Yale professor Edward Tufte is an information guru. He travels the world teaching people the art of “data visualization,” or how to most effectively present the power and the beauty of evidence. His work highlights the fact that the battle over social issues is largely one of images that activists from all sides attempt to establish in people’s minds.
No battle is more rich in imagery than the struggle over abortion. We have seen everything from coat-hangers to roses, ultrasound photos of preborn babies, faked photos of women killed by illegal abortions, panel trucks with giant bloody aborted baby pictures on them, and NARAL’s “Silent No More” debacle, where weeping women described in great detail the suffering of their (mostly imaginary) women relatives at the filthy hands of drunk illegal abortionists.
We pro-lifers can increase the impact of our message if we cultivate our “visual literacy.” The average pro-lifer doesn’t have access to the sophisticated technical equipment needed to make his arguments visually gorgeous, but he does have the power of imagination.
And this is one of the critical tools that will win the abortion battle in the end ― our imaginations. As none other than Joseph Stalin said, “Ideas are more powerful than guns.”1
Stalin also said, “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” This is the problem pro-lifers face when talking about statistics on abortion. If we can’t get people to care about “X” millions of dead preborn babies, we will never get them interested in specific unborn babies that they will never see.
Pro‑abortionists tend to strongly resist using hard facts and statistics because they do not support the “pro‑choice” position. Instead, they ignore facts and statistics and lean on emotional appeals and feelings to make their points.
When we use documented statistics backed up by visual imagery during written or oral attempts to persuade, we elevate the debate above emotions and appeal directly to logic and reason. No pro‑abortionist can refute documented statistics ― especially when they originate with pro‑abortion sources, which eliminates the inevitable accusations of “anti‑choice bias.”
Illustrating Statistics on Abortion
The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words has never been more important, because people these days are persuaded by imagery, not words. Therefore, we can increase our impact by painting vivid “word pictures” to illustrate our points during discussions or debates. A pro-lifer makes a tremendous impact on listeners by using his imagination to relate the abortion issue to everyday images that people are familiar with. In other words, we can frame the issue in terms that people understand and will therefore remember.
As of January 1, 2014, there have been 55.7 million legal surgical and medical abortions in the United States since the first states legalized prenatal child‑killing in 1967.2
The worst year was 1990 with 1,608,600 abortions; since then, the number of abortions has declined almost every year to the current level of just over a million annually, partly due to never-ending pro-life efforts and partly due to the “ripple effect” of having fewer young women who are aborting. This phenomenon is itself a reflection of the sad fact that there are fewer young women because many of their would-have-been mothers were themselves aborted 20 to 25 years ago.
The Vietnam Memorial
You might get people thinking by asking if they have visited the National Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. This Memorial is a shiny black wall that stretches 492 feet and lists the names of the 58,209 known Americans killed in that war. If such a wall listed the names of the 55.7 million babies legally killed by surgical and medical abortions in the United States since 1966 it would be 90 miles long!
And a wall that commemorated the 2.3 billion preborn babies wiped out by surgical and medical abortions worldwide since 1960 would stretch 3,723 miles ― from coast to coast, from Los Angeles to New York City, with a thousand miles to spare.3
Cemeteries for Preborn Babies
Pro‑life activists frequently set up temporary displays of thousands of crosses representing the number of preborn babies killed by abortions in the United States every day. These crosses make a riveting display of the brutal reality of abortion (at least until they are torn down by pro-abortion vandals). If standard burial plots were allocated to each preborn child killed by surgical abortion in the United States, the resulting cemetery would cover 300 square miles.
If there were a cemetery for all of the 2.3 billion preborn babies killed by surgical abortions in the world since 1959, it would cover more than 12,500 square miles ― larger than the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island or Vermont. But, because of “freedom of choice,” these billions of children will never see the light of day.
If these 55.7 million babies had been born and had grown up, then got together to hold hands, the resulting line would stretch around the world at the equator more than two and a half times ― more than 64,000 miles!
A Much Larger “Quilt Project”
For several years, American homophile activists promoted the “Quilt Project,” where 3 foot by 6 foot rectangles of cloth decorated with the stories of victim’s lives were laid side by side. The primary purposes of this project were to generate sympathy and show the magnitude of the AIDS epidemic. The largest such display to date has covered an area equivalent to a football field.
If 55.7 million of these quilts were laid down adjacent to each other, one for each aborted preborn baby, it would cover an area of 36 square miles!
This quilt would easily blanket the central districts of any large city. You can mention landmarks bounding this area in the appropriate city in order to strengthen your point. For example, let us suppose that a circular quilt commemorating all of the preborn babies in the United States who have died from abortion were laid over Washington, D.C., centering on the White House. This quilt would cover Crystal City and Reagan National Airport in the South, the Smithsonian Zoo in the North, all of Georgetown in the West and the National Arboretum to the East.
The “Marching Aborted”
During the height of the population scare in the late 1960s, bigoted anti‑population alarmists sometimes referred to their fear of “the marching Chinese.” They meant that the population of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was increasing so fast (21 million per year at that time) that the Chinese could march two abreast past a single point and never have the same person pass twice.
We can adapt this concept to describe the magnitude of the “marching aborted.” There are about 46 million surgical and medical abortions committed all over the world annually. If these children marched past one point continuously for 24 hours a day, they would be four abreast.
Crashing School Buses
Population control groups allege that 300,000 women die of illegal abortions all over the world each year. They say that this is equivalent to the death toll of a fully-loaded jumbo jet crashing every 12 hours, year-round, with no survivors. We can adapt this visual imagery for our own purposes. For example, any community would mourn for weeks if a school bus full of fifty of its children crashed, killing all inside. If we assume that the abortion mills in this country are operating fifty hours per week, fifty babies are killed every eight minutes!4
A pro‑life debater could also tailor this image to a local abortuary ― for example, one which killed 2,500 babies every year would be equivalent to a fifty‑child school bus crashing every week.
The Dead States
Abortionists have killed a number of children equal to the combined populations of eighteen states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.5 A map of the United States with all of these states blacked out is a real attention‑grabber. This gives an audience some idea of the colossal magnitude of the abortion disaster.
But if someone thinks that this is not particularly impressive since these states are the most sparsely‑populated in the United States, consider this: surgical abortion has killed enough preborn children to populate six of the largest American cities and their surrounding population centers: Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., whose combined populations are about 56 million.5
In short, images are excellent tools for describing the sheer magnitude of the abortion disaster, which has killed the equivalent of the population of eighteen of the Western States or of the six largest metropolitan areas in the nation. One superb example of the use of imagery is a comparison between the numbers of people killed in all American wars and the number of people killed by abortion in this nation. Life Dynamics uses small beads to represent the relative number of deaths, as seen in the video above.
Statistics on Abortion: Reasons for Abortions
Other areas in which imagery can be very helpful in reaching people are the frequency of the “hard cases,” the terrible toll that abortion is having on minorities, and the reasons women give for late-term abortions.
The classic hard cases are abortion for rape and incest, birth defects, and to preserve the life and the health of the mother. Pro-abortionists rely heavily upon these rare abortions to make their points, and they do their very best to exaggerate their frequency. Unfortunately, they have done such a good job that most Americans believe that the majority of abortions are performed for the hard cases.6
In reality, most abortions are performed reasons that have nothing to do with either the mother’s or the baby’s health. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute interviewed thousands of women in abortion clinic waiting rooms, and these women claimed that only about 7% of their abortions were being performed for the hard cases.7 The Guttmacher Institute also found that about 95% of women in 26 other nations cited social or economic reasons for having abortions.8
Even these numbers are overstated, because women often report that they are aborting for serious reasons when in reality they are not. The most authoritative numbers on why women abort comes from the mandatory abortion reporting required by several of the states. This reporting found that only 0.13% of all abortions (1 out of 769) is done for cases of rape and incest. 0.59% of abortions are done for fetal birth defects, 1.01% for the mother’s physical health, and 1.24% for the mother’s mental health.9 This is a total of 2.97% of all abortions done for the hard cases.
The “Penny” Visual
How can we represent these frequencies visually? Consider a dollar’s worth of pennies arranged in a 10 X 10 square. 97 of these pennies are tarnished. Three of the pennies are brand-new and shiny. Two of these bright pennies represent abortions done for the mother’s mental or physical health, and one is for all of the abortions done for rape, incest and birth defects. No matter where you place the three shiny pennies in the 10 X 10 square, they are going to look insignificant. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the 97 tarnished pennies represent reasons such as “I’m not ready to be a mother right now;” “I have relationship problems;” “A baby would interfere with my education or career” and “I don’t feel mature enough to raise a child.”7
In fact, abortion has become nothing more than a social eraser for embarrassing situations, since 84% of all abortions are performed on unmarried women.10
If you have the time, you might make a permanent display by gluing a thousand pennies to a piece of plastic or wood in a 25 X 40 matrix. You could color only one of these pennies red to represent the frequency of abortions for rape and incest, six of the pennies blue to represent abortions for birth defects (eugenics), ten of the pennies yellow to represent abortions done to preserve the mother’s physical health, and twelve for the mother’s mental health.
Do not be afraid to tell and show the truth ― that the overwhelming majority of abortions are performed for social or economic reasons. Of course, this assertion will have no effect on truly hard-core pro-abortionists like Jane Hodgson, who said that “a medically necessary abortion is any abortion a woman asks for.”11 Even as we focus on accurately presenting data on the reasons women give for abortion, we must be absolutely clear that there are no justifiable reasons to kill either a born or unborn person. When a mother’s life is at risk during a pregnancy, we must do our best to save both lives. Nor should a disability, regardless of how severe, be a death sentence for an unborn child.
Statistics on Abortion by Race
An especially sensitive area for pro-abortionists is any publicity regarding their systematic targeting of minority babies. In the United States, there have been 31.1 million abortions performed on minority women since the first states legalized prenatal child‑killing in 1967. Since that time, about 11% of the white race has been wiped out by abortion. But 15% of Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Hispanics have been killed by abortion, along with an incredible 31% of American blacks. 18.2 million black babies have died at the hands of the lethal corps of abortionists, which is almost completely white.10
We have seen that our 55 million abortions have wiped out the equivalent population of eighteen Western states that cover more than one-half of the area of the contiguous United States. Now imagine for a moment that every black person simply vanished from the American South ― from El Paso, Texas to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and from Knoxville, Tennessee to Key West, Florida. That is equal to the number of African-American preborn children who have been killed by legal abortion.12
Or we could look at the Westernmost 32 states, which occupy 85% of the area of the United States West of a line drawn from the Western border of Ohio to the Florida Panhandle. The number of black babies killed by abortion is equivalent to every black person living West of this line.
Put another way, it took 83 years for the Ku Klux Klan and other racists to lynch 3,445 African-American adults.13 It takes only 83 hours for abortionists to kill that many preborn black babies today.
Late-Term Abortion Statistics
As far as late-term (second- and third-trimester) abortions are concerned, we have heard a constant drumbeat of propaganda from the pro-abortionists and their media toadies about just how rare they are and how they are only performed for the most serious conditions. During the battle over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Planned Parenthood claimed, “The procedure, dilation and extraction (D&X), is extremely rare and done only in cases when the woman’s life is in danger or in cases of extreme fetal abnormality.”
The Guttmacher Institute performed a survey of a large number of women obtaining late-term abortions and asked them their reasons for doing so. It found that only about one percent of second- and third-trimester abortions are performed for fetal anomalies, or eugenics. One-third (31%) of the women surveyed said that they misjudged how far along they were; one-fourth (27%) said that they found it hard to arrange an earlier abortion; 14% said that they were afraid to tell their parents or their “partner”; and the rest gave reasons such as taking their time to decide or “waiting for a change in their relationship.”14
Ron Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers (NCAP), said:
When you’re a doctor who does these [partial-birth] abortions and the leaders of your movement appear before Congress and go on network news and say these procedures are done in only the most tragic of circumstances, how do you think it makes you feel? You know they’re primarily done on healthy women and healthy fetuses, and it makes you feel like a dirty little abortionist with a dirty little secret. I think we should tell them the truth, let them vote and move on.15
We have allowed the abortion industry and its supporters to keep their “dirty little secrets” for far too long. The only cure for this campaign of lies is for every single pro-life person to learn the issues and then to talk about them with everyone they know ― friends, family members, fellow churchgoers, and co-workers. Only a widespread program of education conducted by millions of persistent pro-lifers will remedy the false impressions the public has on abortion. When this happens, pro-life victory will be much nearer.
 Quotations for Public Speakers: A Historical, Literary, and Political Anthology (2001) by Robert G. Torricelli, page 121.
 Years in which individual states liberalized their abortion laws before Roe v. Wade in 1973: Colorado, California and North Carolina (1967); Georgia and Maryland (1968); Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, New Mexico and Oregon (1969); and Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington (1970).
 E-mail Brian Clowes at email@example.com for a copy of Excel spreadsheet F-18-12, “Annual Number of Legal and Illegal Induced Abortions Performed in the World, 1960-Date,” which includes references and calculations.
 This assumes the current rate of one million surgical and medical abortions annually in the United States.
 E-mail Brian Clowes at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of Excel spreadsheet F-19-01, “The “Dead States” (and Cities),” which includes references and calculations.
 A 1990 national Wirthlin poll found that the average person believes that an incredible 46% of abortions in the United States are committed for rape and incest and to save the life of the mother alone. This poll also shows that 47% of voters believed that less than 500,000 abortions were performed annually, when the actual number in 1990 was 1.6 million.
Peter Steinfels. “New Voice, Same Words on Abortion.” The New York Times, November 20, 1990, page A10. Also see Larry Witham. “Public Ill-Informed On Abortion.” Washington Times, November 9, 1990, page A5. See also “The Week.” National Review, December 3, 1990, page 12.
 Aida Torres and Jacqueline Darroch Forrest. “Why Do Women Have Abortions?” Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1988, pages 169 to 176, Table 1; Lawrence B. Finer, Lori F. Frohwirth, Lindsay A. Dauphinee, Susheela Singh and Ann M. Moore. “Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives.” Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health, September 2005 (Volume 37, Number 3), pages 110 to 118. Table 3, “Percentage Distribution of Women Having an Abortion, by Their Most Important Reason for Having the Abortion, 2004 and 1987.”
 Akinrinola Bankole, Susheela Singh and Taylor Haas. “Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries.” International Family Planning Perspectives [Alan Guttmacher Institute], August 1998 [Volume 24, Number 3], pages 117-127 and 152.
 For backup calculations and references, e-mail Brian Clowes at email@example.com and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-03-01.XLS, “State Reporting on the Reasons Given for 1.3 Million Abortions, 1996-2013.”
 For backup calculations and references, e-mail Brian Clowes at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-19-04.XLS, “Analysis of United States Abortion Statistics, 1967-2013.”
 For backup calculations and references, e-mail Brian Clowes at email@example.com and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-06-C.XLS, “The “Dead African-American States.”
 For backup calculations and references, e-mail Brian Clowes at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-06-B.XLS, “Lynchings in the United States by Year and Race, 1882-1964.”
 Aida Torres and Jacqueline Darroch Forrest. “Why Do Women Have Abortions?“ Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1988 (Volume 20, Number 4), pages 169 to 176, Table 4, “Percentages of Women Who Reported that Various Reasons Contributed to Their Having a Late Abortion and Who Cited Specific Reasons as Accounting for the Longest Delay.”
 Ron Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers (NCAP), American Medical News, March 3, 1997.