Friday 1 August 2008

BBC says it aims to provide balance of opinion on abortion

When Ms Diane Abbott MP announced her intention to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill to extend British abortion law to Northern Ireland, BBC Radio 4 gave her a pretty clear run. According to one of our supporters, she was on the Today programme on the 23rd of last month and there was no-one there to put the opposing view. Mr James Naughtie, the interviewer (pictured), was apparently neutral on the matter.

Our supporter wrote to the BBC to ask about their supposed commitment to editorial balance. They replied: " … our aim isn't to provide a balance of opinion within a single news report or programme, but to do so over a period of time across our entire radio, television and internet news output."

Well, on many items that are far less important than abortion and Northern Ireland, you'll find the BBC getting people into the studio, or down the line, or in the radio-car to give the other point of view. Even if we take the BBC at their word, I wonder just how balanced the coverage they give to this matter will be, between now and the autumn when the bill comes back to parliament. If you see or hear the BBC reporting on abortion and Northern Ireland during the next couple of months, tell me if you think their reporting was fair.

The kind of thing to watch out for is untrue claims going unchallenged like Diane Abbott claiming, as I blogged recently, that there is a terrible backstreet abortion problem in Northern Ireland when, in reality, it has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the UK. A pro-life spokesperson, as well as providing the facts which expose Diane Abbott's claim, could point to the recent statement from former abortionist Bernard Nathanson, reported by Pat Buckley last week, repeating the admission Nathanson made in his book "Aborting America": "We claimed that between five and ten thousand women a year died of botched abortions," he said. "The actual figure was closer to 200 to 300 and we also claimed that there were a million illegal abortions a year in the United States and the actual figure was close to 200,000. So, we were guilty of massive deception." These kinds of false claims have played a massive role in persuading politicians around the world to legalize abortion - and the BBC, in SPUC's experience, is one of the worst offenders in promoting such claims. Let's see how they get on in providing a balanced opinion in the run-up to possible votes in Parliament in October which could strip the unborn child throughout the whole of the UK of the virtually the last vestige of protection.