Planes dragging large photographs purporting to be aborted fetuses flew over swing states this week, and voters in Ohio spotted them today. The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform says it’s using the flying billboards not to convince anyone to vote for a particular candidate, but to raise the issue of abortion, which it feels hasn’t been talked about enough this election cycle.
“Neither candidate has placed the abortion issue at the top of their legislative agenda,” the group’s executive director Gregg Cunningham told BuzzFeed Shift. “As a consequence, very few people are actually discussing the issue. We’re trying to force a debate that would not otherwise occur.”
He says the billboards, which have flown over Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Colorado and appear to depict bloody fetal hands atop a coin, are “non-judgmental,” and that the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is “scrupulously politically neutral.”
But he’s unapologetic about the shocking nature of his group’s campaign. “We’ve done a sophisticated study of the history of reform in the Western world, and reform is invariably propelled by shocking imagery.” He says that “people who have had abortions themselves almost never see abortion itself.” And he maintains that the pictures the CBR displays, which he says they buy from abortion providers (he won’t reveal the sources of any of the images, but Slate’s Brian Palmer has speculated that they are likely taken outside the US), have the power to change people’s minds. If they didn’t, he says, “we wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on this as we do each year.”
Cunningham likens the billboards to images of child laborers, Holocaust victims, and black people being beaten trying to vote. “Reformers have long understood the power of pictures,” he says. “That’s the history of of social reform and it’s the future of pro-life activism.”