Not to Worry, Anne Geddes Reassures HuffPo Readers, 'It Is OK to Photograph Newborns'

Gee, I wasn't aware there was such anxiety about that.

Photographer and author Anne Geddes wrote at Huffington Post on Oct. 22 of being inspired to publish a book with photographs of babies and mothers after seeing an art exhibit of birds' nests in Australia.

"I was deeply moved by these little nests, their incredible beauty and fragility," Geddes wrote, " and the mothering instinct at work -- the ingenuity and energy channeled into creating a safe place to conceal the young. Everything about them was just so nurturing. And I began to think about these miracles of nature that are concealed  in a repeating pattern of secrete, store, burst forth in abundance -- seeds, bulbs, cocoons and the miracle of pregnancy."

"When I saw the nests, everything began to flow," Geddes wrote, "everything came back. I felt inspired to start photographing again. I came out of the exhibit and phoned my husband, Kel, and said, 'I need to do another book. I just saw these amazing nests.' The whole 'Beginnings' project started from there."

After elaborating further on the project in the short, five-paragraph posting, Geddes ended with this curious peroration --

"Beginnings" has made me realize that it is OK for me to dedicate my life to photographing new life, babies and pregnant women; really, that is what my work is all about. This is my passion. I think it takes a sense of maturity as a person and as an artist to understand one's arrtistry. I have been so inspired all year. I learned it is OK to photograph newborns, to be in awe of the whole process of pregnancy. (emphasis added) It is an incredible, momentous, and precious time.

In other words, before "Beginnings," Geddes apparently thought it was not OK to photograph newborns.

Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek described the conclusion to Geddes' post as "odd," writing that --

I have the same question several HuffPo commenters had. Why wouldn't Geddes think it OK to devote her professional career to photographing pregnant mothers and newborns? And why did she choose the liberal Huffington Post to explain herself?

I was struck by the timing of Geddes' post, published the same day MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed abortion doctor Elizabeth Newhall of Portland, Ore., whose name has appeared on abortion foes' "wanted" posters --

MADDOW: Do you still feel like you're a target? When we called you today to talk to you about doing this interview, we had no idea whether or not you would feel comfortable being on television, whether you'd feel comfortable being identified. Do you still feel like you're under threat?

NEWHALL: I think we're all under threat every day, anyone who provides abortion services. As I have said before, though, I'm much more frightened by a world where women don't have reproductive freedom than I am personally. I really believe that this is excellent medicine, this is mandatory for public health and for women's health and all of our healths, children's healths. Women have abortions because they care about motherhood. I don't think people really realize that. And so, I am, I suppose, yes, frightened and, yes, determined to continue to provide women health care.

Might a better case be made that women who care about motherhood don't terminate their pregnancies?

With such reverence for abortion not uncommon from its advocates, no wonder that Geddes feels apologetic for being  "in awe of the whole process of pregnancy."

More along the same line from Newhall --

MADDOW: Do you see a future in America in which doctors aren't at risk for getting shot at and threatened and conceivably murdered anymore? Can you imagine a future in which this gets better?

NEWHALL: Yes, I absolutely can, and thank you for the question because I believe that as long as we marginalize abortion care and it's provided solely in clinics where everybody knows your business there, then targets are easily made. If we incorporated abortion care into general gynecology, if you went to your gynecologist for surgery or a medical abortion instead of to a clinic, we wouldn't have this problem at all. Services would be invisible. So, I call upon my colleagues to provide the service. That's what the problem is. We have allowed, you know, we were so happy to have abortion made available in the early '70s and the clinics were initially a feminist boon, but when the violence started and when the targeting started, I believe the correct answer is for physicians to provide services everywhere and for this to be a private issue between a woman and her physician in a place where nobody knows what she's there for.

MADDOW: It shouldn't be inconceivable. It shouldn't at all.

Yes -- "inconceivable."

If only more of her colleagues in medicine would put aside their picayune moral qualms and "provide the service," Newhall claims. "That's what the problem is." And by making abortions available "everywhere" -- in other words, on the taxpayer dime -- we'll render them "invisible." Delusions on a par with abortion exemplifying motherhood.

To the extent that abortionists and their media allies seek common ground with those opposed to abortion, they might start by not lying about abortion opponents as Maddow did two nights earlier when talking about an MSNBC documentary she narrated, "The Assassination of Dr. Tiller," which aired Monday night --

MADDOW (second part of video clip, starting at 2:16): This week the always blunt and never-in-doubt folks at Operation Rescue put out a press release advertising our documentary. It's a press release that includes images of cut-up body parts on the press release.

Her claim that the press release includes "images" of "cut-up body parts" is false twice over. The press release, seen here, contains only a single image. Instead of a photo of "cut-up body parts", what one sees is an aborted baby who appears to have been prepared for burial. Only the top half of his or her body is visible, next to which a rose and teddy bear have been placed. Evidence of the procedure which ended the baby's life, a suction opening and forceps' wounds, are clearly visible.

Why Maddow's deceit about this when anyone taking the time would discover it? I'm reminded again of a 1995 essay by proto-feminist Naomi Wolf in The New Republic, titled "Our Bodies, Our Souls: Rethinking pro-choice rhetoric" --

The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers' practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics. We revile their placards showing an enlarged scene of the aftermath of a D & C abortion; we are disgusted by their lapel pins with the little feet, crafted in gold, of a 10-week-old fetus; we mock the sensationalism of The Silent Scream. We look with pity and horror at someone who would brandish a fetus in formaldehyde -- and we are quick to say that they are lying: "Those are stillbirths, anyway," we tell ourselves.

To many pro-choice advocates, the imagery is revolting propaganda. There is a sense among us, let us be frank, that the gruesomeness of the imagery belongs to the pro-lifers; that it emerges from the dark, frightening minds of fanatics; that it represents the violence of imaginations that would, given half a chance, turn our world into a scary, repressive place. "People like us" see such material as the pornography of the pro-life movement.

But feminism at its best is based on what is simply true. While pro-lifers have not been beyond dishonesty, distortion and the doctoring of images (preferring, for example, to highlight the results of very late, very rare abortions), many of those photographs are in fact photographs of actual D & Cs; those footprints are in fact the footprints of a 10-week-old fetus; the pro-life slogan, "Abortion stops a beating heart," is incontrovertibly true. While images of violent fetal death work magnificently for pro-lifers as political polemic, the pictures are not polemical in themselves: they are biological facts. We know this.

Since abortion became legal nearly a quarter-century ago, the fields of embryology and perinatology have been revolutionized -- but the pro-choice view of the contested fetus has remained static. (emphasis added) This has led to a bizarre bifurcation in the way we who are pro-choice tend to think about wanted as opposed to unwanted fetuses; the unwanted ones are still seen in schematic black-and-white drawings while the wanted ones have metamorphosed into vivid and moving color.

Those "never-in-doubt folks at Operation Rescue," Maddow jeers, suggesting that unlike them, she wrestles mightily with doubts about abortion. By all means, Ms. Maddow, share them.

(The photo at the top of this post? My son Billy six weeks after he was born in 1999)

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts