Ben Shapiro is arguably conservatism’s fastest rising star, with his wildly popular podcast, his campus speeches, and a New York Times bestseller keeping him at the top of the pundit pack. He’s also a consistently powerful voice for the pro-life position, debating students on abortion during his campus appearances, frequently visiting the topic on his podcast, and even doing a live-cast from the stage at the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. As a result, Shapiro has accrued many fans within the pro-life movement.
And so it might interest people that Shapiro has also weighed in on pro-life tactics—specifically, the use of abortion victim photography, which some pro-lifers still find controversial. When one student asked Shapiro during a campus event what he thought the best debate tactic against a pro-abortion person would be, Shapiro didn’t hesitate: “Show them a picture of a dead baby. End of story.” He recalled encountering a display of abortion victim photos at the 2012 Democratic Convention, noting that he saw guys walking around “wearing buttons that said, ‘I love pro-choice girls.’” Shapiro stopped and rolled his eyes: “I can’t imagine why.” The laughter of the students confirmed that they, too, knew why: Men who want to dodge responsibility are quite fond of girls who are willing to abort their offspring.
These pictures might be “uncouth,” Shapiro told the students, but “screw uncouth—they’re true. The fact is that people have a ‘You Ruined My Day Syndrome,’ which is that they don’t want to see things that are ugly in everyday life, and if you show them things that are ugly, they get upset. Well, you have to make people feel not morally superior for wanting to kill kids—and these are kids.” He’s right, of course. And nothing quite highlights the fact that abortion kills kids like a photograph of a child killed by abortion. If we are lawyers for the pre-born in the court of public opinion, we should be bringing forward the best evidence we have that abortion is barbarism.
Shapiro has described his experience with abortion victim photography more than once. “It’s truly incredible to me, the way we can blind ourselves to this,” he reflected on his podcast. “I remember when I was at the 2012 Democratic National Convention…and I walked past this exhibit–it was the anti-abortion crowd, the pro-life crowd–and they were out there with these pictures of aborted babies. And I walked past, and I thought what most people from big cities thought—I thought ‘Wow, how gauche.’ I mean, those are ugly pictures—should I really have to look at that in the public square? That’s really ugly. And then I realized that’s probably how people treated pictures of slavery back in the 1850s, that’s probably how people treated pictures of the Holocaust in the 1940s. The bottom line is that maybe if it’s that ugly, you should do something about it instead of whining about how ugly it is. It’s not a matter of personal choice. I have a stake in whether my neighbor gets murdered, and I have a stake in whether my neighbor’s baby gets murdered, too.”
That is precisely the point. Abortion victim photos are horrifying because abortion is horrifying, and people should think twice when they get more upset about a photo of an aborted baby than they do about the fact that the act of violence depicted in that photo takes place thousands of times every day. The photographic evidence of injustice is not pleasant to look at it, but it is essential that we as a society are consistently reminded that not everyone is accorded the same rights that we are, and that we should not rest until that horrifying inequity is addressed. Real kids, as Shapiro put it, are being killed. Abortion victim photos draw our attention to that reality and demand that we respond to it.
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