RTL Criticises Biased BBC Documentary ‘Abortion On Trial’ Ahead of 50th Anniversary of Abortion Act 1967

Right To Life is criticising the BBC’s documentary, ‘Abortion On Trial’, a programme that was markedly one-sided not only in the people who formed the panel of people discussing the issue of abortion at the centre of the show, but the ‘experts’ who were brought on to discuss the issue with them, and the way the issue was framed by the programme.

The programme was presented not by a neutral observer, but by Anne Robinson, who is herself strongly in favour of legalised abortion, having been through an abortion herself in the late 60s. Of the 9 people the programme included in the group that joined her, only 2 were opposed to abortion, and only one of those consistently. The rest broadly believed in a permissive approach to abortion, albeit with individual reasons for opposing or being uncomfortable with certain reasons for having it.

The discussion of these individuals was influenced by individuals invited to talk to them, including a veteran campaigner for legal and permissive abortion practice, Diane Munday, and Lord Steel, the principal architect of the Abortion Act 1967. By contrast, no veteran or Parliamentary opponent of abortion was allowed to talk to the group. Munday and Steel both discussed the concept of ‘decriminalisation’ (the removal of criminal penalties for illegal abortions) which as Right To Life has pointed out before, if ever affected would lead to a situation of abortion on demand, for any reason, up to 28 weeks or even up to birth. These implications of such a move were never discussed in the programme.

A moving account by an agoraphobic woman who endured an illegal abortion at home because she could not face getting one in a licensed abortion facility, emotionally manipulating the group into making abortion able to happen in women’s homes. Yet by contrast no one expressing health and safety concerns of the idea of home abortions, or any similarly moving account of a woman who suffered at the hands of abortion providers, or who chose not to go through an abortion and was glad of it, were shown.

Much of the second half of the programme was spent on a discussion as to whether men should be involved in abortion decisions, and have legal rights concerning the same, despite this never having been a proposal or issue in the British abortion debate. Whilst it was refreshing to see at least one man who had suffered from the abortion of his child, and the admission that men have a legitimate right to an opinion concerning abortion, the views expressed by him were emotionally insensitive and utterly unrepresentative of the right-to-life movement.

Indeed, insofar as the broader right-to-life movement was shown at all, it was only very briefly in the context of vigils outside abortion facilities, and a single March in Birmingham. Even these were only partially presented, and no attempt was apparently made to seek out larger or more established campaign groups or charities, such as Right To Life, Life, or CORE.

Finally, whilst a model of a 24-week old baby was shown in a discussion of foetal viability and the upper limit for most abortions, the issue of the humanity and development of the unborn child, which is crucial context to the abortion discussion, was left otherwise entirely unaddressed.

Added to all this imbalance, was the objectionable citation of polling within the programme, only two questions of the underlying data for which have been properly released. No mention was made of past polling to contextualise the findings of this polling. In May, polling by ComRes found that 59% of UK women wanted the upper limit for abortion to be reduced to at least 16 weeks (70% said at least 20 weeks), 91% wanted an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion (which Abortion on Trial spent less than a minute discussing), and 65% opposed British taxpayer money paying for abortions overseas. Only 2% wanted the upper abortion limit to be raised, which is what the ‘decriminalisation’ the group on the programme came to support came to support: an extreme minority position.

In all, this was an occasionally interesting, but overall deeply imbalanced and one-sided programme, set up in such a way so as to affirm certain pre-decided conclusions that fit with the agenda of the abortion lobby: ‘decriminalisation’ of abortion, and chemically-induced miscarriages at home. Nowhere near enough weight was given to concerns and questions raised by the right-to-life movement that show much more support by the public at large.

RTL Executive Officer Peter D. Williams, said:

“This was a badly biased BBC programme, which showed little-to-no concern for a fair-minded presentations of even the most basic issues of abortion.

Had the BBC been interested in a serious-minded programme that truly looked into all the areas of public interest concerning this sensitive issue, so as to properly inform the audience, they would have included pro-life guests to speak to the central group, included more people with right-to-life sympathies in the group itself, more properly characterised the implications of ‘decriminalisation’, and discussed issues such as the humanity of the unborn child or the harm that permissive abortion has brought to our society.

In the end, this programme was misleading and unhelpful as much due to what it left out as what it included. I hope any programming in the near future that coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act attempts a more balanced approach”.


RTL Submits Comment to U.N. Human Rights Committee on Draft General Comment on Article 6 (Right to Life)

Yesterday evening, RTL Executive Officer Peter D. Williams submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) our official Comment on their draft General Comment on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which discusses the right to life.

The draft General Comment has been hugely controversial because of its advocacy, in paragraphs 9 and 10, of not only legalised abortion but also assisted suicide and euthanasia. This despite the violation of the right to life that abortion always constitutes, and the abuses and contravention of the right to life that assisted suicide and euthanasia practices both enable.

In recent weeks, Right To Life has mobilised a petition that has enabled people to send comments to the UNHRC on this issue.

In the RTL Submission, Peter dismantles the draft General Comments support for anti-life practices, discussing amongst other things, the:

  • Humanity and international legal rights of the unborn child
  • Illogicality of deriving a right to abortion from the right to life
  • Irrelevance of concerns over life and health to abortion provision
  • Reality of illegal abortion dangers and safety concerns
  • Need for support for pregnant mothers and unborn children
  • True meaning of ‘dignity’ and ‘autonomy’
  • Evidenced harms of assisted suicide and euthanasia, especially to the elderly, those with physical and mental impairments, the terminally and severely ill, and other groups
  • Failure of limited eligibility criteria and proposed safeguards
  • Importance of hospice care and reforms to improve palliative services and analgesic medicine

You can read the RTL Comment, here.

RTL Supporters might also be interested in the Letter and Submission made by the pan-European One Of Us Federation.

Action Alert: Sign RTL Petition Against Plans To Give £1.1 Billion of Taxpayer Money For Overseas Abortions

We are writing to ask that you help us oppose the Government spending up to £1.1 billion on funding projects that include abortion to people living in the Third World, by signing our new CitizenGO petition against this policy.

Earlier this month, Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for International Development, announced extra public expenditure on ‘family planning’, including ‘‘safe abortions’’, as part of the international aid budget.

Speaking at the Family Planning Summit 2017, co-sponsored by the Gates Foundation, which currently promotes contraceptives but not abortions, Patel announced that her Department would increase its aid for ‘family planning’ by 25%. In practical terms, this means an extra £225 million per year, over the next 5 years.

Patel confirmed that the enormous sum of extra public expenditure she has pledged would include the provision of so-called ‘safe abortion’ in developing countries, and International Development Questions in the days thereafter saw Patel re-affirm her support for Government support for overseas ‘family planning’.

This means that UK taxpayers will now be spending millions more on overseas abortions, amounting up to a total now of £1.1 billion in foreign aid in that area alone, despite the Government cap on UK public sector pay that has frozen salaries for British doctors, nurses, and others below inflation for 7 years. It also comes after NHS trusts reported a £886 million deficit for the first 9 months of the financial year forcing them to cut beds across UK national hospitals.

This is despite recent polling showing that 65% of the British public (including 65% of women) oppose any spending on abortion overseas, with 79% (including 84% of women) wanting increased support for UK women under financial pressure to have an abortion.

Statements from the UK Government indicate that this funding will be targeted at developing countries in Africa and this is likely to include not only providing abortions in countries where it is legal but funding large abortion lobby groups to attempt to change the laws in African nations where the country has chosen to keep abortion illegal.

The use of UK taxpayer money to undermine the sovereignty of these African nations by funding abortions and trying to change laws in this area has recently been described by Nigerian activist Obianuju Ekeocha on the BBC as “a form of ideological colonisation”.

Polling across African nations show that abortion is not wanted with people overwhelmingly seeing abortion as morally unacceptable with for example 92% of people in Ghana, 88% in Uganda and 82% in Kenya stating that abortion is morally unacceptable.

Please sign our new CitizenGO petition asking Patel and the UK Government to scrap these plans, and redirect the money to support women in unplanned pregnancy in the UK, or at least to support women and children abroad.

Abortion (Foetus Protection) Bill

The Abortion (Foetus Protection) Bill will bring England and Wales in-line with our EU neighbours, with the gestational time limit for most abortions brought down to 12 weeks, leaving abortions beyond this point to be performed under limited circumstances.

  • The Bill has been brought forward by Baroness Nicholson, former Director of the Save the Children Foundation, and a former member of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights. It received a first reading on Wednesday 5 July.
  • This Bill will bring the gestational time limit for most abortions, which are performed under section 1(1)(a) of the Abortion Act, down to 12 weeks, bringing it in line with the majority of EU countries that have a time limit for most abortions of 12 weeks or lower (see bottom of page for details).
  • The Bill would not affect the time limits for other grounds of the Abortion Act.
    • 1(1)(b) – that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
    • 1(1)(c) – that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
    • 1(1)(d) – that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
  • There is a large amount of public support for reducing the gestational time limit for abortion.
    • A recent ComRes poll found that 70% of women are in favour of reducing the time limit from 24 weeks.
    • Of those that wanted to see the time limit reduced the largest group wanted to see it reduced to 12 weeks or below.
    • The polling also showed that only 1% of women wanted to see an increase in the time limit to birth, demonstrating that there is very little real public support for the abortion lobby’s stated goal to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, right through to birth.
  • At 12 weeks a unborn child is fully formed, has a heartbeat and all the organs, muscles, limbs and bones are in place. The baby’s fingers will soon begin to open and close, her toes will curl, her eye muscles will clench, and her mouth will make sucking movements.
  • The latest abortion statistics for England and Wales show that 82.27% of the 180,794 terminations performed under section 1(1)(a) occurred at 9 weeks gestation or earlier.

The BBC have put together details on European time limits in this resource here. We have recently reviewed the time limits stated there to update changes in legislation and put them in the table below.

Country name Time limit for most abortions References
Austria 12 Penal Code (1974), sections 96-98: English / German
Belgium 12 Code Pénal (Penal Code), articles 348-360 (French)
Bulgaria 12 Decree No. 2 (1990) on the conditions and procedures for the artificial termination of pregnancy (English).
Croatia 11 Law No. 1252-1978 (1978), Act concerning the medical measures for materialisation of the right to freely decide on the birth of children (English) Note: This law is the same for Slovenia, as both were part of Yugoslavia when it was passed.
Cyprus No upper limit. Criminal Code of Cyprus (sections 167-169 and 169A) as amended by Law No 59 (1974) and Law No 186 (1986) (no retrievable and entirely up-to-date version online)
Czech Republic 12 Law 66 and Regulation 75 (1986) (English)
Czech Criminal Code, Sections 159-163
Denmark (Mainland) 12 Act No. 350 (1973), Section VII as amended by Law No. 389 (1995) and LBK No. 95 (2008).
Estonia 11 ‘Termination of Pregnancy and Sterilisation Act’ (1998) (Estonian)
Criminal Code of the Republic of Estonia, sections 125-128
Finland 20 Law 239 (‘Abortion Act’) (1970) as amended Law No 564 (1978), Law No 572 (1985), and Law No 328 (2001) (Finnish)
France 12 Loi No. 75-17 du 17 janvier 1975 relative à l’interruption volontaire de la grossesse (Law No. 75-17 of January 1975 Regarding Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy)(French)
Code Pénal (Penal Code) Articles 223-10 & 223-11 (French)
Code de la Santé Publique (Public Health Code) Articles L2222-1 to L2222-4, and L2223-1 to L2223-2 (French)
Germany 22 Strafgesetzbuch (Penal Code), sections 218-219 (English)
Greece 12 Law No 821 (1978), as amended by Law No 1609 (1986), and the Greek Criminal Code, Article 304 (no online access).
Hungary 12 Act LXXIX (1992) on ‘the Protection of the Life of the Fetus’ as amended by Act LXXXVII (2000)
Criminal Code (2012), Section 163
Ireland Available is available in very limited circumstances. Eighth Amendment to (Article 40.3.3 of) the Irish Constitution, modified in practice by ‘X’ Case and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013)
Italy 12 Law 194 (1978) (Italian)
Latvia 12 Sexual and Reproductive Health Law (2002) (English)
Criminal Law of the Republic of Latvia, section 135-136
Lithuania 12 Decree of the Lithuanian Minister of Health (which replaced the former Soviet law) (Lithuanian)
Criminal Code of Lithuania, article 142
Luxembourg 12 Penal Code Articles 348-353, as amended by Law on sexual information, illegal abortion and termination of pregnancies (1978) (French)
Malta None: abortion is totally illegal. Criminal Code, Articles 241-243
Netherlands 24 de facto Criminal Code, Articles 82a and 296 (Dutch)
Directions on the Non-Prosecution of Cases of Euthanasia and Late Abortions (2007) (Dutch)
Law on termination of pregnancy (1981): EnglishDutch
Poland 12 Act on Family Planning, Protection of the Human Fetus, and Conditions for Pregnancy Termination (1993), and Penal Code (1997) (English and Polish)
Portugal 12 Código Penal (Penal Code), Articles 140-142 (Portuguese)
Romania 14 Noul Cod Penal (Penal Code), Article 201 (2014) (Romanian)
Slovakia 12 Law 73 (1986), as amended by Law No 419/1991 (English)
See also Act No. 576/2004 Coll. of Laws on Health Care, Health Care-Related Services, and Amending and Supplementing Certain Acts as Amended by Act No. 345/2009.
Criminal Code of Slovakia, Articles 150-153
Further context (U.N.)
Slovenia 11 Law No. 1252-1978 (1978), Act concerning the medical measures for materialisation of the right to freely decide on the birth of children (English)

Note: This law is the same for Croatia, as both were part of Yugoslavia when it was passed.

Spain 14 Ley 2/2010 Orgánica de Salud Sexual y Reproductiva y de la Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo (Organic Law 2/2010 on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy) (Spanish)
Sweden 18 Lag om abort (Abortlagen) (1974): (Swedish)