BY CHRISTOPHER LAMB
IN THE SAME week as the BBC offended Christians with Jerry Springer: The Opera, ITV and Channel Five aired programmes highly critical of the pro-life movement.
An episode of The Bill, which was screened on ITV last Wednesday, showed pro-life protesters unlawfully entering a hospital, spraying graffiti on wards and assaulting hospital staff and police officers.
The action centred on a “pro-life” character Christine Shand who was protesting against the destruction of embryos that she and her exhusband had frozen.
In the story she had suffered ovarian cancer and therefore would not be able to have a child without the frozen embryos.
Her ex-husband, however, had blocked her attempts to use the embryos through the courts. She had decided to protest outside the hospital where her embyros were about to be destroyed.
At one point she attempts to attack a police officer with a sharp surgical instrument and then threatens to slit her own throat if the embryos aren’t saved.
Days earlier Channel Five news sent a female undercover reporter — with a hidden camera — to the Albany Women’s Centre, north London, and Aberdeen Pregnancy Advice Service.
On both occasions she was told not to have an abortion and warned of the psychiatric and physical risks in doing so.
There was a significant chance (as high as 25 per cent), one of the counsellors said, of an abortion causing infertility.
In response, Dr John Parsons, a doctor who performs abortions at Guys Hospital, London, was shown calculating the risk at only 0.5 per cent.
The report also condemned the centres for having “hidden agendas”, giving “medically incorrect information” and subjecting women to a “barrage of information and antiabortion videos”.
But Patrick Cusworth, a research officer for Life, a prolife counselling charity, said the report was misleading and inaccurate. He said: “I know the figure between abortion and fertility is a lot higher than 0.5 per cent and a well known specialist in fertility, Dr Brent Rooney, has produced evidence to show this.
“However one views the issue of abortion surely we can agree that women deserve to be warned of the full implications of such a decision. This would include the links between abortion and breast cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and postabortion trauma.” And Fr Robert Copsey, who works in the parish of the Virgin Mother of Good Counsel said: “There was no need to send someone in disguise to find out the truth relating to matters of pregnancy. This report was unhelpful and unrepresentative, as a lot of people feel that abortion is wrong — including Muslims and non-Catholics.” Condemnation of both the programmes came from John Beyer, Director of Media Watch UK.
He said: “It seems that the media itself has an agenda on these moral questions. They are prepared to put pro-life campaigners in a negative light rather than present the facts in a considered way.” John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, was also disappointed.
He said: “These are crude caricatures of pro-lifers. What we are seeing is a sort of wishful thinking amongst those in the media who wish to depict the pro-life movement in a way they would like it to be.
“We are a movement fully engaged in the democratic process, in political debate and in trying to change hearts and minds — not the unattractive personalities they are trying to paint us as.” In response to the criticism, a spokeswoman for The Bill said: “It must be remembered that we are involved with drama and here to make viewing as entertaining and as gripping as possible. The emphasis behind last Wednesday’s episode was not meant to be directed specifically at pro-lifers and was only part of what was shown.” A spokesman for Channel Five news was unavailable for comment as The Catholic Herald went to press.