new ground or political dynamite?
April 4, 2004 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Channel 4 in england are set to screen a graphic film of an abortion taking place. The programme examines the debate of abortion and gives views from both pro life and pro choice protagonists.
posted by triv (23 comments total)
The problem with using shock-tactics like this to try and convince people that anything is bad, is that it often succeeds without explaining the real reasons why. "Yeah abortion is bad." "Why?" "Because it's GROSS!"

Although I'm not pro-choice (I'm not pro-life either, I'm firmly undecided), this method of "education" is rarely good.
posted by Mwongozi at 3:35 AM on April 4, 2004

There is an unwillingness in most people to confront the fact that fetuses die during abortion (well, that's the whole point). I'm pro-choice, but I really don't like to dwell on the thought of it.

The programme sounds to me like one of those vegetarian videos that takes you inside a slaughterhouse, which is something I equally don't want to see. It doesn't stop me from eating meat though.
posted by reklaw at 3:46 AM on April 4, 2004

Channel 4 is also broadcast in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Thank you.
posted by crayfish at 4:19 AM on April 4, 2004

Sorry crayfish, no disrespect intended by that! I was catering the post for mefi members outside of the UK.

And it's early. And the dog ate my homework. And this one time, at band camp...
posted by triv at 4:38 AM on April 4, 2004

I would like to see a graphic film of a shit taking place.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:00 AM on April 4, 2004

Maybe they should also include footage of women dying after illegal abortions. And footage of unwanted neglected children, and orphans, and of families who live in poverty unable to afford child care. And maybe some footage of some government meetings where you can hear the members talk about how no money is available to help these families and children.

Something more like the entire picture.
posted by Red58 at 5:24 AM on April 4, 2004

Frontline did this 20 years ago. The episode is available online.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:45 AM on April 4, 2004

I think it is interesting that so far everyone has assumed it is some sort of pro-life film. According to the link, it sounds like it is a fairly neutral film, and the maker is quoted as wanting to challenge her own pro-choice views.
I am very strongly pro-choice, but I think there is some value in people knowing exactly what it is that happens during an abortion. I feel the same way about grisly photos from Iraq.
I think it benefits the pro choice movement in a way, too. If you know the whole truth about the issue, and you are still comfortable with your opinion, then you are in a much better position to defend yourself than someone who is avoiding the unpleasant facts.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:02 AM on April 4, 2004

As someone who is happy to eat meat, but would rather not know too much about what goes on in slaughterhouses, I don't feel I am in a very strong position to comment on this film, either for or against. But I have a bad feeling about it.

If it's being done in a spirit of "let's have an honest debate", then .. okay, with reservations. But if it's being done in a spirit of "dead foetuses = great television = £££", then .. yeeuch. Anti-abortion campaigners would do well to hesitate before jumping on this particular bandwagon.
posted by verstegan at 6:45 AM on April 4, 2004

++frog, skallas!

I am pro-choice. I also acknowledge that an abortion is the legal homocide of a human being. I further believe the decision to kill the child in her womb is a mother's natural right. That whole 'fetus' argument is nothing but rhetoric, or put more directly, horseshit.

Seeing an actual abortion is not going to hurt the pro-choicers one bit. Perhaps some will attain the self-realization that abortion is, at its base, a selfish decision and that selfishness is not at all a bad thing.
posted by mischief at 6:54 AM on April 4, 2004

See the film, buy the merchandise.
posted by mr.marx at 7:16 AM on April 4, 2004

pieoverdone, that's an excellent link.

Personally, I don't really think that a "graphic" presentation of an abortion is all that helpful. There are lots of disturbing surgical procedures, but what matters about abortion is that something is being killed. I think there are a lot of social issues that are being debated under the cover of abortion, and I also believe that if we had a way to ensure the well-being and equal chance of a good future of those being born (and I'm just talking about the United States here...this fantastical vision seems to stop at the abyss of impossibility when the horrors of the whole world are concerned) we would see less abortions. Of course, I immediately wonder why we as a society consider it a woman's duty to walk around pregnant for nine months and actually have the child. As a man I can never experience this and I don't feel I have the right to tell women they have to do it. Though, realistically, we might start with a full federal subsidy for matters concerning reproductive health (hey, I'd suggest more, but this is US I'm talking about).

So, basically, a bit of blood is meaningless and sounds like sensationalism disguised as a debating point. "Next up, heart surgery, now you've seen the graphic details, do you agree with it?"
posted by Gnatcho at 7:18 AM on April 4, 2004

I'm pro-choice, by-and-large, as long it's done during the first trimester. I tend to take the view that few women take the decision to abort lightly, and with those that do, well, there's no dissuading them. Plus the illegal alternative is often more unpleasant by an order of magnitude.

Obviously, contraception would be better, as would be a better environment to bring children into. No amount of religious brainwashing is going to stop bootywhang. I'm not even going to get into the hypocritical position of the Vatican.

Plus the UK is the most atheistic country in the world, so they're not affected so much by the superstitious BS that plagues the US, so the program's not as likely to cause civil war or the like.

And, why not stop with abortions? How about caesarians? Lobotomies? Colostomies? Lungs, riven by cancer caused by smoking, being removed? And, there are few things more bothersome than watching someone's eye being operated on. Because it's "looking" at you all the time.

(Also, there was the time me and my Venturer unit were being shown a police station, with a corridor pinboard full of photos of road trauma scenes. Yick, to put it lightly.)

I've seen a sheep being slaughtered, though this was in a paddock (the way it all used to be done) rather than in an abbatoir, and I still don't have a problem with eating meat. I die, they die. Maybe I was desensitised rather than being shocked.
posted by GrahamVM at 7:25 AM on April 4, 2004

"Wow...that didn't look so bad. You know, I was planning on carrying this baby full term, but since swimsuit season is coming..."
posted by ColdChef at 7:30 AM on April 4, 2004

But what is really the debate, if any, on ? The opportunity of showing an abortion on tv, or if abortion is something that should be forbidden or allowed ?

As long as the TV show is neutral (neither pro neither against) that's perfectly fine, as we were graciously given the "opportunity to choose" by the means of "powerful"remotes. If it is politicized (pro/against) then I want to be able to hear the opposite view as well in a -debate- not in a pseudo-documentary which is just used as a cover up for an agenda.

As for abortion itself, it's a topic worth an entire weblog so I'll not comment on a tangent.
posted by elpapacito at 7:39 AM on April 4, 2004

Unless it's flat-out documentary or something, anything with video of a surgical procedure warning about graphic images is shock tactics- just like the pro-lifers who hold up oversized photos of humanoid-shaped fetuses to invoke the idea that aborting them is bad.

I'm pro-choice and this isn't a revelation to me or anyone else: abortion is bad. No one LIKES the damn procedure. It's potentially dangerous for the woman involved and a very serious physical and psychological undertaking. For godsakes, it's surgery. It's not like we're convincing 16-year old girls it's like popping an aspirin or something. The fact that trying to show that something is bad doesn't reflect whether or not its necessary.

That said, maybe we'd change some minds if we did a show like this about the death penalty.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:06 AM on April 4, 2004

I think it is interesting that so far everyone has assumed it is some sort of pro-life film.
Indeed. It suprised a collegue of mine recently to discover that we had been shown a video of an abortion in RE at school. There was no moralising, we were simply shown the video and allowed to discuss it freely afterwards. The intent was not so much to shock, rather it was to show us that abortion isn't simply a word, it is a choice that has very serious implications. The effect on me was such that I hate the idea of abortion, but the mature way in which the issue was handled allowed us to reach our own conclusions given all the facts, and this also therefore also instilled the believe that it should be up to the individual to choose whether it is right or wrong in the specific circumstances at hand.
To be honest, until this conversation with my collegue, I hadn't considered that there was anything unusual about being shown an abortion. It wasn't pleasant, but that was the point, life often isn't pleasant. If you try and kid yourself otherwise, you'll probably end up making some bad decisions in life.
posted by chill at 8:28 AM on April 4, 2004

I wonder how much background info this show will include (along the lines of what Red58 said), and whether they'll interview the woman undergoing the procedure before and after, etc. And whether they'll include all the info on contraception available for pre-preg, and options when a woman finds herself preg (abortion, adoption, keeping the kid)--it seems that if it's really non-judgmental, it would have to include all of that.
posted by amberglow at 9:38 AM on April 4, 2004

I doubt this will change any minds - for the same reason I don't think the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate will end anytime in the near future: Because it is not, properly speaking, a debate between two sides of an issue. Or rather, perhaps they are two sides of a political argument, but they are not intellectual opposites.

Or, to put it another way, they are arguing two seperate questions. My wife and I, for instance, are both pro-life and pro-choice ... and neither of us see any contradiction in that. In other words, we both believe abortion is wrong, and would never choose it ourselves, but we also believe that such a decision is ours to make - and no outside party (including a government) would have any standing to intrude itself into our private discussions about it.

In other words, there's two issues - the first deals with the judgement one makes on the morality or immorality of abortion itself. The pro-lifers focus first on this, and conclude that it is so wrong that it should be legally outlawed.

The pro-choice folks focus first on the decision-making process itself - on the question of whether the legitimacy of the act should be decided at the personal level or the political level, and conclude it ought to be decided at the personal level.

Now this film is interesting ... any graphic display of an abortion would naturally be shift the focus to the first issue - whether or not abortion was right or wrong (which is why most of those that want to use graphic displays of abortions are pro-lifers). But the film was apparently made by a pro-choice director. That, in fact, is quite courageous.

It is only my opnion, but I guess I think the more pro-choice one is, the more one ought to vigorously - and with eyes fully open to all evidence - think through the entire issue ... because that's what the essence of the pro-choice position is: one claims the right to make the choice for oneself, and therefore also accepts the responsibility to make it an informed choice.

I doubt if the images themselves will alter very many people's opinion, but the film (in its entirety) may very well do what the filmaker intended ... at least slightly deepen what has become a formulaic debate.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:01 AM on April 4, 2004

"Yeah abortion is bad." "Why?" "Because it's GROSS!"

I suspect that the sight of a perfectly normal child birth would also gross out a lot of people.
posted by sfenders at 3:44 PM on April 4, 2004

That said, maybe we'd change some minds if we did a show like this about the death penalty.

That's a thought. You may find the radio documentary "The Execution Tapes" interesting. ("Witness to an Execution" is also powerful.) And while I was already opposed to the death penalty, running across grisly electrocution photos inadvertently while Googling for capital-punishment stats only added another reason for my opposition.
posted by Vidiot at 11:06 PM on April 4, 2004

But what is really the debate, if any, on ? The opportunity of showing an abortion on tv, or if abortion is something that should be forbidden or allowed ?

I'm not really sure if either applies. Abortion in most of the UK is basically a matter of settled law (up to 24 weeks with two doctors' consent; no limit if there is a risk to the mother's life or foetal abnormalities; NI still works on a pre-1967 basis) so perhaps this is reflective of the fact that the film-maker --- the daughter of the founder of Marie Stopes, and a supporter of abortion rights -- feels it's possible to have a more nuanced discussion than, say, in the US, where neither side feels able to give up ground: 'Black... said she wanted to challenge her own instinctive pro-choice view on abortion.

That's to say, once abortion is a matter of settled law, it might be possible for those on the 'pro-choice' side to say that, yes, foetuses at 21 weeks look like babies, and not just 'a bunch of cells'; while those on the 'pro-life' side might be able to say that, yes, there are some situations where there are no tenable options.
posted by riviera at 2:51 AM on April 5, 2004

I once saw a nothing-to-the-imagination liposuction on TV and decided that Western civilization is completely fucked.
posted by alumshubby at 6:21 AM on April 5, 2004

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