suicidal thoughts and actions, the despair and loss of self-esteem, the nightmares and broken relationships, and more. When people hear these testimonies, as shared, for instance, through our Silent No More Campaign, they see abortion exposed — not as a solution to a problem, but as an action that creates more problems.
The third way we expose abortion is by lifting the veil from the abortion clinics themselves and looking at how corrupt the abortion industry is. This is accomplished in three ways: through dialogue with practicing abortionists and clinic workers, through the testimony of former abortionists and clinic workers, and through undercover conversations, recordings, and videos.
There is a distinction between two different groups of abortion advocates, the propagandists on the one hand and the practitioners on the other. The practitioners see the women crying and screaming. They deal with the bloody parts of little babies. They cope with the literal stench of death.
Of the two groups, the propagandists succeed more readily in the rationalizing necessary to support legal abortion. The reason is simple: they don’t see abortions. Nor do they deal with devastating results for child and parents. The practitioners, on the other hand, see the concrete evidence every day, and it is harder for them to deny. That is why they are more willing to talk with us on the pro-life side. They know we see what they see.
But for the propagandists things are a lot cleaner and simpler: they send out press releases; hold press conferences; prepare reports in cushy offices; and talk about freedom, rights, and choices. One thing the propagandists rarely discuss, however, is what an abortion actually is. For them it’s about viewpoints, not victims; it’s about beliefs, not bloodshed.
We are living in a world proud to turn a blind eye to the obvious. That great blind spot in our culture covers the children in the womb. Our mission is to shine light on that darkness.
One of the most helpful words in the English language is empathy, the feeling that we understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. William Wilberforce, the catalyst in Britain’s abolition of the slave trade, gave the “Abolition Speech” to Parliament in 1789, and in that speech revealed a human imperative that took hold of him and made his commitment to abolition absolute:
As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might, let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.
Observe how Wilberforce’s commitment is rooted not in some abstract “nuance,” but in a concrete, human connection with the victims. This connection did not lead Wilberforce to despair but rather a determination that he “would never rest.”
Exposing abortion leads to that same determination to stop its damaging effects. The undercover videos do not replace that strategy; they embody it.