Using abortion pictures in the real world
Far from alienating people visual pictures of abortion actually draw people in to consider our arguments for the humanity of the unborn

One of the best defenses of using visual aids is found in this short video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPlqfJTXW3c

To connect with Christen Polo visit: https://www.protectlifemi.org

Auto-generated Transcript

 Hello everyone. Welcome to the Case for Life podcast. I’m your host, Scott Klusendorf. I am president of Life Training Institute and we aim to equip you to defend your pro-life views persuasively in the marketplace of ideas. And to help you do that with the best tools available, be sure to visit us on our social media sites, scott k korff.com case for life.com, pro-life training.com.

To get equipped to better defend what you believe today, I am very excited to have not only a friend, but someone I consider to be one of the best pro-life leaders in the world. And that is Kristin Polo of Protect Life Michigan. Kristin, welcome. Thank you so much for having me, Scott. Well, it’s great to have you.

Uh, listen, can you give our viewers a little background on you, just a little bit about you and what you do, and. Absolutely. Uh, I’m the Executive Director at Protect Life Michigan. We work with over 20 college groups here in Michigan to do pro-life outreach. Every single day, we equip young people how to talk about abortion in a winsome way and deploy them to go out and change minds on their campuses.

So we’re in twenty-six colleges in a bunch of high schools throughout the state. Now what’s interesting, what our viewers may not know is that you are in a deep blue state that recently voted to put abortion rights in the state constitution, and even in that dark environment, you’re having an impact, which is one of the reasons why I really appreciate the work that you’re doing with PLM.

What do you think are the reasons. Yeah, pro-lifers are facing a challenge in a post-Roe, V., Wade world. We’re oh, for eight. Every time this gets put to the ballot for the public to vote on. What is your take on what’s going on nationally? Well, Scott, I really think it comes down to messaging. We saw that here in Michigan with the fight we had against a constitutional amendment on abortion.

And where we stand now, our state is. Pretty much repealed every remaining pro-life law. We’ve made abortion a constitutional right in our state, and that’s happening in a lot of other places as well. And I think it comes down to messaging. We are afraid to address the issue head-on because there is so much pro-choice support right now in our state.

But I would argue that that is actually exactly what we need to do in order to win. So what we have are pro-lifers who really take. Like a lot of pastors do with church growth strategy, they take a marketing approach. Like what message will feel right to the seekers we’re trying to reach rather than hitting it head-on with the truth content of our position.

Yes. And in many cases I think they’re not, uh, hearing what the boots on the ground like organizations. Like ours are experiencing, you know, we talk to pro-choice people on college campuses every day. 30% of the people we talk to about abortion change their mind on the issue, right on the spot. So we have the experience to know, we don’t have to shy away from a addressing abortion head on talking about the extremism that they’re trying to push into these states.

Because when we do that, people’s minds change. Um, like I said, with. With the way that we approach the issue, we’re not afraid to talk about abortion and how it’s extreme to end the life of an innocent human being. Certainly in the third trimester of pregnancy, which is now legal in our state. And when and when we’re willing to do that to talk about abortion, not these peripheral issues like parental consent, right?

Or some of these other things that we’re hearing in these state battles. Um, we can win. We, we see it every day in the minds that we change on campus. This is interesting you say this because in Ohio it seemed like there was a similar. Pattern that developed instead of addressing abortion head-on the messaging seemed to be, at least from my perspective, more about parents losing their rights to stop their kids from transitioning and things like that.

But there wasn’t a full court press on showing what abortion is and talking about how it is a violation of human rights. Is that also what you saw in Ohio? It is. Yes, and, and that’s the same thing that we experienced here in Michigan. You know, something that gives me a lot of great hope in the work that we do on campus at Protect Life Michigan is that we have the tools of victim imagery and the reality of how violent in inhumane and wrong abortion is, we need to utilize those tools.

There’s some of the most powerful pieces of evidence we have for why society should not allow. Legal killing. And when we can show people that reality of abortion, um, we see their minds change at an alarming rate. And yet in a lot of these state battles throughout the country, the messaging has been on these other issues.

What we found in Michigan was that. Led people to not trust us. People knew that this constitutional amendment was about abortion. It wasn’t about these other side issues, and we as pro-life people need to be willing to address that head on. Yeah. Now it, it has particular credibility coming from you because you didn’t always believe that we ought to use these kinds of pictures.

Walk us through your change of thought. That’s right. So I for years was against using abortion victim imagery. And really, if I’m honest with you, Scott, I think that had a lot to do with just fear. Um, it’s not comfortable to. Be next to something so graphic and so violent, right? Um, and we shouldn’t be comfortable with it because abortion is wrong.

We should be very uncomfortable with those images. That’s part of the reason they’re so effective. Uh, but I am so grateful that I came to know my now Good friends at Created Equal, who really challenged me. Seth Dreher was one of those people who said, why don’t you just give it a shot? Just, you don’t even have to talk to anyone.

Come with us to an outreach. Stand next to us as we use victim imagery and see what happens. And when I did that, I was really shocked, not by people getting angry like I thought I would see, but I was shocked by the continued apathy, um, that it would take so much to break through the American conscience and awaken them to the violence that there could still be people who would.

Walk past a picture of a baby that had been mutilated by abortion and have little to no reaction to that. And I think that is further evidence that we need to use every tool we have to cut through the noise and the distractions to show the violence of abortion. But I was I, after that began to start testing our methods, we would go out and do different displays on campus.

And we began measuring how many people would get angry, how many would stop and talk, how many would change their mind. And hands down, we saw that the most powerful tool we had was abortion victim imagery. Now you’ve got a way to test this objectively because your husband just happens to be a very crack wizard at stats and IT, and putting together programs to measure that kind of thing.

One of the powerful things that’s coming of this in the work you’re doing in your state with PLM is we no longer have to rely merely on anecdotal evidence. We will have objective data driven. Analysis that we can bring to convince a lot of people on our side who don’t want to use the pictures, who are, I quite frankly think you’re right.

They’re fearful of, oh, we’re gonna offend people. Oh, they’re not gonna like us. I think the pro-life movement has gotta get over this idea that we have to be liked. I think Greg Cunningham puts it well, liked social reformers or seldom effective and effective social reformers or seldom liked Martin Luther King was not liked by the people who wanted to preserve segregation and racism.

Uh, the prophet Jeremiah was not liked, but he was clear in his messaging. And what I hear you saying is we’ve gotta move back to being clear on our messaging and. One of the things I want to ask you about is you have found a way to recruit and train students, and I know because I’ve mentored a few of them, I’ve never met students so bright as the ones you’re getting.

What’s your secret? What are you doing to attract these college students and young adults that want to come work for you, delivering a message that the culture all around us wants to toss out, and yet you’re successfully getting them into the game? Tell us your million dollar secret. I take no credit for this.

It really is the grace of God. He has blessed us and just been so a part of this work that we’ve been doing the last 17 years. But you know, every fall when students go back to campus, we’re there with a powerful movement of young people to recruit. New freshman students to get involved. Um, because we’re out doing outreach on campuses every day, we have a very visible presence and that helps recruit more young people to get involved.

We try to do as many trainings as we can and present, present these experiences that change young people’s lives, and we do them with excellence, and I think that has helped us grow. This army of pro-life advocates as well. So if you’re out there working hard and trying to do what you can with excellence and putting God first, I think he absolutely blesses that.

But if there was one secret I might say that. Giving young people something they can do to make a tangible impact and teaching them how to do it well, that might be the secret. Young people wanna make a difference in the world and the pro-life movement has an incredible opportunity for them to make a difference.

They can literally be a part of saving lives. Uh, and so that’s the opportunity that we’re giving them and it. It’s addictive when they get out there on the street to do outreach and find that they can actually change somebody’s mind on abortion and the ripple effect that could have for years to come in someone’s life.

It’s a powerful thing. It is powerful. So I’m gonna add my own 2 cents on why I think you’re effective. I think you combine very powerful pro-life arguments. Your students are all trained at a master’s level degree in Christian apologetics related to the pro-life issue. And then you combine that apologetics approach with the visual imagery.

I think that is the absolute best combination for reaching a culture. We don’t merely bring arguments. We also appeal to their moral intuitions, but we go beyond just the images. We then explain why we believe, what we believe. I. And, uh, that’s effective that that changes minds because you’re reaching people on a couple of different planes.

You’re reaching those that tend to be drawn emotionally through the images, but you’re also convincing that hardened skeptic that you actually have the better argument. That’s right. And to go back to what you said earlier, Scott. These, um, these tools that we’re using have been used for centuries before us.

You’ll, you’ll be hard pressed to find a social justice cause that has not shown the victims of the injustice. And, and that’s something that cuts through the noise. We’ve seen it again and again and again throughout history. And now we’re just, we’re doing the same thing that advocates for hundreds of years before us have done as well.

Yeah. And you know, I think of going back to the Civil War, uh, union forces in the North began circulating very primitive black and white photos of slaves with scars running down their backs to galvanize. Union opinion in the North, and to overcome the objection from the copperheads who wanted to keep slavery intact, and the images did what mere rhetoric alone could not do in, in fact, Frederick.

The Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist was known to say to people like President Lincoln. Mr. President, our, our arguments are fantastic, but our nation needs more than the logic. It needs fire, it needs thunder. It needs to have its moral conscience Reawakened, I. And that’s what the images do for us in so many ways.

And yet it’s very frustrating to me to work with some pro-lifers who want to join planned Parenthood in covering up the very evil that these pro-life groups say they oppose. Since when has a social reform movement ever won? By participating with its opponents and covering up the evil that we’re trying to expose and deal with.

This is just mind-boggling to me, but we’ve both seen this happen. It is, and they’re not just trying to, I see a lot of pro-life people and organizations that aren’t just trying to cease use of abortion victim imagery, but they’re even trying to cease addressing abortion head on in the language and the rhetoric that they’re using.

Um, they’re this tendency to be like a, a, I call it a ponies and rainbows pro-lifer, which I can’t understand. We’re talking. An absolutely horrific act of violence against the weakest and most vulnerable human beings. How can we shy away from the injustice of what’s happening to these babies? Um, of course, we have to be empathetic towards the women that are experiencing this.

And I, I get this. My mom faced a crisis pregnancy. I am the unwanted baby. Um, and we have to show compassion for them. But that does not mean that we have to hide. Uh, the injustice of abortion in the process, either with our words or with the tools that we use, like the images. I want to come back to something you said a moment ago, and this may get us into some touchy, uh, controversial material, but I’m gonna go there, you know me, of course.

I’m gonna go there. Uh, there are pro-life groups that seem to me. Way too timid to push for tougher legislation in a post-Roe environment. In fact, there’s some right to life groups that quite frankly oppose anything that smells like a ban unquote on abortion. They don’t want any language that talks about banning abortion.

It gets back to what you said a moment ago. They don’t like using the word abortion. They are just purely market driven and they become so seeker sensitive in their pro-life advocacy. I think they become activist worthless. They aren’t helping our cause at all. What are you seeing with, as you look around the country and other states and your own state, what are you seeing with some of these pro-life groups?

When it comes to bills is my assessment right? That there seems to be this timidity. To moving forward in a way we should. Absolutely. And I think this may be coming from the state losses that we’ve seen with these constitutional amendments that are passing, they’re recognizing that. Pro-life. People don’t have the public support that we hoped we would have after the fall of ro.

However, they are swinging so far in the other direction. They’re supporting many of the things that people who would call themselves pro-choice. Would support, um, and are willing, are not willing to draw a line in the sand and say that no Abortion is not acceptable. We’re not gonna tolerate it. You know, when proposal three passed here in Michigan, our organization doubled down.

We said We’re not taking our foot off of the gas. We’re gonna do everything we can to save as many lives as we possibly can, and we’re gonna continue to use the messaging that we know works. We’re not looking at how we can take a step back and message on the peripheral talking about parental consent or talking about these things that are outside of.

Abortion. They matter, but they’re not the core issue. I think the unborn deserve and women deserve that. We continue to push as hard as we can to advance laws that protect unborn lives. And what’s interesting to me is that polling should supports this, I think over 70. Believe there should be at least a fifteen-week ban on abortion, and yet there’s pro-life organizations that oppose fifteen-week bans on abortion, which is mind-boggling to me.

Yeah, and I’m certainly willing to support incremental steps. Aim at, aimed at limiting the evil done provided. We never agree to stop there. We remain committed to protecting all children, but I am willing to limit the evil of abortion done. But I’m finding there’s pro-life groups that ironically won’t support a ban a heartbeat bill or a a 15 week ban, not because they think it’s compromised to only save those.

That fall within that parameter, what they’re saying is they don’t want to use the word ban. They don’t wanna be known for banning abortion at all. And I just find this mind-boggling, and it’s not a way for us to win long term. And it’s absolutely concerning that the people who are defending life would be afraid to call abortion.

What it is. We cannot go soft on something that’s taking innocent human life. We need to see it as the injustice that it is. And I think there is a path forward to say that abortion is wrong, that it’s violence, that it’s unjust, and to show pro-choice people who would disagree with us on that, that we can be trusted, that the things that we’re advancing are things that they should support as well.

And I know that’s true because that’s what we do on campus. Every day we are hard and fast on abortion being wrong and uncovering how wrong it is and we win pro-choice people over even while doing that at, at a truly impressive rate. Like I said, 30% of the people we talk to on a college campus Yep.

Change their mind. This is why I personally financially support your organization. You are doing that kind of work on campus and viewers. If you want a pro-life group that is really getting it done, this is. This is Exhibit A right here. They’re in a hostile environment, but they don’t shy away. They get out there, they, they engage at the worldview and idea level, and they do it with words and pictures.

It’s very effective. I have seen it firsthand. I’ve had the privilege of mentoring some of your students and they are as bright as they come. And you are doing just phenomenal work. Thank you, Kristen. And I want to add one other thing for our viewers. We’re gonna put in our, our show notes, a link to a video you’ve recently released on why you use visual imagery depicting abortion.

It’s a very powerful short clip. It’s only about seven to eight minutes long, and it will really make the case as to why we’ve gotta be using abortion victim imagery. Even when some pro-lifers say, no, we ought not be doing that. I wanna ask you to respond to one objection. We do get on visuals and just how you would approach this.

There was a leader of a major pro-life pregnancy center movement that once said to me by showing those pictures, you are damaging women and you’re pushing them away from the gospel because you’re just compounding their guilt and you’re just digging in. And making it impossible for them to find healing and a loving God would never do that to people.

What you’re doing is actually anti-gospel, anti-grace. How would you respond to a Christian who thinks that way? It pains me to hear that because I hear the hurt in those words. I know that what she’s been through as an injustice, not just against her child. Against her as well. And, and this is something that we do here on occasion, and I think the first thing that people need to know is the way that we use abortion.

Victim imagery matters. We shouldn’t be there to use it as a weapon against women who have had abortions. In fact, we wanna be a vehicle for healing and peace. And that’s a lot of what we see on the sidewalk. I think that. Can we really understand the decisions that we’ve made and heal from them when they’ve been wrong?

If we don’t understand what we’ve actually done, um, we are uncovering what abortion is and for many women who have had abortions that I’ve personally talked to on the sidewalk, they’ve said I didn’t know. But now that I know. I can deal with this. And we’re there not just showing pictures, but with dialogue, loving dialogue, and the truth that Christ can forgive every single transgression, every sin.

And I’ve been blessed to be a part of many healing conversations from that. But the way that we use the images does matter. We should be there with truth, but also with love to help people who have been through these experiences themselves. So you’re combining gospel pictures and apologetics. It seems to me you’ve got the holy trinity right there.

That’s perfect. That’s exactly how we ought to be doing pro-life apologetics, and I applaud you for doing it. Kristen, how can people get in touch with you? If you are interested in learning more about tech life in Michigan, I hope you’ll go to our website, ProtectLifeMI.org. You can find us social media.

We share a lot of outreach. You can actually. How we are out there changing people’s minds every day. Again, that’s Protectlifemi.org and we are gonna put in our show notes, the link to your video and we’ll get your website in there as well. Listen, thank you for taking a few minutes to join me as you get ready for yet another busy day.

You are doing phenomenal work and I’m proud to call you a friend and ally and I can think back to when I was 15 years old right to life office. Watching one of your trainings for the first time and just having my heart set on fire to defend the, so it’s an honor to be able to be on your podcast today.

I think everything you’ve done for me over the years. Alright, men and women, thank you for joining us today. It was a joy to have one of my colleagues and someone I think is just doing phenomenal work. Kristen Polo with us. Be sure to visit her, her show notes link that we’re going to include and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time on the Case For Life Podcast.