Friday, January 26, 2007

My hypocrisy on abortion photos

Last week, I addressed the use of graphic photographs of aborted babies and my opposition to the Herald-Times putting a picture of a "safe sex prom dress" on the front page of the paper. After thinking about it, I do believe I have been a bit hypocritical.

My hypocrisy was taking the position that the aborted baby pictures do not belong on the front page of the paper. Basically, I was trying to remain consistent in my criticism of how the Herald-Times covered "Latexhibition" and the use of the abortion photographs. That attempt at consistency was itself inconsistent.

If I support the use of photographs depicting the results of abortion in a protest, why would I oppose publishing those photographs in the newspaper? Is there something special about the newspaper that makes it different from a public street where an anti-abortion rally or protest is being held?

No, there isn't. In fact, one could argue that the aborted baby pictures serve a valuable journalistic purpose. It is easy to get detached from the reality of abortion while we are talking and writing about "reproductive freedom" or "respecting all human life". Pictures such as the ones used by the Center for Bioethical Reform bring us back to the nub of the issue: is this something that should be legal?

CBR documents the use of violent images in the mainstream media, including the beating of Reginald Denny in the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the dead baby in a firefighter's arms after the 1995 terrorist attack in Oklahoma City. These pictures convey the overall horror and the human cost in a way that plain text cannot.

The primary goal of journalism should be to present facts and information. Pictures are a critical way that journalists have done this in modern times.