Graphic Protesters

Last Friday at the entrance to the mall, there were two sets of protesters. This was on the street, mind you, where traffic was just turning in to the immense parking lot. On the first corner were the animal rights activists, with one guy dressed in a bunny suit and others holding real live bunnies. On the next corner was the abortion guy, who had clearly spent a lot of money at Kinko’s getting a disgusting picture, allegedly of an aborted fetus, blown up to 4 by 6 feet. The picture was gross, and I wasn’t pleased that my kids had to look at it, but hey — it’s freedom of speech, so what are you going to do?

It wasn’t quite as bad as the porno woman, back in New York, who used to display photos of S&M porn on Fifth Avenue and then yelled at the men not to look. In some senses, she might have had the best point of all. After all, if you don’t know what’s being depicted in the worst smut, how are you to know what she’s asking you to ban?

But we all know what a bunny looks like, and having seen a newborn baby (not a pretty site, I can assure those of you who haven’t had the pleasure), I can imagine what an aborted fetus would look like. So the question is, how is this visual rhetoric going to further the dialogue in the abortion rights/animal rights debate? I suspect the point, mainly, was to get people’s attention. Instead of seeing some wacko with a megaphone, we see some wacko with repugnant photos and a megaphone. Maybe we’ll slow down as we turn into the mall and think about what he’s shouting at us. Maybe, as we try to distract our children from the photos, our consciences will get the better of us. Not likely, but it could happen.

My daughter, age 11, did notice the photos, and asked about them later as we were eating lunch at Panera. I told her I thought it was a cheap way to get publicity and lower the intellectual framework of the argument. I was about to say the protester should have shown pictures of a dead woman and her dead fetus after they weren’t allowed a partial-birth abortion because of people who were swayed by wackos with pictures of bloody fetuses, but my wife hushed me before I had a chance. We were eating, and there were others who might hear me. Now I knew this guy had failed. If his point was to get people talking, he had completely missed out on his objective. We were all too embarrassed or grossed out to say anything about it, whether nodding in agreement or shaking our heads in frustration.

Aborted fetuses are not pleasant to look at. Neither is the intestinal appendix. Should we ban appendectomies? Bunnies are cute. Should we find an uglier animal to use for scientific experiments? Maybe we could use vultures, or crows — everyone hates them. Aborted fetuses are ugly …

… hmmmmm …

… maybe that’s why the animal rights people were on a different corner.

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