CBR’s Abortion Imagery Acquistion Not A Trivial Task

A request recently came to us asking us to reveal the methods and sources we use to acquire our vast abortion imagery archive.  Below is the answer Gregg Cunnigham gave in regards to this matter:


Dear Mr. S,

Your topic is a difficult one about which to conduct an interview because the details of our abortion clinic access agreements are highly confidential.  Disclosing the wrong information could jeopardize the wellbeing of abortion industry workers who collaborate with us and place all future access at risk.

I am quite amazed at some of the ill-considered journalism on the subject of abortion photos.  The New York Times (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/09/behind-19/) recently conducted an interview with a woman of whom I had never heard who many years ago photographed late term fetuses taken from the refuse of abortion clinics.  When I began doing this work those were the only photos available and they saved a lot of babies but they weren’t very good.  The ages of the babies were far from being representative of most abortions and age matters greatly in the public mind.  The camera formats produced images which were not large enough for billboard use, which greatly limited their utility.

The pictures themselves were often taken on amateur equipment by amateur photographers.  They meant well but many, such as the woman interviewed for the NYT story was not a professional activist and as a consequence, she seemed more focused on depicting the babies in ways which minimized the violence of abortion (a high percentage of late term abortions involve intact deliveries which mute the visual horror of abortion) which made the pictures of little value in convincing the public that abortion is an evil of sufficient magnitude to justify criminalizing the act.  She and many pro-lifers such as she apparently had little understanding of the history of social reform and their pictures reflected that lack of awareness.

Our photo acquisition work is logistically difficult, emotionally draining, financially costly and in some ways, even dangerous.  We often take hundreds of photos to get one truly powerful image. But we now have by far the largest archive of abortion imagery in the world and it is in use by activists in a growing number of foreign countries.  We concentrate on first trimester procedures because 90% of abortions occur during that phase of pregnancy.  A woman who is seven weeks pregnant will often dismiss a twenty week abortion photo as morally irrelevant to her situation because she rationalizes that she would never abort that late in pregnancy.  She wants to believe her baby is not yet a baby and that denial may work for her unless we show her a six week aborted baby and then if she has a functioning conscience, we have her.  That six week baby photo can save the life of twenty week baby but a twenty week baby photo will much less often save the lives of six week babies.

All the best,

Gregg Cunningham
The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform

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