West Lafayette, IN – It’s not often that a topic as well-worn as abortion finds a new angle, but last week saw one Purdue professor take the pro-abortion argument in a strange new direction.
During a public debate at Purdue University, Dr. David Sanders, associate professor of biology at Purdue, was in the middle of a rebuttal to abortion activist Seth Drayer‘s opening statement when he unexpectedly leveled child pornography charges at Drayer’s organization, Created Equal.
“He thinks fetuses are children, and he belongs to an organization that likes to show images of fetuses – and that’s something that’s a trademark,” Sanders began. “What would you call the public display of a butt-naked body of a child? I would call that child pornography.”
He expanded on the accusation by questioning whether Created Equal had received consent for the images they use. “Do they have the permission of the fetus? Obviously not. Do they have the permission of the parents to show these images of children, naked children, their naked children?” Sanders pressed.
The line of inquiry produced widespread murmuring in the audience, as several listeners interrupted Dr. Sanders to point out that the question of consent seemed to assume the personhood of the fetus.
Drayer, in a statement to The Liberty Conservative, said that Dr. Sanders was trying to change the subject due to the lack of a cogent argument for why abortion is not a moral injustice.
“The claim that displaying abortion victim images in public is equal to showing child pornography is absurd (and laughable based on the reaction from the crowd gathered for the debate). Federal law defines child pornography as ‘any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor.’ By all accounts, images of abortion victims do not even come close to meeting that definition,” said Drayer. “The displaying of images of dismembered preborn children in public have long been considered protected political speech by federal courts where displaying child pornography is a criminal act punishable with up to 30 years’ maximum in prison.”
While several circuit courts and numerous lower courts have ruled that public display of abortion pictures are protected by the first amendment, some state high courts have notably disagreed, citing a compelling government interest in shielding children from “exposure to certain images of aborted fetuses and dead bodies.”
Dr. Sanders, who emphasizes that he was invited to the debate under false pretenses and never agreed to recording or livestreaming of the debate, expanded on his point in an interview with The Liberty Conservative.
“My point was that if they see fetuses as children, then the bodies should have the same respect as one would have for a child’s body,” said Dr. Sanders. “I’m using their argument that the fetus is a child, it’s not an argument that I’m making. I’m not making an argument that this is child pornography.”
Dr. Sanders also said the audience was “stacked” and suggested that Created Equal had brought supporters in from other places to attend what he called a disrespectful and unethically organized debate.
The full debate video is below, with the statement in question beginning at the 38 minute mark.
UPDATED 5/2/2017: Dr. Sanders responded to our request for comment, and we have updated the article with his remarks.