BBC Complaint: Abortion on Trial

Life's submission to the BBC following the airing of 'Abortion on Trial' on 16th October 2017.

BBC Complaints
PO Box 1922


Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to complain about the incredibly biased programme aired on BBC 2 last night titled “Abortion on Trial” and request that it be removed from the BBC Iplayer and not be rebroadcast.
Promoted as a balanced programme with its presenter Anne Robinson saying it would be guided by “honesty and candour”, the programme when aired, was anything but balanced or objective in both its composition and content.

Composition of the Programme

The programme featured nine interviewees. Of these only one was prolife. Another interviewee, who held some pro-life views, was also featured, but he was heavily criticised by the other seven to the point where one simply dismissed him as a “nice lad with crap ideas”.

The presenter of the programme Anne Robinson also did not hide the fact that she was pro-abortion. At one point referring to abortion still being illegal, she asked the architect of the abortion act, Lord Steel, “that can’t be right can it?”

Effectively what ensued was an hour long advocacy of abortion and easier access to it, from a group of nine, including Anne Robinson. The two interviewees with pro-life views came under consistent attack for their views.

To drive the abortion agenda even further, a number of guests were invited to help present a favourable a case for abortion. Lord Steel and Dianne Mundy were both called to describe their fight for abortion rights in the 1960s and were applauded for their efforts by the programme’s pro-abortion panel.

No one who fought against the legalisation of abortion was featured.

A professor was called who dismissed the idea of the unborn child feeling pain by declaring that we could only say the baby was feeling pain if it was able to speak and say it was. A logical extension of her argument would have been that it was doubtful that newborn babies could feel pain because they couldn’t tell us they did. But then we could not have hoped for Anne Robinson to ask anything along that line.

There has been much research proving fetal pain. It is out of the recognition that the fetus does feel pain, that currently babies operated on, in-utero, are now administered an analgesic before surgery. If the topic of fetal pain was going to be properly discussed why wasn’t anyone brought on the programme to present the evidence on fetal pain?


The issue of depression and the psychological impact of abortion was not properly discussed. One woman told of being “haunted by abortion”. Yet the programme made no attempt to understand why this was the case. Even Anne Robinson made no attempt to explain why she felt “ashamed” 5o years after her abortion. When the token man on the panel suggested that women who have repeated abortions may actually need psychological support he was heavily criticised with one of the panellists storming off .

Life has spent over four decades counselling women in crisis pregnancy. It is a fact that there are sometimes mental health issues which need to be addressed for women undergoing repeated abortions. Simply offering them abortion after abortion does nothing to resolve these issues. Why did the programme simply dismiss this aspect of the abortion debate and not interview anyone who has counselled women in crisis pregnancy?

To further advance her case for abortion Anne Robinson, then plucked the figure of of 80,000 back street abortions being done before abortion became legal in 1967. Where did she get this figure from? Data on abortions when they were illegal was not collected, so how did Anne Robinson arrive at this figure? Is the BBC now in the business of making up statistics in order to promote certain causes?

Oddly enough, the programme went from justifying the legalisation of abortion because of backstreet abortions, to then advocating DIY abortions at home. Having abortions at home exposes women to physical and mental risks, not least of which is acute haemorrhaging and having to deal with disposal of the tiny unborn child after the abortion. Two of the participants on the programme spoke of how disturbed they were by what they had seen after the abortion. Of course, we could not have expected the programme to show the similarity between this and back street abortions. In fact Anne Robinson ends her one hour gift for the abortion industry by promoting DIY abortions saying it couldn’t be right that women are not allowed to do this at home.

The BBC is supposed to be an objective institution observing the highest standards of journalism. This programme conflicts with that ethos. It did not examine the abortion issue as the title suggests. It was simply a programme of advocacy for easier and greater access to abortion which exploits the emotional experiences of a group of women to achieve its objective. It is devoid of any attempt at proper investigative journalism. Coming at a time when the multi-million-pound abortion industry is lobbying at all levels for abortion on demand, this would appear to be the BBC’s contribution to that campaign. As a taxpayer funded entity, we expect the BBC to observe the principle of fairness and objectivity in its coverage of controversial issues. We ask that it does not do a repeat broadcast of this programme and to remove it from the BBC iPlayer.


Mark Bhagwandin,

Senior Education Officer

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12 people are talking about BBC Complaint: Abortion on Trial

  1. Jo Sparkes says:

    I watched this programme last year and was sickened by the callousness of the women discussing it, and their pro abortion attitudes. The man on there who said he had begged his partner to keep their little baby and to please not get rid of it, was silenced as quickly as possible, both by the host Anne Robinson and the other so called 'women', who swarmed round him like wasps that were determined to sting like never before. I was so sad for the voiceless victims in all this, the defenceless babies !!!!!

  2. elizabeth stacey says:

    I have just returned from holiday and thinking I was going to watch an informed discussion on abortion was sadly disappointed. All we were presented with was a bunch of extremely angry, self-absorbed and damaged women ramrodding their guilt on the two pro-life candidates. Any argument regarding the fact of the rights of the unborn child was completely ignored and the proposition that this is a problem only for religious people was of course presented. There are many people who are not religious who realize the value and dignity of human life. Even more surprising was the discussion by two seemingly intelligent women regarding the 'product' of their abortion - what did they think they were getting rid of? I did feel extremely sorry for the token male candidate whose argument was perfectly feasible in our modern society ' why shouldn't men have equal rights, as their contribution is 50%;. The effect on womens' mental health in later life is well documented by Mind but of course this was not mentioned which was probably just as well as there were a lot of already emotionally wounded women on that programme.

  3. Peter Sullivan says:

    Dear Professor Savage,

    Many thanks for your comment.

    For someone who has personally performed over 10,000 abortions, and who has always been a strident advocate of abortion, I can see why you would say that the vast majority of people in the UK believe that abortion should be available on-demand up-to-birth (essentially what 'between a doctor and woman' means in practice). I would, however, be very interested in the origin of any polls which suggest this and would be grateful if you would point me in their direction.

    Interestingly, the poll which the BBC commissioned in conjunction with 'Abortion on Trial' told a very different story of the public's opinion of abortion. One of the most striking results from that poll was that only 4% of people (from a total of over 2000) said that they believed abortion should be available to a woman if she believes that a child would be an inconvenience (which I believe would fall under the category of being a matter between a woman and her doctor).

    It's incorrect to say that most people in the UK believe abortion should be available in all circumstances... and I believe it's equally incorrect to say that those who oppose abortion should only be represented 2/10 on abortion-related programmes etc.

    Something which you suggested in your comment was that 1) women who are sure about their decision to have an abortion don't regret their decision and 2) the women who do regret their decision are women who weren't sure about it / were coerced into having the abortion by those around them.

    I recently came across the below blog on the mental health charity Mind's website and I believe it speaks volumes in opposition to the presumption that 'women who suffer weren't sure in the first place'.

    Because I'm aware that I personally don't usually follow links when people send them on a forum like this, please find below a quote from the blog:

    "Straight away I knew that there was no way I would keep the baby. I assumed that because I was so certain on this decision that the procedure itself would be a relief for me. I was told at the clinic time and time again that "most women feel a sense of relief."

    However, once the abortion had been carried out I was left with this horrible feeling of what now?

    I had never questioned the morality of abortion before but when it comes to your own body you start to think about things differently. I was left with more questions that I could possibly answer and a sense of disbelief due to the complete shock of being pregnant.

    I carried on going to work as normal but found myself feeling trapped in the office, experiencing, shaking, chest pain and at its worst a sense of being outside of my own body. I was completely unable to function, I didn't care about anything and people at work had started to notice. It was at this point that I decided to leave the job.

    The depression became my only friend in a time when I felt increasingly isolated. I would come home get into bed and stay there until the next day, with just my spiralling thoughts for company."

    As you can see, the young woman who had the abortion was not ambivalent in the slightest about having the abortion. Yet she was taken to what, in my view, is the darkest place imaginable for a human being- suicidal despair.

    If abortion is the equivalent of the 'extraction of bunions' as Professor Regan of the RCOG has put it, the experience of the young woman who wrote this blog, and thousands of other women like her doesn't make sense. Why would someone, who had never questioned the morality of abortion, suffer so grievously following the procedure?

    The answer to this is more important than the results of any BBC poll. Politicians, pro-abortion campaigners, NGOs and, unfortunately, even doctors have tried to hide the answer to this question, much to the detriment of women. Abortion is the taking of the life of an innocent human being.

    Whether someone believes that this is what abortion entails or whether someone believes that the human's life being taken is not valuable seems to make little difference.

    The act of the taking of an innocent human life leaves a mark on those involved. Even if it's not obvious immediately afterwards, as was the case with the young woman who wrote the blog for Mind's website. I believe that studies such as those by researcher Professor David Fergusson confirm this fact.

    While I'm not sure a public debate on a forum like this would be appropriate, please do feel free to contact me on my email address which is .

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment,


  4. Wendy Savage says:

    Interesting that no-one has commented on the positive way that Anne Robinson attempted to present the reality of legal abortion. The fact is that when polled, the majority of the British public 70-80% in recent years agree that the woman should make the abortion decision in consultation wth her doctor. Less than 10% are against all abortion so having one man and one woman who regretted her decision out of 10 participants seemed reasonable. The small minority who are against all abortion tend to be active and vociferous and comments are skewed as in those above. I consider that the 1967 Act was an important public health measure of enormous benefit to women and my only criticism of the programme would be that there was too much emphasis on regret which in my experience is rare if the woman has made her own decision and has been treated as an adult. People are entitled to their views but shouldn't impose them on others.

  5. Joe hoare says:

    The programme was an outrageous deceit, posing as an unbiased neutral debate at Ann’s
    Lovely home. The panel was mainly made up of people who had had abortions and were more or less pro abortion,the exceptions a catholic woman who regretted her abortion and a confused man who felt he had no voice .the catholic women told her story and was then ignored , the man fulfilled his stereotype by upsetting a “christian” advocate for abortion. David Steele was dragged on along with another woman who was an abortion promoter in the sixties ,both received as progressive heroes .the woman later calmly stating that she saw no problem with abortions based on gender.
    There was no serious debate on the nature of the foetus,when life starts, or even if it is a life at all.i would have more respect for the bbc If it came clean and had a “celebration “of the abortion act, rather than a dishonest,twisted piece of propaganda.
    This issue is too serious to be treated in such a dishonest way,denying women the full picture without the options available.
    By the end of it Anne’s house looks tired and her lifestyle depressing

  6. David Kerr says:

    Apologies for a late response. I did watch most of the programme, but was so appalled by the imbalanced presentation that I switched it off in disgust. What most grieved me was that the contrary view of the one panelist, who had had an abortion and regretted it, was dismissed as an attempt to impose religious beliefs on others. The greatest weakness of this programme was never considering the human rights of an aborted child. I think that it is crucial in the wider debate to counter the pro-choice human rights argument with the stronger human rights case for the life of children after conception. The real human rights case is most strongly presented by asking every individual to consider what stage, after their conception, that they believe it would have been acceptable for their own mother to have had them aborted, snuffing out their existence. This might be challenged as a subjective argument but the fact, that the adult is the same individual as their unborn child self, is precisely the point - they are one and the same human individual.

  7. I never watched it but i
    have been reading about it on life.s email That is nasty of the BBC denying the humanity of the unborn Just becous they can.t speak for theirselvs and disming wimin who have hert by abortion and men greeving for their unborn bubs regarding them as male shovurnist pigs Shame on the BBC

  8. ANNIE says:

    i too wish to complain about the programme Abortion on Trial
    It was unbearable to watch due to the strident bias
    Shame on you BBC

  9. Fernanda Mee says:

    The programme is terribly biased on the pretence of being "compassionate". The lone man did not stand a chance. He was verbally abused and short of being physically assaulted by the very woman who claimed not to need psychological counselling. Although the programme was highly dramatic and emotionally charged, the issue of why is the topic so controversial in itself was never explored. The opposition to abortion was often simply downplayed as someone's personal religious/moral beliefs that should not be imposed on others. Never mind that a human life is lost every time an abortion takes place. According to the BBC mantra, it is always "my body, my choice". Never mind that the new life is not part of a woman's body; to raise such an issue is to be dismissed and opposed vehemently - the man grieving the loss of fatherhood was assumed to be a ,male chauvinist trying to control women's lives.

  10. Monica Oliver says:

    I too complained to the BBC about the biased nature of this programme and the promotion it clearly gave to ease of access for abortion. The complete denial of the right to life of the unborn child was horrific and indeed the lack even of acknowledgement of their existence. The glossing over and denial of the trauma, psychological and health issues of abortion at all its levels was unbelievable - as for the statistics used in an attempt to justify their promotion of abortion !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I also agree this programme should be taken off air. The reply I received from the BBC complaints department after sending my complaint was a generic reply to all the complaints they had received and answered none of the points I raised

    1. Emma Green says:

      I've complained to the BBC loads of times about anti Christian, specifically Catholic bias in their reporting and like you just receive bland generic letters back. I've given up now. Unfortunately the top echelons of the Beeb appear populated by liberal metropolitan athiest elites for whom "liberal" means the opposite. My husband and I don't watch the Beeb now if we can help it. Galling though that we still have to pay the licence fee.

  11. Maeve Barnes says:

    I agree with Life's take on this programme. I was appalled by it.
    The most powerful way to convince the public of the truth behind the reality of abortion is from the mouths of women who have been through it and have subsequently been given the support and space to speak up and admit that they regret it. The trouble is, these are the last people to contact Life or spuc or similar group. They feel judged; they are in denial and want to bury the event. The World at One (R4) today was interesting. Aisling Hubert spoke very well as did the woman (I didn't catch her name) who expressed regret in having had an abortion in the past. The phrases used by the professionals in the abortion clinic would have been laughable if they weren't so chilling in their denial: 'there are two STYLES of abortion', they speak of 'treatment rooms' and 'products of conception' . The midwife described abortion and childbirth as 'two sides of the same coin'!! They actually admitted that many women feel guilty and that's why they use clinical language ... when will our society accept that guilt is a real and important human response - it's there for a reason!
    Is there an online petition regarding this issue of relaxing the law? David Steele states that those who believe life begins at conception are in a minority... how does he know this?

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