A piece by Matthew Moore, Media Correspondent, in today’s Times:
Call the Midwife has become embroiled in an abortion row after two Royal Colleges criticised the BBC for refusing to provide viewers information about terminations.
In last week’s episode of the long-running medical period drama a character died as a result of complications from an illegal backstreet abortion.
At the end of the programme viewers affected by the issues raised were encouraged to visit the BBC Action Line, which provides advice on sensitive topics featured in the corporation’s programmes.
However, several viewers spotted that the Action Line website does not feature any information on abortion on links to outside sites in its section on “pregnancy-related issues”. When questioned about the omission, the BBC said that it considered abortion to be a contentious issue and did not want to be seen to be taking a side.
Today a coalition of women’s healthcare organisations and Royal Colleges have written to the national broadcaster demanding its ban on providing information about abortion is reviewed.
“Abortion is not a ‘contentious issue’ — it is a routine part of NHS-funded healthcare, provided by doctors, nurses and midwives every day in hospitals and clinics across the country,” they write.
“In barring information the BBC is in effect ‘supporting one side’ by treating abortion as different to all the other medical procedures and conditions the BBC chooses to include. This is highly stigmatising for the healthcare professionals we represent and the women we care for.” [J4MB: So killing unborn children should NOT be treated as “different to all the other medical procedures and conditions”? These people cannot have the moral compasses that most people do.]
The letter has been signed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas), Brook, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, the Family Planning Association, Marie Stopes UK, the Royal College of Midwives, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The signatories praised Call the Midwife for handling the issue of abortion “extremely sensitively and courageously” and emphasised that the complaint was solely directed at the BBC Action Line.
The line received almost 400,000 calls or visits last year and was promoted on air 400 times. It provides information on sensitive issues, including bereavement, addiction, gender identity and self-harm.
The abortion issue was first raised with the BBC by bpas, the reproductive choice charity.
In its response, the corporation said: “It isn’t possible for the BBC Action Line to offer support for abortion and similarly contentious issues without referring people either to campaigning organisations which take a particular stance on an issue or to organisations which provide it.
“Doing so could imply the BBC supported one side or another in any contentious issue, which it does not do in its coverage.
“However, as the current storyline in Call the Midwife also raises issues of miscarriage, pregnancy-related depression and bereavement, it was felt that support should be offered for viewers who might be affected.”
The Times has contacted the BBC for comment. Call the Midwife, about a group of nurses working in the East End of London, was first broadcast in 2012 and is in its eighth series.
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