British Film Prompts Debate About Abortion

     ( The debate over abortion is heating up in Britain, in advance of a Tuesday night TV documentary that will show a taped abortion for the first time.

     The film, to be shown after 11 p.m. local time on national broadcaster Channel Four, was made in cooperation with one of the country's leading pro-abortion organizations, Marie Stopes International (MSI).

     Both pro-life and pro-choice organizations initially welcomed the screening, but one major pro-life group has since accused the documentary of bias.

     The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said it had "disappointment and concern" after seeing a preview of the show.

     "This documentary purports to lift the veil of secrecy about abortion yet the subject will remain obscure after people have seen it. Although some people from the anti-abortion side were featured, this was principally an attempt to make abortion seem easy, normal and good," said the SPUC's Eileen Brydon.

     "There were some good photographs of unborn children but many of the images consisted of brief flashes of the giant pictures of aborted children which some American campaigners display on lorries (trucks). The U.K. situation wasn't properly represented," she said.

     The group criticized the filmmakers for showing an early abortion -- at four weeks' gestation -- and for not examining possible psychological or physical repercussions.

     Other groups on both sides of the debate have welcomed the showing of the film, however.

     "The documentary ... will make an important contribution to the abortion debate," said Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advise Service (bpas). "We have to be honest about abortion. We do not believe that women who request abortion are ignorant about what it is."

     Officials from Marie Stopes International told earlier this month that they cooperated fully in the filming of the abortion and the making of the documentary.

     The film's director, Julia Black, is the daughter of one of MSI's founders. In several media appearances, Black has described herself as pro-choice, but said she re-examined her beliefs when she became pregnant years after having an abortion.

     In addition to an abortion, the film shows images of babies aborted at 10, 11 and 21 weeks.

     The Pro-Life Alliance political party, which was prevented from showing an abortion as part of a pre-election broadcast in 2001, gave cautious approval to the screening of the movie but decried the previous decision by Channel Four and Britain's other major broadcasters.

     "We want to draw attention, yet again, to the fact that when we as a pro-life political party attempted to do exactly the same thing as Ms. Black -- show the graphic reality of abortion to the viewers -- we were subjected to ruthless censorship," a spokesman for the group said.

     Abortion has also been subject to debate off the screen. Last week, a pro-life minister forced a police review of a case in which an abortion was carried out on the grounds of the fetus having a cleft palate.

     The Rev. Joanna Jepson challenged the refusal by police to prosecute the doctor involved. Police in West Mercia, western England announced that a new investigation would begin with a new team of officers.

By: Mike Wendling
Publish Date: April 20, 2004

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