According to a Business Insider article, an anti-abortion activist will run a graphic commercial featuring dismembered fetuses during the Super Bowl. This ad wasn’t subjected to the regular NBC screening which normally filters out objectionable content because federal election laws prohibit such censorship for candidates’ campaign ads. While this ad is certain to garner a great deal of media attention, it’s a mistake to air it.
The gruesome images are designed to shock and then change behavior. The images will succeed in shocking, but they are not likely to have a significant impact on whether someone decides to have an abortion.
Consider the violent images of mangled cars and horrific accidents shown at high school assemblies throughout the country prior to homecoming dances and proms. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) created assemblies like these to prevent reckless driving and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The theory is that by showing the tragic stories, teenagers will make better choices and drive safely. Do they work? We still see a rise in drunk driving accidents following school campaigns despite more than a 20 year tradition of them. Similarly, have violent images of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or any war prevented loss of life?
Many will be outraged by what will surely be perceived as an assault on the senses. The Super Bowl audience is a diverse one. Many small children watch along with their families. These ads will anger many parents and that will not lend itself to people embracing the pro-life movement. Instead it will only add fodder to those in the pro-choice movement who choose to vilify pro-life activists as extremists.
The argument that legalized abortion creates such a crisis that subjecting families to extremely gruesome images like the ones in this commercial are justified is a faulty one. Valuing human life and family values requires taking a higher road. The merit of the argument is cheapened when disturbing imagery is used. Sanctity of life should be preserved in all areas. We don’t want to see dead babies, accident victims or soldiers.
Instead, pro-life activists should take a different approach entirely and many are doing just that. Consider the Time magazine cover story from 2007. Providing medical information and assistance in a calm and kind manner is a far more effective way to positively influence behavior. Visual arguments can still to used to persuade people to reconsider abortion, however. Isn’t the use of ultrasounds a far better way to view a baby?