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Abortion: from the theoretical to the real

By Scott Tibbs, April 3, 2009

On Wednesday's Rush Limbaugh program, a caller brought up the topic of "caller abortions" and asked Limbaugh about it, prompting Limbaugh to explain the purpose of the segment. Limbaugh also explains the gimmick in detail in his first book, The Way Things Ought to Be, which I own and highly recommend.

Basically, in 1989, Limbaugh didn't want to take a phone call, but had a policy of not hanging up on callers. So he had an idea: he would "abort" the call. After a lengthy satirical discussion on when a call becomes a call, Limbaugh started "aborting" calls with a couple sound effects: a vacuum cleaner and a scream. This infuriated many people, and has become part of Limbaugh's legacy even though the segment is 20 years old.

The point was brilliant. To the people angry about the segment, Limbaugh asked what harm he was doing. After all, he was just a guy playing sounds on the radio. But with abortion, there is real death and a real human being killed by dismemberment for profit. Why were so many people upset about the "caller abortions" and the sound effects but not upset about the real thing? The answer: it forced people to face the reality of what was going on in their communities.

In the fall of 2001, the Genocide Awareness Project came to the IU campus with billboard-sized pictures of aborted babies. This generated a huge controversy. I supported and volunteered for GAP. Even then, my belief was that while the pictures were good to force people to face the reality of abortion, I was concerned that it would damage the local pro-life movement with continued use. I resisted further use of the signs.

So I watched a couple local activists protest with the signs, and observed the reactions of passers-by and people who spoke with the activists. I came to realize that I was wrong, and that the signs are a valuable tool for those of us who oppose abortion and strive to convince people that abortion is murder. I have since personally held the graphic signs to educate both Bloomington residents and IU students about the reality of abortion. I applaud the courageous people who continue to use the graphic signs to show the reality of abortion.

Discussing abortion in the abstract, it is easy to dismiss arguments about the humanity of the fetus. One side argues that the fetus is a human being, while the other side insists that the fetus is something less than human or that it is an unviable tissue mass. Anyone can engage in this kind of debate, and such discussions generally don't lead anywhere.

This country has intentionally hid from the reality of abortion and deceived itself about the slaughter that takes place every day. Every Thursday, Planned Parenthood kills babies by dismemberment for profit at the South College Avenue facility. Hundreds of cars drive by without a second thought to the killing that goes on inside those gray walls.

This is why it is important to take discussions about abortion out of the abstract and into the real. Dismissing a pro-life argument in a letter to the editor, a blog post or a radio commentary is easy for those who do not want to see the blood on their hands. Dismissing a photograph of an aborted baby, or even a couple sound effects pointing to the reality of abortion, is much more difficult.

Despite a disappointing legislative record, the pro-life movement was wildly successful in reaching hearts and minds with illustrations of what happens in a partial-birth abortion. That took the debate out of theoretical discussions about "reproductive rights" and ethics and forced people to recognize that there is a real child who is having his or her brain ripped out and skull crushed.

If the pro-life movement is to continue to gain ground, we must break the wall of apathy that surrounds how so many people "think" about the issue. Limbaugh's "caller abortions" did that. Illustrating partial birth abortions did that, and graphic photographs of aborted babies do that.