BBC moves to provide viewers with abortion information

Broadcaster criticised when programme on backstreet abortion failed to provide advice

 

The BBC has bowed to pressure to provide viewers with information about abortion after being criticised following a row sparked by an episode of Call The Midwife.

Concerns were raised following an episode of the BBC One programme on February 3rd, which dealt with a backstreet abortion.

No advice was then offered to viewers on the broadcaster’s Action Line.

Medical professionals wrote to the BBC with concerns and pro-choice charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) claimed the BBC was mistakenly treating abortion as a fraught political matter, stigmatising the medical professionals involved.

The Action Line page now refers to the UK’s two largest private abortion providers, with the BBC saying they were added to reflect different legal frameworks of abortion law in the UK.

A spokesperson said: “There continues to be debate about abortion in the UK.

“The Abortion Act 1967 reformed the law relating to abortion but does not apply in Northern Ireland, where the framework for abortion therefore differs from other parts of UK.

“Given these differences we have added a direct link to the relevant NHS page, which has information on abortion for England, Scotland and Wales.

“As with some other widely debated issues, the Action Line does not link to all organisations.”

BPAS previously claimed that by treating abortion as a political rather than medical issue, the corporation had already become partisan.

The BBC responded saying it could not refer viewers to help without sending them to organisations that “take a particular stance” on abortion, something it could not do given the contentious nature of the issue.

Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister, and Jackie Doyle-Price, a health minister, also this week wrote to the BBC to complain.

A spokesperson for the corporation said on Sunday it had added the links on Friday, before it had became aware of any letter from MPs.

Diana Johnson, a Labour MP, also organised a letter signed by nearly 100 MPs to be sent to Lord Hall, the BBC’s director-general.

It criticised the decision to “withhold information about women’s reproductive healthcare services which have been legal and have been part of the NHS for over 50 years”, according to The Times.

An anti-abortion group, Right To Life UK, said the BBC had “given in” to the tactics of “abortion pressure groups to further skew their coverage on this issue”.

RTÉ provides a link to the HSE’s unplanned pregnancy website, myoptions.ie,  on its “support website”. The site has a comprehensive database of helplines relating to various issues including depression, suicide, addiction and domestic abuse.

The link to myoptions.ie – an online resource that contains “information on all your options, including continued pregnancy supports and abortion services” – is featured under “Crisis Pregnancy” on RTÉ’s helpline list, along with a link to Cura, which closed its services in June 2018.

Decisions about whether information or helplines are provided to viewers after a broadcast are made on “a case by case” basis, according to an RTÉ spokesperson.