Saturday, March 13, 2010

A crime, a jury, a trial and Facebook

How a law student used Facebook to educate her friends about abortion. 

From Mercator.Net this article which challenges our viewpoint comes.  A bright law student challenged the status quo, with interesting results.  But, the question posed is a valid one.  If abortion is OK, why is it not okay to post pictures of the results?
Imagine that you are sitting at the back of a courtroom of a horrific murder trial. The judge turns to the jury for its verdict. The lead juror stands up, clears his throat, and speaks.

“To be honest, Sir,” he says, “we can’t bear looking at these dreadful photographs of the murder. We don’t want to comment on the murder, though it is clear the victim is now dead as a result of the accused’s actions. Just take the evidence away, so we don’t have to think about it.”
Would never happen, right?

Well, maybe not in a courtroom, but it did happen to me recently on Facebook. The jury was my Facebook friends at the university where I study. Let me explain. As you all are no doubt aware, Facebook is an online communication site with 400 million members. Members have walls where they communicate, post pictures and comments.

I posted a picture of a 22-week-old foetus on my Facebook wall. The picture bore the caption “22 week old aborted baby”.

My intention was to create awareness about a legal medical procedure. I wanted to show people the outcome of a successful abortion, a procedure which is widely accessible in Australia today and accepted as normal. My point was this: if one supports the procedure, one ought to be able view and approve it.

But this was not the case. The outrage of my Facebook jurors was not horror at the killing of a fellow human, but indignation that I had shoved evidence in their faces. A heated debate ensued which attracted over 200 comments. I received slander and hate mail on my own Facebook wall, on the walls of my Facebook friends, and through Facebook chat. A Facebook group was even created calling for me to take the photo down. People lamented that freedom of speech was available for people like me. Others deleted me from their Facebook friends.

Due to the many comments underneath the photo, it became a highlight of the news feed on Facebook and therefore the photo remained constantly on people’s home pages. It also appeared on the homepages of people whom I was not friends with. The picture was also reported to the Facebook administrators many times. Interestingly it was never removed.

Most of the comments expressed disgust at the photo of the murdered baby. But strangely very few actually condemned the act of abortion. Rather they attacked the suitability of Facebook as a forum for abortion photographs. Circumventing the argument most of them absolved themselves from the issue and requested censorship:

“I’m not taking part in this debate BUT.... I believe this photo is inappropriate for Facebook and you are being judgmental and hurting people’s feelings.”

Granted, the picture was gruesome. But it was not as horrible as scenes in the latest Quentin Tarantino film or indeed an episode of Crime Scene Investigation. And it was a legally obtained, anonymous photograph of a routine operation. Animal protestors regularly post images of dead dolphins and whales on Facebook and are supported for raising awareness of an unacceptable practise. If one supports the cause, then why not applaud a successful outcome? If abortion is legally and for many, morally, acceptable, why must we censor images of it? Perhaps this happens because supporters assume that a foetus is not human. Unfortunately they see the ugly side when they are confronted with a photo of a dead baby. And discussions based on human rights for women seem contradictory. Many of my friends unwittingly rebutted their own arguments: first they argued that abortion is a woman's choice and then they rebuked me over the disturbing picture!

This is not the first time that humans have been denied their own humanity. Slaves, black people, indigenous people, women, Jews, and other minorities have been excluded from the legal definition of “person” throughout the history of mankind. In 1906 a small Congolese man was put on show in the monkey cages at the New York Zoo! The unborn child is today's excluded minority.

The overwhelming majority of my Facebook jurors wanted the truth to be censored. When faced with undeniable evidence of the murder of a baby, they wanted the evidence to be removed.

It was a very educational experience. Facebook was the ultimate interactive newspaper that popped up on everyone’s computer screens for two weeks. Through hundreds of positive and negative retorts and the persistent on-going questions and queries that I currently face, the outcome was positive. I induced my peers to discuss, debate, and re-examine their opinions on the real value of human life. I've heard plenty of complaints about Facebook, but it has an amazing potential to teach and persuade.

Sujata Saha is a fifth year law and business student at the University of Tasmania. She is also an officer cadet in the Australian Army Reserves and the General Representative on the Tasmanian University Union. Thanks to Priyanka Saha for her ideas and editing.
This article is published by Sujata Saha , and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
This is not the picture that she used on her facebook page, but is a picture of a brutally aborted baby.  It sure looks like a person to me, not a blob of tissue.  How would you like to die like that?

No comments: