A graphic video showing a New York-based drag queen simulating cutting a baby out of his womb went viral this week, sparking complaints from critics offended by the display.
Blair Back, a New York City makeup artist and drag queen, posted the footage to Facebook on Monday. It has since been removed.
Clips showing the performance, which appears to have taken place at a New York City bar, are still available on YouTube and Instagram.
Many social media users slammed Back after viewing the video, accusing him of mocking abortion.
But in an Instagram post, Back claimed the act was a “zombie cannibal performance” inspired by horror films.
“Trigger warning!!! I do cut a PLASTIC BABY out of a fake pregnant belly… A LOT of FAKE BLOOD,” he wrote. “The inspiration for this performance was from a lot of horror movies where a woman got pregnant by and alien, demon, monster, etc and they have to cut the baby out of her before it kills her from the inside.”
Still, some social media users said the display was “horrific.”
“Many women who have had still borns or lost their babies through miscarriage are incredibly distressed by having to see this pop up on their newsfeed,” said one commenter in response to a post on Back’s Facebook page.
“How is this art, exactly? If not un-empathetic, misogynistic, attention seeking – at the expense of grieving women,” he added.
One pro-life Facebook page argued that even if Back hadn’t intended on depicting an abortion, he’d still play-acted the death of a child.
“A human being is destroyed. That is the reality of abortion. The ending of a human life on demand,” reads a post on Pro-Life Eire’s Facebook page.
“Once the nice euphemisms are removed, you end up with a dead child by ‘choice.'”
Back remained defiant in the face of critics.
“LOL,” he wrote in the caption to a post containing screenshots showing one of Pro-Life Eire’s posts had been taken down.
I’ve been having contractions all morning!!! I can’t wait to get these BABIES out of me. For posts and video updates follow my Instagram at @Blair_Back and my Facebook Blair Back
He also posted a photo appearing to mock the controversy with a caption that read:
“I’ve been having contractions all morning!!! I can’t wait to get these BABIES out of me.”
Abortion in the culture wars
Pro-life and pro-choice advocates have clashed fiercely in 2019 as a debate regarding women’s rights erupted across the country.
The states of Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio passed laws this year outlawing abortion past the point where a doctor is able to detect an embryonic heartbeat, a threshold that could be reached even before a woman realizes she is pregnant. These laws are all being challenged in court.
A federal judge blocked Alabama on Tuesday from enforcing the strictest abortion laws in the country, saying a ban on all abortions unless a mother’s health was in danger was unconstitutional.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued to overturn the law, which clashes with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Conservatives have sought to enact a wave of abortion restrictions around the country in the hopes that one case or another might reach the Supreme Court and lead to the erosion of the Roe v. Wade ruling.
In response, feminist and progressive activists have pushed back with concerted campaigns aimed at preserving abortion rights.
The campaign was widely derided on both the left and right. Conservatives mockingly applauded Milano for promoting the pro-life teaching of “abstinence first,” even as some have expressed pity for her husband.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)