Seeing Is Convicting
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform Takes Pictures
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) is a California-based ministry dedicated to establishing "prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn." Operating on the principle that "abortion represents an evil so inexpressible that words fail us when attempting to describe its horror," CBR pursues its mission primarily through imagery showing the grim reality of abortion, both on its website, www.abortionno.org, and via a variety of portable, photo-mural exhibits. For example:
• The Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), launched in 1998, sets large pictures of historically recognized forms of genocide, such as lynchings and Nazi death camps, beside pictures of the unrecognized genocide of abortion.
• The Reproductive Choice Campaign, also called the Highway and Byway Project, superimposes the abortion euphemism "CHOICE" over supersized images of the remains of the tiny victims of "CHOICE." The campaign began with billboards, signs, and billboard trucks in 2001. A year later, planes towing 50' x 100' aerial signs were added.
• The Obama Awareness Campaign juxtaposes pictures of Barack Obama and some of his otherwise laudable quotations with pictures of the grotesque results of his relentless abortion policy.
• The Corporate Accountability Project (CAP) began in May 2011 when letters were mailed to fifty companies that sponsor Planned Parenthood. The letters informed company executives about the work of the abortion giant and notified them that unless they redirected their "philanthropic" giving, they risked becoming the object of a picket. The stately St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point, California, became CAP's inaugural target in August 2011.
CBR does not engage in civil disobedience. All projects are scrupulously legal. Staffers and volunteers do, however, get a wide variety of reactions. The photos are so disturbing that coming to terms with them is extremely difficult. But this is a necessary mercy, as Gregg Cunningham, CBR's founder and Executive Director, explains:
Difficult change seldom occurs in the absence of a crisis which compels that change. Abortion photos, displayed strategically, create such a crisis for many viewers. That crisis can be moral, spiritual, political, or commercial. Abortion photos are disruptive, and without disrupting business as usual, abortion will remain forever off the nation's agenda, hidden under a rug of ignorance and indifference.
CBR aims to throw off that rug and expose to broad daylight what is taking place out of public view—not to inflict pain, but to effect change. Salvo recently spoke with Don Cooper, CBR's Operations Manager.
How did CBR get started?
Gregg is a military officer. At the time he founded CBR in 1990, he was a Special Attorney with the U.S. federal courts here in Los Angeles. He studied the history of social reforms, looking at things like the civil rights movement, and noted that there were common principles that successful reformers [followed]. One of them was that they had to focus the public's attention on "the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of the injustice." That must become paramount in the debate, and it must be presented in a way that is impossible to ignore. So Gregg decided that he would start an organization that would apply those principles.
How has it grown since then?
The first task was the acquisition of images, both prenatal imagery, babies alive in the womb, and images of abortion. First-trimester abortion imagery was particularly important because that's where most abortions are performed, and that is where the level of ignorance is the highest—where people think it's still just a blob of tissue, an undifferentiated mass of cells, that it's not really a baby yet. Until they see it.
And then there are the projects that we've been conducting. We call our projects "alternative forms of mass media." We want people to focus on who the baby is and what abortion is. If we could, we would create a documentary or commercial spots, but we can't do that because the gatekeepers of the media are monolithically pro-abortion. And so these trucks or planes, for example, have the large billboards on them with this imagery—they not only reach people on the spot, but the bigger key here is that the media has a difficult time resisting. There's so much controversy that they can't ignore it. And so then we end up having that imagery broadcast on television or in the newspapers or on the internet. They in a sense do the advertising for us.
You don't focus on the abortion industry as much as you focus on the abortion-complacent public.
Right. The abortion clinic is more of a symptom of the problem. The real problem is that we have a culture that not only tolerates abortion but demands it at some level. There's a demand for it because it's thinkable to the culture. We want to make abortion unthinkable and drive away that demand.
The pictures aren't our entire argument. We talk with people, and we hand out literature. But the fact is, we won't get to talk to most people, and our only chance to reach them is to get them to look at the display for a little bit.
You are the operations manager. You worked formerly as an electrical and nuclear engineer. How did that transition come about?
I heard Gregg on a radio program, and it caused me to go to our website. At the time, I was a Christian man who would have adamantly said I'm pro-life. It was the first time I'd seen images of abortion. I was shocked at what I saw. But I thought, Well, what did you expect to see? All my life, I've thought abortion takes the life of a baby, but it wasn't that real to me until I saw the pictures.
Gregg made a comment that the other side of this fight has many, many full-time professionals that are devoted to killing babies around the clock, whereas the pro-life side is made up mostly of part-time volunteers. That resonated with me. At the same time, my family was growing, so I had a better awareness of babies. I thought, What would I do if it was one of my children whose life was at risk of this horrible thing called abortion? I thought, if I'm not willing to go and do this work, then who is? I just felt like I couldn't turn away from this. I pray for the day that this job is not needed.
The images are very disturbing. How do you cope personally, emotionally, and spiritually with the horror?
I think most of us here would say that we do what God's called us to do and he just gives us what we need to do that. The first time I watched our abortion video, it was devastating to me. [But] Gregg has said that if we're not able to look at this, then it's difficult for us to fight it. At some level we have to toughen up and realize that it's not as bad for us. The babies are the ones suffering here, and we need to step up, even if that means we gotta suffer a little bit.
When you think that God sees every abortion that happens—in America it's one every 20 seconds—can we not look at a picture briefly when God's seeing this continuously? And so, in some sense, we share in the sufferings of those babies, and we share in God's suffering in seeing it. It's really a small price we pay.
You have to contend with opposition that is blatantly deceitful and evil—like the industry itself, and the political enablers. It's got to be angering sometimes. How do you maintain your composure?
It is [angering]. I think it's [a matter of] remembering what our part is and what God's part is. Part of Psalm 37 says, "Trust in the Lord and do good." Certainly it is upsetting, and we know at some level there is an appropriate sense of outrage that we should have, appropriate emotions that we feel, but [it's important] to not let that control us, to remember that God is in control and our part here is to just trust in him and to do good.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
It's very rewarding when you see the light come on, you know, that light bulb that comes on over someone's head. And when we get the emails of a young girl who says, I was going to have an abortion, but I just came to your website and there's no way I'm doing this. That's very, very rewarding. Sometimes we get a phone call like that, too. We got one phone call a while back; a woman said, "If it hadn't been for you guys, my baby wouldn't be alive today. I have him now. He's four months old and I just love him. I just wanted to say thank you." That's very, very rewarding.
Testimonies on your website show that you are causing people to change their minds regarding abortion.
Even the angry person, who hates us for what we do, who says that what we're doing is disgusting and that they've never seen anything like this—although they're angry and may even say we haven't changed their mind, we can see that we've actually made them move pretty far. They're now recognizing and acknowledging that abortion is the most disgusting thing they've ever seen.
There is opposition to the use of this imagery. Some even go as far as to say we're hurting the cause by using the pictures. At one level, we understand the hesitation, but at another level, this is what we have to do.
And you don't let that affect what you do.
We can't. We care more about what people think of abortion than what they think of us. I think about who's really suffering, who's being harmed, and who we should really be praying for and thinking about is these children. At CBR, we're being used by God, we hope, to make the public more aware of the children that are dying, that we could be saving. We play to win. That's the attitude we want to have here at CBR.
Certainly it's God's battle, but we don't have to accept this status quo that we have now. Those who worked to abolish slavery were told that slavery would never be outlawed.
Fortunately, the abolitionists pushed forward. That's what we need to do with this as well. •
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