Channel 4’s Dispatches programme ‘Britain’s Abortion Extremists’ aired in October 2016. The programme shed light on the extreme beliefs and behaviour of some anti-abortion groups active in the UK today. One of the organisations investigated was Abort67, which targets women directly outside pregnancy advice and abortion centres, including those run by bpas. Subsequently Abort67 instructed solicitors to make a complaint to Ofcom about their portrayal in the programme. Abort67 believed its members were treated unjustly by the programme on the basis that:
a) Footage had been edited to give the impression that they were engaging in “obstreperous, uncompassionate, gratuitous misbehaviour” that was “tantamount to criminal conduct"
b) The programme falsely accused them of deliberately filming women using abortion services through the body cameras they wear
c) They were not given appropriate opportunity to respond to the claims made about their activities
Today, Ofcom rejected Abort67’s complaint that they had been treated unjustly.
Clare Murphy, bpas Director of External Affairs, said:
“There are several important points made in Ofcom’s ruling about this programme, which very fairly depicted the activities of Abort67 outside UK abortion clinics. In their conclusion Ofcom rejects Abort67’s nonsensical claim that when they wear cameras pointed at clinics they are simply “filming themselves”. Abort67 has long-held that their members are not filming with an intent to alarm women, but as Ofcom notes: ‘by using the body cameras in the way that the Abort 67 representatives did…Abort 67 knew, or ought to have known, that they would be capturing footage of women who were attending those premises.’ While it is difficult to believe that Abort67 are not deliberately trying to frighten women, the reality is that pointing their cameras directly at clinics can cause distress and anxiety for patients accessing a confidential service.
“It is also interesting to note Abort67’s claim that individual testimonies from women as to how Abort67’s actions make them feel are “unsubstantiated” and as such should not have been used by the programme makers. As no experience can apparently be “substantiated” unless it tallies with Abort67’s interpretation of events, this group effectively claims women who describe their negative experience are lying. It is simply abhorrent to seek to silence women in this way. We are pleased to see Ofcom note that Channel 4 had used a range of sources to illustrate that a “material number of women expressed feelings of anger, harassment, intimidation and upset by the activities of Abort 67’.”
“There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that women attending abortion clinics in the UK are being harassed and intimidated by a small group of people with extreme views on abortion. The next government must listen to women’s voices and take action to stop this activity directly targeted at pregnant women seeking abortion services – we would not tolerate any other group being targeted in this way. We must assume that this behaviour will continue to escalate in the UK unless we take action to stop it. There are many ways and means to campaign against abortion – the space outside a clinic where women are seeking confidential help and support should not be one of them.”
For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
Ofcom published the decision today as part of their Broadcast and On Demand bulletin https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/102567/issue-330-broadcast-on-demand-bulletin.pdf
bpas is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org