By Julia Black
April 12, 2004
I understand from Ellie Lee's comment that there is a
lot of confusion as to what my film My Foetus is all
about. (See http://www.prochoiceforum.org.uk/ocrwomex1.php)
When I began to make this
film over a year ago I set out to explore the rights of the
woman versus the rights of the foetus and use my pregnancy
as a vehicle to do so. I started doing research and found
that many people in the pro-choice camp had been saying, for
a number of years, that we had to be more honest about what
abortion actually is.
As I was pregnant I was following
the development of my foetus very closely and for the first
time in my life actually began to listen to the other side
of the argument. As the daughter of the founder of Marie Stopes
International, I have seen the important role abortion plays
in giving women the right to control their own fertility and
hence their futures. But I began to realise that my pro-choiceness,
which I would defend aggressively, was founded on ignoring
what the opposition had to say. My perception of the anti-abortion
movement was based on knowing doctors in America who have
24 hour security and body guards to protect them from the
anti-abortion terrorisms that goes on. So although I had all
my reasons as to why abortion was a woman's right to choose
I hadn't necessarily ever tested it by looking at abortion
from the perspective of destroying the foetus and then defending
The more I talked to people
about the film I was setting out to make, my rights versus
my foetus, I realised the more powerful film was the challenge
I was facing as a result of my own pregnancy. Could I look
at the facts about abortion and still be pro-choice? How strong
was my conviction that a woman's right to abortion far out
weighs the fact abortion destroys a potential human being?
To do this I started researching
what it was the anti-abortion groups were actually saying.
I went on all their websites to confront the graphic and grotesque
images of aborted foetuses. I constantly came across the accusation
that there was a cover up going on among the pro-choice movement
and majority pro-choice media. If people knew the truth about
abortion they would join the fight to make it illegal.
I realised that their most
powerful weapon was the fact that these images were censored.
If I showed their images they would be left with their extreme
views that abortion is genocide, the modern day holocaust,
or that women are victims at the hands of abortion doctors
forced to murder their babies. These views wouldn't wash with
the majority of the public because if one in three women were
having an abortion at some stage during their reproductive
lifetime then they knew they were not collaborating with doctors
to systematically murder their foetuses. They were having
abortions because, like me, there was one reason or another
they could not cope with bringing a baby into this world.
So I made my first port of
call to the USA to interview an American Pro-life campaigner
who drives a huge 20ft by 13 ft truck around with images of
ten and eleven week old aborted foetuses plastered over the
sides and back. These are the first images the viewer encounters
and they are clearly designed to shock and repulse.
From here I met up with an
abortion doctor who talks about why he believes in performing
abortions, despite the fact that in the late stages they are
unpleasant to do. Some of what he says is extremely uncomfortable
listening but it is the reality of abortion. He doesn't skirt
around the issues of what abortion is and is among the most
committed pro-choice people I have ever met.
Next I met up with a young
pro-life woman who was arrested for campaigning with an image
of a 21 week old aborted foetus. I wanted to interview her
because I believed that it was wrong she was arrested. Was
abortion only secure in this country if we locked up those
who challenged us with the difficult reality?
When I was editing my film
I deliberated about whether I should show this image. It is
disturbing. It looks like a dead baby. But if my film was
about me challenging my pro-choiceness to see if it stood
the test how could I then censor what the viewer saw because
I deemed it too distasteful for them to see. If they had decided
to come on my journey with me then they had to also see it.
Immediately after the image
is shown my commentary talks about how the image makes me
angry because it only tells one side of the story. By this
stage in the filming process I was heavily pregnant. The idea
of having to be faced with aborting my own foetus at 21 weeks
was a horrendous thought. It would be the most impossible
decision and one that would stay with you forever. But these
images do only make you see one side of the story and that
is why they are such a powerful weapon in the anti-abortion
propaganda. The pro-choice movement don't have the counter-weapon
because women don't talk about having abortions - its still
so heavily stigmatised.
The pro-choice people I had
been talking to as part of my research or within my film were
being extremely honest about abortion. This is what presented
me and ultimately I believe for the viewer too, with the biggest
challenge - not the images. They are disturbing and confronting
but they are the reality of abortion.
The challenge both pro-life
people I interviewed for my film set me was "if there
is nothing wrong with abortion why do they resist showing
it." I agree. The pro-choice movement is constantly saying
that abortion is a fact of life, women can make responsible
decisions about having an abortion, its such a simple procedure
in the early stages, so indeed why has it not been shown on
TV before? I had many conversations about whether filming
an abortion was the right thing to do and ultimately my conversations
with Marie Stopes International, British Pregnancy Advisory
Service and Kings College Hospital concluded that it was.
They all felt it was time to remove the veil of secrecy that
surrounds it and demystify the procedure.
My film is not a gratuitous
attempt to shock nor is it plastered with images of aborted
foetuses. It presents the facts about abortion as told by
abortion doctors and shows three images of aborted foetuses
as used by the anti-abortion campaigners and observes the
final POC inspection after the abortion procedure. This is
all set within the context of interviews with the people I
met along the way and my own journey of working through the
emotional contradictions that looking at the facts of abortion
throws up for someone who is pro-choice. I don't give any
easy answers in my film but conclude that I am still pro-choice
and leave it up to the viewer to make up their own minds.
It is a challenging film because
the reality of abortion is very confronting. What I hope it
can achieve is that the pro-choice movement can reclaim the
most powerful weapon the anti-abortion groups currently have
- the foetus and the baby.
For me after having made this
film pro-choice now means not being afraid to talk about the
reality of abortion, or about having had one, and not hiding
it within the politically correct slogan of reproductive rights.
If we really believe there is nothing wrong with abortion
- which I still do - then lets be upfront about it.
If the public see this film
will they switch camps? Yes some of them might but not necessarily
from pro-choice to pro-life. I appeared on Richard & Judy
the other night and they had shown the film to a group of
young people. Two of them who had previously been anti-abortion
came away having changed their minds to pro-abortion after
seeing the film and discussing it with the group. So yes we
can look at the facts about abortion and still be pro-choice
and better still even become pro-choice.
I hope the abortion movement
can embrace this film once they have had the chance to watch
it and begin to help the generations of men and women who
have grown up post the 1967 Abortion Act redefine what being
pro-choice means for them.