A Little Too Much Reality TV

Posted: Apr 22, 2004 12:00 AM

How?s this for ?reality TV ?? Tuesday night a British network televised an abortion.

In a documentary titled ?My Foetus,? England?s Channel 4 showed a London doctor using the ?vacuum pump? method on a woman who was four weeks pregnant?then placing the aborted fetus on a Petri dish. The documentary also displayed fetuses terminated at 10 through 21 weeks?when limbs and a face are clearly visible.

What?s behind something so grotesque? For one thing, it?s Western culture?s jadedness. What shocked us yesterday has become commonplace, so we descend another step into once-forbidden territory to ?get a buzz? today. Deviancy continues to be defined downward.

But the problem is even deeper. Josephine Quintavalle, director of Britain?s pro-life Comment on Reproductive Ethics, noted that even the title of the program was spin-doctored: ? . . . if anybody has ever heard a pregnant woman talking about her ?foetus,? I?d like to meet them. Every pregnant woman talks about her baby. The title dehumanizes the issue and denies the foetus a voice.?

The program?s producer, Julia Black, had an abortion at age 21, and her father founded an abortion clinic. She told the London Telegraph, ?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.?

Ms. Black explained that her abortion forced her to acknowledge that ?abortion ends the life? of what she euphemistically calls ?a potential human being.? Wednesday?s Telegraph added, ?But as a second?wanted?baby took shape inside her, she began to wonder if the 180,000 British women who opted for abortion each year were fully informed when they made their choice.? Sounds like she was becoming pro-life and going to warn others.

Black, you see, decided that a woman needs ?to be convinced that abortion is a morally legitimate procedure, even after knowing what it involves.? So she took viewers on her journey of learning to accept abortion as legitimate. She believed in showing real images and would ?engage with the reality? in order to deny that reality and, therefore, dull the consciences of hundreds of thousands of women.

The same technique showed up at a pro-abortion conference this year in the United States , where the conferees watched a partial-birth abortion actually performed. When the operation was over and the baby dead, they applauded. The strategy seems to be to shock our consciences for a moment in order to anesthetize them for a lifetime.

Another event with similar aims is scheduled for Washington this coming Sunday. A coalition calling itself ?March for Women?s Lives? is organizing what they call a massive demonstration on behalf of women. It alleges that ?the lives and health of women? are imperiled by any restriction on the ?right? to terminate what they say is a ?product of conception.?

I hope the result of the television production ?My Foetus? and this upcoming march will be a strong sense of revulsion. Yet we have to remember that this is an age in which evil is portrayed as good, even with something so grotesque as an abortion performed on television. But it is why it is so important for you and I to speak out as Christians and to argue lovingly and gently that life is a gift from God.

For further reading and information:

Helen Brown, ? Bloody reality of abortion brought to our living rooms ,? Telegraph (London), 21 April 2004.

?Should Channel 4 air My Foetus? ? Telegraph (London), 19 April 2004 (reader reaction).

??There are only two categories of human being: wanted and unwanted,? ? Telegraph (London), 18 April 2004.

Hugh Davies, ? Channel 4 defends plan to screen an abortion ,? Telegraph (London), 5 April 2004.

?Church leader supports TV abortion ,? Telegraph (London), 14 April 2004.

Jason Hopps, ? TV Abortion Footage Stirs Debate in Britain ,? Reuters, 19 April 2004.

Read transcript highlights  from National Abortion Federation, et al. v. Ashcroft, the partial-birth abortion court case (warning: graphic descriptions). ( Adobe Acrobat Reader  required.) Also see the trial notebook  from the American Center for Law and Justice.

Learn more about Comment on Reproductive Ethics .

See the ?March for Women?s Lives!? website.

Deborah Zabarenko, ? Abortion Rights March Could Bring Thousands,? Reuters, 21 April 2004.

Fred de Miranda, MD, FCP, ? When Human Life Begins,? American College of Pediatricians, 17 March 2004.

Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle II : ?Vice is a monster of so frightful mien/As to be hated need but to be seen;/Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,/We first endure, then pity, then embrace.?

See BreakPoint commentaries ? Irreplaceable? and ? Spin Control .?

Charles A. Donovan, ? Good Things to Life,? BreakPoint Online, 15 April 2003.

Peter Kreeft, Three Approaches to Abortion (Ignatius Press, 2002).

Robert Hart, ? Her Mother?s Glory,? Touchstone, January/February 2004.

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