Tags: U.K. | Pro-Life | Party | Wants | Show | Aborted | Babies

U.K. Pro-Life Party Wants To Show Aborted Babies in Election Ad

Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM

The Pro-Life Alliance went to the High Court in London after the BBC refused to screen its general election broadcast on the grounds it contravened its guidelines on "taste and decency" and could offend viewers.

UK law allows political parties who exceed a minimum number of candidates in an election campaign to make short information ads to be screened on public television. The PLA is fielding a sufficient number of candidates in Wales - although not in England and Scotland - and has produced a film to be shown in that part of the country.

But the BBC turned it down, pointing to a requirement in its charter that it not broadcast material "which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or lead to disorder, or be offensive to public feeling."

During the 1997 election campaign, the PLA challenged a similar BBC decision but failed, and its film was eventually broadcast with images of aborted babies blacked out.

This time, the PLA says, the footage is less graphic, but still shows the consequences of a first-trimester abortion.

Since 1997, British law has been brought in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, and the party intends to challenge the BBC on human rights grounds, a PLA representative explained before the hearing began.

"This is about basic human rights - the right to life of the preborn child and our right as a political party to show the voters the reality of this barbaric practice," he said.

David Anderson, a human rights lawyer appearing for the PLA, told the court the party wanted to place abortion onto the agenda, and to do so it was necessary "to let people know what is involved in this commonly-performed operation that is, of course, lawful and the majority of cases paid for out of public funds."

The pictures were necessary to bring home to people the reality of abortion.

Lawyer for the BBC, David Pannick, said the Pro-life Alliance was not being "hindered" from saying what it liked about abortion.

"It is only being prevented from broadcasting particularly unpleasant images into people's homes."

Speaking from the organization's offices, another PLA official, Josephine Quintavalle said she found the BBC's reasoning ludicrous.

"'Taste and decency' are quite abstract and subjective terms," she said, adding that television programming in the UK included material many people found highly offensive.

"I can't tell you some of the things that have been shown on television. The hypocrisy of saying that a widely-performed operation offends against taste and decency when you're just showing the nation what they're about - it's an untenable position.

"It reflects the denial in this country," Quintavalle said. "They do not want to know about abortion and are finding any which way to block the public access to this information. We live very much in a visual communications situation where people will only be moved if they see things. It is shocking - because abortion is shocking." 'From embryo to natural death'

Formed in 1996, the Pro-Life Alliance describes itself as Europe's first pro-life political party.

Its manifesto commits it to working for "secure legislation which confers the full protection of the law on all human life from the one cell embryo stage until natural death."

It would like to see abortion, euthanasia, cloning and embryonic experimentation banned, wants pro-life education, and would oppose foreign aid to bodies which promote abortion.

During the last election the PLA fielded 55 candidates. It had fared "not very well," Quintavalle said, achieving no more than 2.4 per cent of the vote in some constituencies.

"But we don't mind," she said, adding that the PLA was putting abortion onto the agenda, getting the issue onto newspaper front pages and radio news programs.

Abortion is not a major electoral issue in the UK. Even the Conservatives do not have a policy on the subject in its platform, and members are entitled to a free conscience vote if abortion comes up in a parliamentary vote.

"We're saying there's no option over life issues," Quintavalle said. "It can't be a conscience vote. You can have a private opinion on [Britain's role in] Europe, but you can't have a private opinion on matters of life and death."

Quintavalle is one of 39 candidates standing in the June 7 election, in her case for a central London constituency currently held by a senior lawmaker on the left of the Conservative Party, Michael Portillo.

The PLA has also taken its campaign beyond electoral politics. It won a judicial review earlier this year of the government decision to legalize embryonic cloning and manipulation for research purposes.

It also supported the parents of conjoined twins in a legal battle to prevent doctors from separating them, at the cost of the weaker twin's life. The operation eventually went ahead.


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The Pro-Life Alliance went to the High Court in London after the BBC refused to screen its general election broadcast on the grounds it contravened its guidelines on taste and decency and could offend viewers. UK law allows political parties who exceed a minimum number...
Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM
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