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Last Updated: Monday, 5 April, 2004, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Channel 4 defends abortion film
Pro-life campaigners
The film also questions tactics used by anti-abortion campaigners
Controversial footage of a woman undergoing an abortion is to be screened in a Channel 4 documentary.

The programme, called My Foetus, will include a clip of the vacuum pump abortion and footage of the four-week old aborted foetus on a petri dish.

People speaking for and against abortion will also be interviewed in the 30-minute programme on 20 April.

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 defended the programme, saying it would bring the abortion debate "up to date".

Footage to be shown on My Foetus also includes an inspection of aborted foetal remains of a seven week pregnancy and images of 10, 11 and 21 week aborted foetuses.

I think the pro-choice movement can no longer rely on just arguing abortion is a woman's right
Julia Black, film-maker

The programme, by film-maker Julia Black, will be broadcast in a late night slot on Channel 4 at the end of April.

Ms Black said seeing the actual physical reality of abortion will help people fully confront the issue of abortion.

She said: "One in three women in Britain will have an abortion but we continue to shy away from the reality of the procedure."

"I think the pro-choice movement can no longer rely on just arguing abortion is a woman's right. They have to start engaging with the reality a foetus is destroyed.

"Equally I question whether it is right for the pro-lifers to skew the debate using images of aborted foetuses in their campaigns which are purely designed to shock and repulse."

The 1967 Abortion Act made abortions legal in the UK
There are 180,000 abortions a year in the UK
87% of abortions take place before 12 weeks
The legal limit of abortion is 24 weeks

Senior Catholics welcomed the decision by Channel 4.

Archbishop Peter Smith, of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: "Television images of an abortion, disturbing and repulsive as they undoubtedly would be, could prove a powerful anti-abortion message, highlighting the full horror of abortion.

"Everyone, especially women, has a right to know what abortion really involves."

The abortion procedure shown in the film is performed by a doctor at a Marie Stopes clinic in London and the woman having the procedure is not identified.

It will also show a number of images of aborted foetuses used by anti-abortion campaigners.

'Censored' images

During the 1997 and 2001 general elections Channel 4 and other broadcasters refused to broadcast images of aborted foetuses which formed part of the ProLife Alliance's party election broadcasts on the grounds the images would breach regulations.

Channel 4 commissioning editor Jess Search said: "We don't believe there is ever an argument for total censorship and we believe that, carefully contextualised, it is right to show this footage."

The ProLife Alliance called Channel 4's decision to show the images "hypocritical".

In a statement, the organisation said: "Channel 4 is the very same television channel who were the most vigorous opponents of our abortion party election broadcast.

"They will in effect allow the public to see images which they have censored for the past seven years.

"Channel 4's defence that the images are now being shown in an acceptable context is absolute humbug."

TV victory for anti-abortion lobby
14 Mar 02  |  Politics

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