F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
September 30, 2001
Keep On Truckin' with Pro-Life Message

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Frank Pavone just bought himself an 18-wheeler, but he won't be picking up or delivering goods in it. In fact, he's not even a truck driver; he's a priest!

"I recently bought a truck," confides Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. "A big one, like the ones you see delivering supplies to the supermarkets." But this truck won't be making deliveries; it'll be cruising the highways of America without a payload. "What's important about it is not what's on the inside, but what's on the outside," Fr. Pavone comments. "The truck is actually a traveling billboard, and anyone looking at it sees the images of children who were aborted within the first 11 weeks of pregnancy."

The truck is the focal point of an innovative public awareness project that "utilizes the highway system, a key means of transportation, as a vehicle of education," Pavone explains. "Four of these huge trucks have been traveling the highways of Los Angeles all summer and will soon appear in other states. The project is based on solid research about the principles of social reform," he asserts. "If you analyze how the civil rights movement achieved its goals, or the movement to reform child labor laws, or any number of other movements, you will see that they visually dramatized the injustice they were fighting, and confronted the culture which was unwilling to see that injustice."

Pavone expects some pro-life advocates to argue that "the use of graphic images somehow turns people away from the pro-life cause." Nevertheless, he is prepared to defend his provocative approach with solid research on the techniques that have proven successful in social reform. "The question at issue here," Pavone insists, "is not how we feel about the use of such images, or how others will feel about it. The question is whether the pro-life movement is somehow exempt from the principles by which social reform movements achieve their goals. Reformers do not succeed by being popular," he emphasizes. "Those who use graphic images don't care what people think about them; they care about what people think about abortion. And, if giving people a negative opinion of abortion means having them also reject the messenger, that's a small price to pay."

Fr. Frank Pavone has received numerous unsolicited comments testifying to the effectiveness of the graphic images on his website, priestsforlife.org. "No single item on that site, which consists of thousands of pages, has won more converts to the pro-life cause," he avows. "They write to me with gratitude for shaking them out of their denial. And even those who are angry will never be able to erase those images from their minds, nor ever feel the same about abortion again. The truck project," Pavone points out, "makes full use of the First Amendment, a tool which we in the pro-life movement need to better understand and more fully utilize. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right of people to convey verbal and graphic messages despite the fact that they offend others," he affirms, "and despite the fact that children may be among the viewers."