Saturday, February 1, 2014

Social Media, Abortion and How Far is Too Far?

Three birthdays and the birthday that almost was...
I have to say, I'm not a fan of Facebook's new little plan to have videos automatically begin to play if your screen happens to reload with them in the center of the frame, or if you pause while scrolling while they're within sight.

Yesterday I was rather sickened by what I saw.

Maybe it's the time of year.  I have a what-might-have-been anniversary, an almost second birthday, that will arrive at the end of this next week before putting the date behind us for another year.  So when I opened Facebook I really didn't need to see what I saw, at the top of my news feed because more than one friend had thought it was a good idea to share it.

I understand why they did.  The video was powerful.  It showed a baby who I would guess to be somewhere in the middle of the second trimester, in an amniotic sac, sitting on a table while someone with gloves pokes and prods it.  The baby is still alive and he kicks his legs and moves when poked.

My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

And there he was, on the middle of my Facebook page, slowly suffocating.

The day the trouble started...
I know what my friends who shared it likely saw and thought when making the decision to hit "share".  They were sharing with others who might not realize it that that baby was very clearly more than just a choice, that that tiny baby who was likely within the age where an abortion would be legal in most of the country for any reason whatsoever, was a life ended too soon.  They wanted to spread the word about the horror that is abortion.

I've seen pictures of aborted babies shared in the past and while I scroll past quickly, the effect wasn't the same.  I feel sorrow at those pictures.  But watching this video felt like watching death slowly creep across the screen.  It was horrible and I found myself frozen for a moment, unable to scroll away.

It was too close, just too close.  I've held a baby in an amniotic sac in my hand during the second trimester, torn the amniotic sac open, performed a conditional baptism, while in the hospital all on my own.  In the months that followed I was made to feel like I was insane before finally finding a doctor who realized that that there was still a very big problem and that I needed surgery immediately (after three months of having other doctors tell me it was basically all in my head).  For a while I would shake every time we drove by the hospital that would later write a long apology letter to us.  And seeing that video brought those feelings flooding back.

I'm not saying that there isn't a place for a video like that.  It is powerful.  It might change someone's mind.  I just don't think that facebooks news feed is necessarily where it belongs.  We need to remember that not only was that baby a life, but that video also showed a life being extinguished.  Maybe instead it belongs on a page where it doesn't automatically play with a gigantic trigger warning above it.  Because a lot of people have experienced loss and having a video like that suddenly pop up on their screen might have a far greater affect than the person posting it likely imagined.

Edited to add: With the rush of babies all around needing me right. this. second. I didn't flesh this out quite as well as I should have.  My problems with the use of this video go far beyond my own emotional response.  When I saw that video I couldn't help but seeing that tiny babies and his suffering being used as an end that, while showing his humanity also seemed to exploit it.  I'm not sure that I can even put into words why it feels so very, very wrong, but it goes far beyond my own discomfort.  I'm all for sharing the truth on social media.  I'm willing to go outside of my comfort zone.  But I'm not willing to use the death of this child as a blurb that people pass around on Facebook.  It is wrong on so, so many levels.


  1. I'm with you 100% on this, and I have never, thank God, been through what you've been through. Frankly, if I saw such a thing I'd probably vomit right there. What a ghastly thing to see. Not that it might not have its uses, but...urgh!

  2. I cry every time I see it and don't watch it all the way through but I think it is an important video. As much as it hurts me to see it, I am willing to go through that if someone's eyes and heart can be opened to the truth. I think the video needs context. It needs to be shared by friends who are available to answer questions or ease suffering... But it is perhaps one of our most powerful images to date. The Silent Scream changed my life and it was only a fuzzy 2d image. This combines the power of the image of life (like ultrasound) with the the real contrast of what abortion does ( with the advantage of being unbloody).

    If abortion stops making us physically I'll, then we have problem. I am willing to be uncomfortable, weep, vomit, whatever, in order to prevent others from doing this to their children. It is not about me. I am also willing to challenge the comfort levels of others in order to prevent women from killing their children. It hurts because abortion is evil.

    I do not share pics of aborted babies on FB but I would share this one if I thought it might reach someone. They both have a place in proper context. This one has a very unique advantage in that people are willing to share the truth because it is unbloody.

    Again, I won't make these decisions based on my own emotions. Many Germans refused to believe that the holocaust happened until they saw the pictures and walked through the death camps. Some not even then. Welcome to the American holocaust. Horrifying. It should make us sick.

    Having said that, I understand your position and respect it. I just want to challenge all of us to be willing to hurt for our losses and the victims of abortion beyond our comfort level... Iet our hearts break for the injustice until it drives us to overcome our fear and discomfort to take action.

    People are afraid even to pray outside abortion mills because it means taking a risk. What will it take to motivate people to take those risks? Conviction that beauty and innocence truly is being destroyed.... And the emotion that accompanies such a revelation.

    I know what a solid lover of life you are, Cam! No doubt about it! Glad to be able to discuss these important topics with you!

  3. I thought about this a bit more after posting it (with babies calling for me). I think a big part of my problem with this video has less to do with my comfort level and more to do with the fact that I feel as if using this tiny persons death in this way is wrong on a basic level. I think in a way it uses him as an end to a means. I think it's deeply disrespectful to the tiny life who thank God can't be hurt any more than he was in those final moments.

  4. I agree with Melody -there is a time and place for such things (it was just such an image that catapulted Abby Johnson into conversion of heart, after all, to name one), but "tossing" the video about on a FB feed is disrespectful to the deceased child, as I'm sure would be blatantly obvious if he were a grown adult.

    Nonetheless, there is a time and a place, and I think melody's right in saying that via FB, it could be shared by friends who are willing and able to answer questions and help with healing.

    But "social media" distorts our perception of intimacy, friendship, and delicacy, which of course is a larger problem feeding the roots of this specific scenario.

    I too have held my tiny, dead baby in my hands and administered conditional baptism, and the entire miscarriage experience for me drove home the absolute horror that women who experience abortion must go through, ESP when they are sent home to deliver there baby in a toilet. Even though my child was "wanted," there's no denying your own motherhood when you experience the loss, the blood, the mood swings. It's NOT comparable to the innocent inconvenience of Aunt Flo's monthly visit, as some people try to pretend.

    In short, my compassion for women who've had abortions was increased a hundredfold, and their subsequent depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and vehement denial were so much more understandable.

    Anyway, I've digressed. But thanks for the post! I live in a world without Facebook, and nothing I hear of on or surrounding it ever tempts me to get back on! (But that's just me :-). Theresa B

  5. Hi Theresa (and thank you for commenting! And you too Melody!),

    I think the biggest problem is probably that facebooks settings are so strange that it's hard to tell who is going to see anything at any time. And a bigger part of the problem is that auto play is not a part of the settings so the video begins playing without clicking play.

    I definitely think that there's a time and place for such videos and pictures... but I fear that they do more harm than good in a medium like facebook. I know that as a prochoicer I would have been likely more disgusted with a person putting that on facebook and would have simply hidden there feed or deleted them as a friend, thus silencing any further, more convincing argument.

    Part of what I fear also, as I've mulled this over more, is that in a setting like facebook I fear that for every one person touched in a positive way twenty more people would be disgusted and view those who are active in the pro-life movement as the extremists that the far left would paint us as.

    I think I'm kind of struggling in the balance between speaking out (which I think is hugely important) and speaking the truth (also hugely important) but doing so in a way that doesn't damage the very people we're trying to reach.

    If any of that rambling made sense!

  6. I'm not sure that graphic videos like that are very helpful. Moving, emotional, gut-wrenching, nauseating - yes. I assume most pro-choicers would even be horrified by it. It's very bad. But, most people who are pro choice are only pro choice up until a point (about 12 weeks.) So, while they'd find that video shocking, it doesn't really do much for the majority of pro-choicers, who predominately DO have a cutoff point in age where they no longer support abortion. Very few people support it into late pregnancy. Anyway, I hate when people post graphic images on Facebook that pop up when I am not prepared to view it. I'm sorry, it's rude and disrespectful. There are much more tactful ways to get a point across. I'm very sensitive to life issues and seeing that clip unexpectedly would have given me nightmares - and lets hope my child wouldn't have been nearby!

  7. "Finding the balance" is the tricky part. When and where are graphic images of abortion appropriate?

    That's an honest question, because I believe things like the Truth Truck and outside abortion clinics are totally appropriate, yet a video popping up to play on FB seems like something different. ...I wonder why?

    Theresa B

  8. I've never been a fan of showing pictures or videos of aborted babies. When we show images of dead adults it's usually when they were alive. I've never seen a photo array of a person on their death bed at their funeral. At the same time we do see images of the Holocaust victims in mass graves.

    I understand that it's useful but as you point out it seems to exploit the person. It's not like the baby signed consent to have their death on display.

    It's hard for me to determine. So if I was to carry an image of a baby, it would be one of my own children's sonograms. I don't think I could carry a sign with a ripped up and tortured baby. It's just more respectful to the baby.

    Does that make sense?


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