Anne Robinson’s hour-long BBC TV programme marking 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act concluded that ‘the majority’ of the participants agreed the law should be updated to allow for non-surgical abortions at home. This was always going to be the conclusion since the majority of those participating believed in the untrammelled right to choose. There was no real discussion on this apart from the token man. Only one woman was opposed to abortion on principle because it was the killing of children. The man and the woman who were against abortion were always made to feel on the back foot, their views challenged continually.
The neo-natal doctor brought in argued that viability was no longer a criterion because advances in medical science meant foetuses could be viable at a much earlier stage and even be lodged in an artificial womb. It therefore all depended on context.
All without discussion were against abortion on the grounds of discovered gender because that would be gender discrimination. So ‘do not discriminate on the basis of gender’ has a higher value than ‘do not kill’.
There was no discussion on the issue of principle about the reality and value of another human life. Neither was there any exploration of the bald assertion ‘you do not have the right by way of the criminal law to force beliefs on others’.
While all the stories were moving and told with great feeling and sincerity, this was TV advocacy for further relaxation of the current law with no real exposure or discussion of the issues at stake.
The fairness and balance on which the BBC prides itself require that an equal amount of time now be given to other sides of the argument: from those who regret their abortions; from those opposed to abortion, in all except medical emergencies, not lifestyle choices; from those with diagnosed disabled foetuses; from neo-natal specialists such as Professor John Wyatt; from lawyers; from fathers; from those campaigning to lower the ‘age limit’ for aborting foetuses. There is a major public debate out there and major arguments which were ignored.
I had a brother, now deceased, who had achondroplasia, a genetic disorder resulting in an enlarged head, diminished frame and bandy legs. Such people are rarely seen today. Though not expected to last beyond his teenage years he lived into his fifties as a productive member of society. He once remarked: ‘Had the abortion law been in force when I was being expected, I would not have been allowed to have a life.’
Abortion was in no way on trial in the programme – it was celebrated and advocated.