The religious discussion programme Sunday Morning Live shown on BBC One on 3rd October included a section entitled ‘Can abortion be a kindness?’ in which programme guest Virginia Ironside presented her views on the desirability of abortion in cases where a child is likely to be born severely disabled or into a ‘disavantaged’ household.
In the subsequent debate, which included well-known anti-choice activist Rev. Joanna Jepson, discussion focused on the morality of abortion to prevent suffering amongst potentially disabled children, and included some highly controversial comments from Virginia Ironside, which have drawn media attention since the show was aired.
Abortion Rights totally rejects the comments made by Virginia Ironside and wants to emphasise that they do not represent the views of organisations such as ours, nor of the vast majority of pro-choice supporters in this country.
Abortion Rights believes that all women, including disabled women, have the right to make their own reproductive choices and that a woman should never be persuaded to terminate or carry a pregnancy to term, whatever her situation and whether or not the foetus shows signs of impairment. The decision of any woman to have an abortion for reasons of impairment is hers alone and should be respected.
More broadly, we were disappointed with the focus of the debate as a whole. Abortion Rights seeks to place the woman at the centre of the abortion decision. Sunday Morning Live, and sadly much media discussion about abortion, fail to engage with the experiences of women who face unplanned pregnancy and the reality of their lives and situations.
When a woman does not wish to continue with a pregnancy – for her health, her wellbeing, the wellbeing of her family, for economic, educational or employment reasons – she needs to have the option of ending that pregnancy in a safe, legal manner. If a woman is to have control of her life, she must have control of her reproductive choices. This includes making an informed decision to continue with a pregnancy where the child may be born with a disability, or into an economically ‘disadvantaged’ household.
Comments, however well meaning, which encourage abortion to be discussed in the context of eugenics and euthanasia, serve only to undermine the objectives of the pro-choice movement and to perpetuate widely held misconceptions of what must be viewed as a fundamental women’s right.
Watch Sunday Morning Live on i-player