For those few students who had not made up their minds, your show - Warnings - and the Right to Life protesters on campus on the following Monday, perhaps helped them to come to an opinion. This is what universities are about. Thank you.
--Dick DuBord, Dean Arts and Humanities, Moorhead State University, Moorhead, MN,1995
The Warnings series juxtaposes the collapse of the womens movement in late Weimar Germany with critical issues facing women in the United States today. Warnings embraces a propagandist style of poster design to respond to the barrage of current antifeminist messages. Through designs that address racist sterilization practices, class discrimination in the surrogate mother industry, antiabortion violence, and bias in the legislative/judicial process, Warnings invites viewers to reflect on three subjects
How do politicians use the control of womens reproductive health care to advance their political agendas? What does it mean when a government controls who has children and when they have them? What can we learn from the historical events of late Weimar Germany and its formerly extensive and progressive womens movement?
What messages did politicians promote in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany regarding the role of women? What messages do we create today in political campaigns? Religious organizations? Commercial advertising?
Who is sufficiently healthy to bear children? Who has enough money and moral character to keep the child that she delivers? Who must give birth to a child against her will no matter what the consequences? Who must seek an illegal unsafe abortion as a last resort to preserve her health or life?
Inspiration & Development of "Warnings"
Several events inspired me to begin the Warnings series of computer photomontages and video. I heard the Louisiana legislature devalue women on national news, and I realized the implications of the Supreme Courts 1989 Webster v. R.H.S. decision. The decision had three main points: it let stand a preamble that life begins at conception; it permitted states to outlaw abortions at any publicly leased or owned facility; and it allowed states to require fetal viability testing. The ruling encouraged state legislators to restrict and outlaw abortion in a country where as of 1992, only forty-four state legislatures support a womans right to abortion.
Violent acts of anti-choice groups also have motivated me to counteract their aggression with an educational exhibit. Since 1977 there have been: 7 murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings,165 arsons, 82 additional failed bombing and arson attempts, 370 physical invasions of personal and business properties, 942 acts of vandalism, 100 butyric acid attacks, 207 anthrax threats, 122 assaults, 340 death threats, and 3 kidnappings. In March of 1992, an anti-choice demonstration culminated in the assassination of doctor David Gunn. 1994 brought an escalation in brutality with anti-choice activists murdering Dr. John Britton, clinic escort Air Force lieutenant colonel James Barrett, and clinic receptionists Shannon Lowney and Leeann Nichols. I realized that anti-choice zealots would never modify their tactics unless enough pro-choice activists voted for the legal protection for women
The propaganda techniques of the anti-choice movement made me furious. Anti-abortionists equated pro-choice supporters with Nazis. They published slogans such as Auschwitz, Dachau, Margaret Sanger: Three of a Kind,; Abortion is the American Holocaust, and in response to Gunns murder, ..abortion makes the Nazi holocaust pale in contrast.
Two years of research proved that it was the anti-choice groups who have more in common with the early Nazi party. In 1931, Germany had one of the strongest womens movements in the world. Several thousand people marched for reproductive freedom in Berlin. The elected Nazi party outlawed abortion, converted health clinics to government propaganda centers, started a national birth drive and supported sterilization of undesirable population groups. In both the 1930s and the 1990s, anti-choice groups display fear of rising minority birthrates, terror at the growing political/economic power of women and support for increased international military dominance.
Active participation in the democratic system can prevent the repetition of restrictive policies against women and protect the safety of clinic workers and patients. Citizens must call on their elected representatives to enforce the legislation that protects women, such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and apply anti-terrorism measures to domestic groups. Low voter turnout in recent elections, especially local ones, does not bode well for the future of women in the United States. South Dakota recently outlawed legal abortion and the Supreme Court gave anti-choice protesters a victory in their ability to harrass women as of February, 2006. Silence on the part of those who believe in the right of women to control their bodies and destinies only serves to erode these precious freedoms.
Special Thanks to: The University of Colorado Boulder Dean's Grant Award Program, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Kay Obering and Trevor Link for their assistance in making this exhibit possible.