Lewis Hine and the Undeniable Power of Showing the Victims

“Perhaps you are weary of child labor pictures. Well, so are the rest of us. But we propose to make you and the whole country so sick and tired of the whole business that when the time for action comes, child labor abuses will be creatures of the past.”

These are the words of American sociologist Lewis Hine, who was born on this day in 1874. Hine’s photographs depicting children working in horrific conditions in factories, mines, and elsewhere played a major role in effecting laws that banned the practice of child labor.

When I first came across this quotation a few years back, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel with pictures of children exploited by child labor and the pictures of abortion victims, which we’ve been showing long in the public square long enough that we hardly ever hear any new objections. Rather, it’s just the same old, same old: “Go home!” “Nobody wants to look at that.” “That’s disgusting.”

Surely Lewis Hine and his fellow advocates for child labor victims heard similar criticisms from plenty of people who wished they would stop showing all those unpleasant pictures.

But Hine didn’t stop, for he knew that pictures elicit sympathy for the victims of injustice in a way that mere words can’t. Instead, he persisted.

Just so, we too will persist in showing the victims of abortion until abortion becomes unthinkable.

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