Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Abortion is Legal, Pictures are Not

Interesting story in The Register, Veronica Connelly’s guilty conviction was upheld. It appears that she had sent pictures of aborted foetus’s to pharmacists that sell the morning-after pill (which technically induces an immediate abortion).

Without discussing whether or not Veronica was intending to be malicious, or how closely the action of the morning-after pill resembles that of a surgical abortion we have an interesting case:

Jewish Holocaust pictures from Nazi Germany (begone, Goodwin!) were not considered more offensive than the actions they documented, although they are acknowledged to be "disturbing." Does this mean that it is or would be illegal to send these pictures or show these pictures to the perpetrators, knowing that it would - and in order to - cause offense? How else should one convict the perpetrators with a sense of their own guilt?

Now consider Veronica’s intentions; was it merely to distress or cause anxiety to the recipient, or to convict them of their "guilt"? - which indirectly but very connectedly leads to distress!

How will Oxfam stimulate my guilt over my greed without decidedly distressing me with imagery of poverty and dispair? Will their mailshots be replaced with advertising billboards instead, thus becoming legal?

I see animal-rights display stands in the streets at times, showing disturbing pictures of the results of shocking treatment of animals. Are the animal-rights activists forbidden from sending these pictures to the perpetrators but permitted to display them in public?

Will I be unable to disuade jihadists under criminal law because my arguments distress them? Or will I have to send only open letters generally published?

I guess the law is to save us from personally communicated harassment when others who are offended by some aspect of our legal activity try and convey that offense to us.

At the moment some forms of abortion are legal, but some ways of talking about it are not, and this puzzles my morals; perhaps Veronica was harassing those who were not directly involved in abortions - though this was not relevant to the judgement; BUT it seems it would still have been illegal for Veronica to have sent those pictures to anyone who had been practicing illegal abortion, even if they were photo’s of the very same aborted foetuses - would this lead to "Yes, I broke the law, but now I’m offended by pictures of it"

I can see this as a good defense for speeding camera tickets.

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