It is hard to tell when you are living in a golden age. Our natural cynicism always has us convinced that we live in the worst of times and the best of times were about, say, 50 years ago. And those of us who have retained a shred of optimism, we are hopeful for a better time, and therefore we believe the future will hold the keys to the golden age.

That said, we may be living in the golden age of abortion awareness.

Between well-financed and professionally-made feature films and the access to the Internet itself, the reality of abortion is sinking into the consciences of anyone paying even a remote amount of attention. If you want to know what abortion really is, it isn’t hard to find out. If you want to know how a 12-week-old fetus is removed from a woman’s body, you can find out.

Three cheers, then, to the new film Unplanned for showing the graphic aftermath of “successful” and “failed” abortions, always including the bloody death of small children, and sometimes causing death to the woman as well.

In addition to Gosnell, these films are showing abortion for what it is, and no special pleading is necessary. The procedure itself involves the spilling of blood, the dismembering of small humans, and the process of counting body parts in sterile stainless steel to make sure no human anatomy was left inside of a womb. That is the science of abortion, the objective reality of the event. Everyone should know that, and, when of age, everyone should see it. Because it is a profound act of violence that our nation tolerates and endorses. It is a highly disturbing act of cruelty that, if you oppose it, should make you realize how differently you see the world from those who support it.

I don’t know what the appropriate age is to introduce someone to the graphic imagery of abortion. I agree that the R rating for Unplanned is justifiable. Though, as others have noted, it is ironic given that children under 17 can have abortions. They just can’t see what they involve, apparently.

My children are 8 and 10 and I don’t want them seeing the carnage of abortion yet. But that will come and probably sooner rather than later. Why? Because part of what it means to be an American is to admit that we live in a nation that tolerates incredible cruelty and macabre violence to small children. Some people actually celebrate that cruelty. But some of us need to see it to understand it, and to learn that we must fight against it.

There has been debate about the appropriateness of these images for years. Many pro-lifers I know object to them. “We need to change hearts and minds and showing those images will only end the conversation and turn people away,” they will say. And yes, I have heard of sidewalk counselors who have used these images and been less than loving in their ministry so these images have been conflated with less-than-charitable behavior. I have never personally witnessed that behavior, but have heard of it.

But the real violence is not done by people who display these images; it is done by those who create them. And just as powerful images of slave ships and dead victims helped to bring public awareness of slavery and lynching, so, too, can these images bring awareness for the victims of abortion. Consider this article which discusses the way the image above transformed the way many came to see slavery. It was the image that helped people understand its barbarism.

Or consider the mother of Emmett Till, who demanded that the funeral for her savagely beaten son be an open casket service. Why? What a horrible image for all to see! How could she do such a thing? She understood that the world should see the horrors or racism and the image of her beaten and drowned son was the only way to do it.

Sometimes the arguments regarding abortion are just that: arguments. Sometimes what is needed to help us understand the nature of a thing is to see it. And given the violence of film and music and art that surrounds us, and given the birth of logic in our culture today, I am afraid that graphic images are about all that those of us who oppose abortion have left at our disposal.

I get it. You don’t like the images. You don’t want to see them. Yeah, well, neither do I. But it is certainly a defensible practice so long as abortion is tolerated. And, at this point, shy of a significant, authentic Christian revival in America, it is probably the only thing that can change the public’s understanding of abortion and lead to its abolition.

A final note. There actually exists a wonderful and rare formal debate on this topic. It should have way more views on Youtube than it does. The argument in favor of these graphic images is simple: if you don’t like them, then you must not like what goes on inside of abortion clinics. Don’t blame the messenger. Check it out here.