America’s last, great, hunkering bogeyman of forbidden image and speech is abortion. Lurking under the beds of the nation, it terrorizes those who pull its covers back to take a peek – and God help those who dare to take a photograph.
This cultural gag-order pertaining to all things “abortion” is the most effective weapon in the arsenal of anti-life activists and their associated flunkies in government, education and even the church. Together they’ve worked hard to rid our world of pesky reminders of ugly realities (such as bloody baby torsos) by force of law and social bullying.
Artists who stray from the clearly marked paths are occasionally tolerated, as long as they don’t make moral conclusions against abortion – although pro-abort messages are fine. This seems to be the saturation point for tolerance in the diversity camp, and it isn’t terribly high.
Several secular musicians and poets have written on abortion. Singer-songwriter Ani Difranco describes an abortion in her 1990 “Lost Woman Song” with candid pain and tangible disgust at the procedure and the man accompanying it.
“Through the pinch pull wincing
my smile unconvincing
on that sterile battlefield that sees
my heart hit absolute zero”
Ms. Difranco is nakedly honest here, which all good and believable artists (particularly writers) must be to gain the trust and attention of their audience. Sadly, 22 years later this poignant memory is revised with a mindless slogan.
“If you don’t like abortion, then don’t have an abortion,” Difranco croons in her 2012 song “Amendment.” Apparently a catchy platitude covers all sins.
I’m not accusing Difranco, but exposing the denial and rationalization clearly evident in her own lyrics. A feminist icon who labels her company “Righteous Babe” might expect and even welcome a reaction to her work, and this is mine: the collective souls of America’s women, including Difranco, have been tangibly deadened by abortion, numbed down and fiercely determined to stay that way.
Anti-abortion music and poetry was more evident in pop culture in the 1970s and 80s, when the process of planned death still provoked a bit of shock.
Seals & Crofts’ 1974 “Unborn Child” is conspicuously pro-life, as were a raft of others dwindling down to a trickle of the sporadic by the 1990s when a generation was raised under Roe vs Wade.
Graham Parker’s “You Can’t Be Too Strong” dares to examine personal ethics, responsibility and loss from abortion.
Possibly the rawest song was from the Sex Pistols in 1977. Stepping square in the “gurgling bloody mess” of abortion came the song “Bodies” (with screaming via Johnny Rotten)
“I’m not a discharge
I’m not a loss in protein
I’m not a throbbing squirm.”
A clearly less graphic, but even more haunting abortion song came from Christian artist Julie Miller:
“Little ones to him belong,
Little ones, where have you gone?
Was it a war that stilled your voice?
No, it was your mother’s choice.”
Miller’s song can be heard below:
Surprising few visual artists do work on abortion, which is odd, considering it’s a minefield of unexploded passions and guaranteed to provoke controversy. Exhibits that are covered by the press and sponsored by prestigious galleries are often the most controversial pro-abortion shows, noted by all around.
One of these was sordid and bizarre “performance art” (sans art and performance) by Yale University student Aliza Shvarts. She purported a series of artificial insemination (that would be a story there) and induced abortions as an “art project.” Viewers were treated with an equally grotesque collection of her blood, rags and Vaseline according to her original story, which she denied, recanted, resurrected and amended several times.
Shvarts found a few supporters, a university treading water and a horrified public.
Pro-life leaders denounced Shvarts as a “serial killer” with “major mental problems,” which may be true, but she is definitely a pathological liar trying to make the best of her gift.
The few stray dissenters on abortion in the arts are ignored, marginalized, or if they persist too loudly and make it bad habit, drowned in vitriol. The received wisdom of abortion goddess Margaret Sanger has been questioned. To the barricades, ranks of the faithful!
Still, over the years, small but potent knots of pro-life artists and protestors work with images, song and other graphic expression of abortion. If any of these show up in churches they are undoubtedly pro-life rather than anti-abortion, and it’s an important distinction.
For instance, famed illustrator and Christian painter Ron DiCianni unveiled a print last July titled “Before I formed you in the Womb.” His hyperrealist piece is accompanied by a harrowing tale of his own close brush with death by abortion in 1952. Proceeds from his print also go to various pro-life groups so buyers can tangibly help pro-life efforts.
DiCianni makes a strong statement here on the sanctity of life, but although the piece is conspicuously pro-life, it isn’t close to “anti” anything. If sentimental paintings of Madonnas and happy families had prophylactic effects on murdering children, exhibits of Renaissance art should have wiped out this problem long ago. We are too accustomed to these images; loveliness no longer has much power to move us emotionally or politically. As a nation we’ve been immersed in violence and abuse as a form of entertainment for a long time, and it will take a lot of creativity to gain public attention on abortion.
Killing is a gruesome process – bloody and nauseating. The attempt of “pro-choice” groups to absolutely squelch all photographs and video of actual abortions attests to their terror of its power. All other forms of pillaging, genocide and torture are welcomed in Hollywood and galleries, but abortion is our last great taboo. This is the ugly reality generally avoided in tame “pro-life” art, beautiful or not.
A smattering of visual artists across the globe process their feelings about abortion in more potent and (at least symbolically) realistic ways.
Young artist Ken W. Nyland in “Abortion Painting” contrasts the vulnerability of a unborn child peacefully sucking its thumb, with imposed bloody hand prints.
He further states on his site, “If you cannot tell from the piece I feel that abortion is equivalent to murder.”
Swiss artist “Amalee'” in a stunningly simple and elegant photograph “Abortion” says it all. The young woman’s bored flippancy and contempt for life is evident by a simple, dismissive gesture, while her “baby” flies off in the background.
Edgy, contemporary and incognito street artist “Leba” graphically tells the story of “Chinese Abortion” in images pasted across Los Angeles.
“Every 2.4 seconds a woman in China is forced to have an abortion,” a labeled baby informs pedestrians on Melrose Avenue and elsewhere.
At least Chinese babies are getting a little press in America.
One of a smattering of mainstream artists who dare touch on abortion is British-American painter Judith Gait. In a series on abortion over several years, Gait combines painting of flowers , shoes or hammers with something red, such as string, to symbolize incongruity of abortion. They appear as a sort of memorial. She makes no other statements about her personal beliefs.
Apparently a newly released song by Michael Jackson, “Song Groove (AKA Abortion Papers),” was released last fall, which contains these and other blatantly anti-abortion sentiments:
“Those abortion papers,
Signed in your name against the words of God,
Those abortion papers
Think about life, I’d like to have my child.”
For nearly 40 years an undeclared social blockade strangled open depictions of abortion, and that must end. Artists, especially ones with strong opinions on the subject, are guaranteed some sort of public reaction (which may or may not include lawyers and police). Such is the state of civil liberties in America in 2013, but be encouraged.
This full scale (un)civil war against pro-lifers and artists is a clear signal of the weakness and fear in the abortion industry and its associated flunkies and cheerleaders. Hopefully it is also a sign of its impending doom.