They say a picture is worth a thousand words and certainly pictures help to set the scene and often the tone and context of an article. Which is why sometimes images paired with articles about abortion in the news, magazines or online can be problematic.
Often the go to image is that of a heavily pregnant person. We have all seen these images: a headless pregnant woman who is 30+ weeks pregnant, sometimes called the “preggo belly shot,” the image is either a close up of the pregnant belly or it is in silhouette, eliminating the woman entirely.
The main problem with those sorts of images is that they distort the discussion of abortion before it even begins. The vast majority of abortions happen before 9 weeks, when a person rarely has any outward signs of being pregnant at all. Unfortunately these misleading images are often paired with a really positive pro choice piece.
Some online news outlets have gotten better at the image they choose. They use airplanes, pictures of protests, or a positive pregnancy test to illustrate their article, rather than these headless pregnant bellies or images of distraught women. But how do we bring about a change in what pictures news outlets use?
Earlier this week the Irish Examiner published an article about Amnesty Ireland’s report on the most recent RED C poll findings; unfortunately it was accompanied by a problematic image. When it was highlighted via twitter to the Irish Examiner, they deleted the tweet and then went on to change the image on the article. Sometimes just asking politely is all that is needed. When news outlets hear that over 80% of all abortions happen in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and that using an image of an extremely pregnant person is both misleading and contributing to abortion stigma, they are almost always happy to change it.
So if you see something, say something: ask for a change in photo policy.
Thank you, to the Irish Examiner team for listening and changing the image so quickly.