A BBC Radio 5 program will be broadcast from an abortion clinic in an attempt to give a voice to the staff and patients, it has been announced.
The BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Victoria Derbyshire will host an edition of her show from an as yet unnamed clinic next month and carry out interviews with women who are undergoing pregnancy terminations, as well as doctors, counsellors and junior members of the clinic’s staff. After a period of negotiation the clinic has consented to the programme and is likely to be identified.
Speaking to The Independent, Derbyshire said: “We have asked an abortion clinic for permission to broadcast and they have agreed. We appreciate the sensitivity around it and I would hope listeners would trust us to do it carefully.” She said she believed the programme to be unprecedented and said it would “give us an insight into an area of British life which is taboo”.
“Our point on that day is to bring new insights into areas of British life.
“What we want to do is talk to everybody involved who works in a clinic – the receptionist, the doctors, the consultants, the counsellors, and, if patients agree, we will talk to them.”
The BBC is keen to stress however that this is not to be taken as them pitching for a side in the pro-choice verses anti-abortion debate, but rather that it is an attempt to offer an insight into what the clinics are like and what it is like for the people associated with them.
However, anti-abortion voices have already decried the broadcast.
But a spokeswoman for the Prolife Alliance said: “This latest initiative from the abortion lobby will inevitably provide free advertising for the organisation in question which surely cannot qualify as an exercise in objective journalism.”
Meanwhile Mark Bhagwandin, a spokesman for LIFE, said: “We strongly urge the BBC not to proceed with this programme.”
He said it was “baffling” that it was being suggested that abortion was “taboo”, given that hundreds were carried out every day.
Mr Bhagwandin added: “It seems to me that the objective of this programme would be to promote that particular abortion clinic and, by extension, the abortion industry, at a time when it is reeling from allegations of improper conduct.”
While charges of “free advertising” seem to be being thrown around rather liberally, the BBC is expressly forbidden from politicking so any actual advertizing is banned and as such the charges, being almost certainly baseless, are of little concern.
What the anti-abortion groups seem to be wary of however is the possibility that the broadcast might show the clinics in a light that no longer allows easy dehumanization and accusations that the clinics are preying on vulnerable and confused women, something that has been increasingly floated as the rhetoric surrounding abortion reform in the UK has heated up.
As suggested above, British clinics have been under investigation following a Daily Telegraph report that appeared to show some women at certain clinics having been offered sex-based terminations, something that is expressly forbidden. It is at this stage not apparent how widespread this problem is and termination providers, while absolutely condemning the practice, have said that they are confident this is not a widespread problem but that any breaking of the rules should be met with the full force of the law.
Initial feedback in this investigation seems to suggest that the overwhelming majority of care providers are indeed strictly adhering to the rules.
Religious conservative lawmakers have attempted in recent months to seek reform to Britain’s Abortion Act in order to allow religious groups to provide counselling to women prior to a termination. Following a loud outcry not just from pro-choice groups but health providers in general, the move was defeated but this did however prompt a wider review of abortion laws that not all ministers are satisfied is neutral.