‘Choice’ Writ Large
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform
On a couple of sunny fall days last September, in the very week hundreds of pseudo-courageous ‘occupiers’ were gearing up to protest a mishmash of ill-defined quasi-injustices having something to do with banking, a small cadre of genuinely courageous young people placed their convictions and reputations on the line to expose a real injustice having to do with life and death. The Students Choosing Life (SCL) of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) hosted the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). By the end of the week, according to Larissa R. Hofstra, president of SCL, “the entire campus was talking about abortion,”
That was the intention. GAP is the college campus outreach of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), a California based ministry dedicated to establishing “prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn.” CBR pursues that mission primarily through displays of arresting photos showing the grim reality of abortion – blood, body parts, and all. According to its website, “CBR operates on the principle that abortion represents an evil so inexpressible that words fail us when attempting to describe its horror. Until abortion is seen, it will never be understood.”
Principles of Successful Reform
CBR was founded in 1990 by Gregg Cunningham. A decorated Vietnam War veteran and a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and political appointee of Ronald Reagan, Gregg was at that time a Special Attorney with the U.S. Federal Courts in Los Angeles. He had been active in the pro-life movement, both as a legislator and as a volunteer, but he had begun to sense a need for another strategy. As he studied social reform movements of the past, he discerned common principles that successful reformers had put into practice and that he believed could be more effectively put to work for the pro-life cause.
Specifically, public attention had to be focused on “the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of the injustice.” Furthermore, given the human propensity to avoid all things difficult, these two realities had to be presented in a way that would be impossible to ignore. Dr. Martin Luther King, for example, had forced the nation to look at racism in the South through staged activities such as lunch counter sit-ins and freedom bus rides. The subsequent media coverage of white-on-black violence shamed decent Americans who had been either unaware of, or content to remain comfortably ignorant about, race-based segregation. The publicity became a catalyst for an eventual sea change in attitudes toward legislated civil rights protection for blacks.
If segregated lunch counters were unacceptable to decent Americans, how much more intolerable would be the wholesale bloodshed of abortion, once it was brought out into the open? Gregg knew that many people would not look favorably upon abortion imagery in public, but he wasn’t concerned with what they thought about him. He cared what they thought about abortion. So he resigned from his post as U.S. Attorney and started the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform with himself, an idea, and a notepad.
Alternative Forms of Mass Media
The first order of business was the acquisition of high-quality pictures, both the marvelous prenatal imagery of babies in the womb and the damnable pictures of babies killed by abortion. But Gregg and his colaborers faced one hurdle that the civil rights activists didn’t – an unsympathetic, if not hostile, media. To draw public attention to the humanity of the victims and the inhumanity of abortion, they would have to take the pictures to the public themselves. Toward that end, CBR constructed a variety of portable, photo-mural exhibits.
- 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 (RCC), also called the Highway and Byway Project, superimposes the abortion euphemism ‘CHOICE’ over supersized images showing the bloody remains of the tiny victims of ‘CHOICE.’ It began with billboards, signs, and billboard trucks in 2001. A year later, planes towing 50’x100’ aerial signs were added.
- The Obama Awareness Campaign (OAC) juxtaposes pictures of Barack Obama and some of his otherwise laudable quotations with pictures of the grotesque products of his relentless abortion policy. It was officially launched in May, 2009, when CBR trucks and planes swarmed South Bend, IN, home to the University of Notre Dame, where the president delivered the 2009 commencement address and received an honorary law degree.
- 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. “If businesses support abortion, they get us, and they don’t want us,” said Fletcher Armstrong of CBR. The stately St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point, CA, became CAP’s inaugural target in August, 2011.
- The School Choice Project attempts to educate high schoolers about abortion through volunteers who distribute literature as trucks circle campus near dismissal time.
CBR also conducts a Church Outreach, called the Matthew 28:20 Project, and publishes educational literature and conducts seminars to establish the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion. Today CBR possesses the largest storehouse of broadcast quality video and high quality print photos of abortion in the world and shares it freely with any individual or organization observing its one requirement – to explicitly condemn all abortion-related violence as CBR does.
Precipitating the Crisis: A Necessary Mercy
CBR does not engage in civil disobedience. All projects are scrupulously legal. Staffers and volunteers do, however, get a wide variety of reactions, as the photos are so disturbing, coming to terms with them is extremely difficult. But this is a necessary mercy, as Gregg 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. Abortions 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 – not to inflict pain, but to effect change. “It is human nature to evade responsibility for ending dysfunctional behavior until a crisis makes that responsibility unavoidable. But many people resort to every imaginable stratagem for defusing the crisis instead of facing the problem from which the crisis derives. This flaw in human nature is killing today’s children.”
Stopping the Killing
Stopping the killing is the goal. “Who’s really suffering and being harmed, and who we should really be praying for and thinking about is these children,” said Don Cooper, who left his job as an electrical engineer in 2004 to become CBR’s Operations Manager. “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.”
It was effective at UTC. “These pictures are changing the way I look at this,” a professor said after visiting the GAP exhibit.
“It’s crazy,” a female student said. “This should never be.”
Exactly. This should never be.