Weekly Roundup: gender-based abortion reactions, misleading ads, and a word from the Pope

Welcome to another Weekly Roundup, where each week our MediaWatch team highlights how abortion is discussed in the media at home and abroad. This week, an article from the head of a UK abortion provider has caused controversy and provided much food for thought among pro-choicers, while an interview with the pope himself has challenged the Catholic Church’s current obsession with abortion.

Gender-selection abortion makes headlines

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) wrote an article for online magazine Spiked titled ‘You can’t be pro-choice only when you like the choice’. Furedi’s piece was prompted by two things: an investigative report from The Daily Telegraph published in February 2012 that revealed doctors in UK abortion clinics do not refuse abortions when the decision is based on the gender of the foetus; and more recent comments from UK prime minister David Cameron on the failure to prosecute the doctors for these so-called ‘illegal’ abortions.

Dr Ellie Lee, director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, also writing for Spiked, already debunked the myth that these abortions are forbidden under UK legislation, as the Abortion Act 1967 is simply not that specific. “The law is silent on the matter of gender selection, just as it is silent on rape,” Furedi explains.

Furedi’s article goes further to challenge the idea that a pro-choice stance can be adopted selectively. “The big difference is this: most people who think of themselves as liberal and modern-thinking believe that rape, incest, youth, poverty or even general ‘unwantedness’ are ‘good reasons’ for doctors to approve abortion; and they think ‘sex selection’ is a bad reason, which should be stopped.”

The article has prompted further comment in the media, with people coming out both in support of and against Furedi’s statements during the week.

Misleading ad pulled

Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK pulled an advert from the Central London Women’s Centre (CLWC) following a challenge from BPAS. The ad, which targeted Irish women, was ruled to be misleading as it gave the impression that CLWC would provide abortion services when this is not the case.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Sinead Ahern from Choice Ireland explained the lack of regulation and clear labeling of crisis pregnancy agencies and called on the Government to establish a licensing system.

The Pope speaks out

In Italy, Pope Francis has spoken out in his first extensive interview since he was elected to the papacy six months ago. In Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis warned that the Catholic Church needs to find a new balance or “fall like a house of cards”.

He also criticised the Church’s obsession with gay and reproductive rights, saying, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”

The in-depth interview was published in 16 Jesuit journals, including an English translation in the America journal, and has attracted comment right across Irish media.

Ongoing action in Ireland

There will be a lot going on in the coming weeks, so you can learn, create art, march, donate, and talk about abortion access. The Dáil has reconvened and the abortion rights campaign continues in earnest in Ireland. Joining the fight is Re(al)-Productive Health, a campaign-based website that aims to promote access to emergency contraception in Ireland, and to improve reproductive rights and wellbeing more broadly for women living here.

There’s a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo seeking support for a documentary following young Irish women as they attempt to find solutions for an unexpected pregnancy. Young, Pregnant and Irish will follow the stories of three women, and funds pledged will go towards travel and accommodation expenses as well the rental of equipment for filming and post-production.

The annual conference of Doctors for Choice Ireland will be held on Saturday, September 28th in the National Women’s Council of Ireland offices in Dublin. Many doctors in Ireland are pro-choice and this conference will facilitate discussion and the sharing of opinions amongst their like-minded colleagues.

Also part of the events for the 28th of September, the March for Choice will take to the streets to remind Ireland that we will all  be here to work, speak, and share until we have access to free, safe, and legal abortion. The event will start at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance and will be MCed by none other than writer and comedian Tara Flynn. Also over that whole weekend, an exhibition, Choosing Choice: Packing Up Abortion Stigma, showcasing multimedia art and expression of abortion experiences will be running at the Exchange this Thursday the 26th through Sunday the 29th.