Consider the views of those who care deeply about animal rights. What drives them? Animals are helpless creatures, often subject to terrible violence, and they cannot speak for themselves. Their dignity and value are quite inconvenient for those who want to exploit them, and their needs are pushed to the margins of our culture. Indeed, we are rarely forced to confront the dignity of animals, especially animals we eat. This is what drives the passion of activists in their attempts to speak for voiceless animals. And in their zeal to bring us face to face with animal suffering, tellingly, they regularly use undercover videos. These videos have been quite successful in bringing some terrible realities to light – for example, the conditions of chickens in the worst factory farms.
Anti-abortion activists are driven in similar ways. Prenatal children are also helpless and often subject to terrible violence. They obviously cannot speak for themselves. Their dignity and value are inconvenient for those who want abortion to be broadly legal and who want to use fetal tissue for research. They too are largely invisible, though this is changing because of ultrasound imagery and smartphone applications that can listen to a baby’s heartbeat in the womb. Words like “fetus,” “tissue” and “products of conception” help keep the reality of abortion at bay. But as we have now seen with the Planned Parenthood story, anti-abortion activists have also been successful in using undercover videos in bringing terrible reality to light – what in one setting is called the “products of conception” in another is a “baby bump,” and the antiseptic “tissue” means functioning organs.