Abortion to be shown on TV

by DAVID WILKES, Daily Mail

An abortion will be shown on television for the first time as one of the final taboos of TV is broken.

Viewers will see a woman who is four weeks pregnant having a "vacuum pump" operation and footage of the procedure's results placed on a Petri dish.

Channel 4 will also show images of aborted foetuses at ten, 11 and 21 weeks when limbs and a face can clearly be seen.

The programme, called My Foetus, was made by independent film-maker Julia Black, who had an abortion at the age of 21.

Miss Black describes herself as pro-choice but says that, after becoming pregnant again at 34 and keeping the baby, she began to examine her views.

Creating a debate

She aims to kick-start the "entrenched and lazy" debate over the issue with her programme, which will be shown on April 20 at 11pm.

"One in three women in Britain will have an abortion but we continue to shy away from the reality of the procedure," she said.

"It is easy to be pro-choice without challenging yourself about what that means. Aborted foetuses from ten weeks on look like tiny babies.

"Rationally we know abortion ends the life of a potential human being. But why, when we see what they look like, are we so shocked?"

Miss Black, who lives with her partner and daughter, added: "I think the pro-choice movement can no longer rely on just arguing abortion is a woman's right. They have to start engaging with the reality that a foetus is destroyed.

"Equally, I question whether it is right for the pro-lifers to skew the debate using images of aborted foetuses in their campaigns which are purely designed to shock and repulse. These images make us lose sight of the woman."

Pro-Life images

Miss Black explained her use of one image used by the Pro-Life Alliance, saying: "It illustrates how pro-life campaigners aim to distort the debate through lack of context.

"The image is undeniably distressing but without knowing the reasons for aborting that foetus how can we make a moral judgment about whether it is right or wrong?"

Miss Black is the daughter of Dr Tim Black, founder of the charity Marie Stopes International, which is one of Britain's largest abortion providers. Her half-hour documentary, which had to be passed by Channel 4's head of programmes Kevin Lygo because of its sensitivity, will be preceded by warnings about its content.

A support line for viewers to call will also be shown.

The operation was performed at a Marie Stopes clinic in London and took less than three minutes.

The woman, who was filmed on condition of anonymity, chose a local anaesthetic and was awake and talking to the doctor.

180,000 abortions each year

The 1967 Abortion Act made abortion legal. More than 180,000 a year take place, with 87 per cent before 12 weeks. Each has to be sanctioned by two doctors.

The legal limit is 24 weeks. After then, it is only legal if the unborn baby has a "serious handicap".

A girl under 16 can have an abortion without parental consent if a GP deems her mature enough to decide. About six in ten under-age pregnancies result in abortions.

The anti-abortion Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it backed the programme.

National director Jim Smeaton said: "The pro-abortion lobby say women have a right to choose, but we say women first of all have a right to know what is involved in an abortion."

He accused pro-abortionists of attempting a "cover-up" by opposing the showing of graphic images.

But the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, another major abortion provider, rebutted this and said it welcomed the programme.

Chief executive Ann Furedi said: "We do not believe that women who request abortions are ignorant about what abortion is."

The Catholic Church condemned the programme.

A spokesman for the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Birmingham, said: "Any film that shows an abortion is abhorrent to Catholics."

Similar graphic images have been banned by broadcasters.

During the 1997 and 2001 General Elections, Channel 4 and others refused to transmit images on Pro-Life Alliance broadcasts in case they broke guidelines and offended viewers.

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