Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

NI and US TV shows tackle abortion

On Tuesday (18.01.11), BBC1 Northern Ireland broadcast Abortion Wars, a programme documenting the continuing battle between pro- and anti-choice campaigners in Northern Ireland. The show followed two women on the front lines, Dr Audrey Simpson OBE, director of the Family Planning Association in NI, and Bernie Smyth of the anti-choice group Precious Life.

Abortion Rights is pleased with the way BBC covered the issue, and can think of no better heroine for the pro-choice movement than the inspirational Audrey Simpson, who faces vitriolic scorn and endures threats every day in order to run the only agency in Northern Ireland to provide women with accurate information on how to arrange an abortion.

The programme will be available until next Tuesday (25.01.11) on BBC iPlayer.

The BBC programme comes after the recent US screening of No Easy Decision, an MTV documentary following three young women through the process of abortion, which has sparked controversy and debate in America.

Though viewers in the UK can’t access US MTV content online (we’ll let you know when it becomes available in the UK), we encourage you to read a blog post from Katie, one of the young women featured in the show, about her participation and experience with abortion while filming the programme.

After the show aired and anti-choice reaction to her involvement started streaming in, Katie felt compelled to clarify her own response and crystallize some of what she was feeling and going through at the time.

It’s a brilliant piece of writing, sophisticated and honest. She speaks of the anger she felt after her contraception failed, that anger quickly being replaced by an overwhelming sense of terror. She recalled learning an abortion would cost her $500 and conjuring up plans to find cheaper “back-alley” methods, coax a horse to kick her in the stomach or to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The most powerful part of her piece is the metaphor she uses to explain to her boyfriend exactly how she felt:

“I explained to him that being pregnant when I didn’t want to be felt like being an animal caught in a trap. I was hurt, terrified, and desperate for an escape. I would have done anything to free myself from that situation.”

She goes on to point out that women are often described as having certain “instincts,” especially regarding parenthood. Katie wondered:

“How odd it is that women are only allowed to trust these instincts after they’ve birthed children… I know of no better way to describe my decision to have an abortion than instinctual. While I did plenty of research and put a tremendous amount of thought into it, I always came back to what I felt was right. I knew in my heart, my head, my gut and my soul, that I should not continue my pregnancy. I wasn’t misinformed about fetal development; it made little difference to me if it was “a ball of cells” or if it had “10 fingers and 10 toes.” I just knew that having an abortion was the right thing for me to do. I followed my heart, and it took me straight to that Planned Parenthood Clinic.”

Both the BBC and MTV USA should be praised for their accurate reporting and bravery in tackling an issue usually considered taboo. We only wish more people had access the watch and gain awareness of the battles being fought for choice across the world.