A few years ago, Fenton Bailey was in a pitch meeting with Channel 4’s Dorothy Byrne, in London, when she came up with the idea for “the ultimate reality show”–an abortion. “It was horrifyingly simple, but difficult to execute,” Bailey remembers. “It would have been necessary, for example, to wire the fetus up to see if it felt pain.” Bailey says that, though he thought of himself as cutting edge, eager to make the kind of films no one else would dare to make, he had met his waterloo.
That film, however, airs tonight on Channel 4. Titled My Foetus, its screening will mark the first time an abortion has been shown on British television. Of course it has sparked controversy, with the British press chiming in with viewer polls.
Channel 4 is planning to screen an abortion in its entirety, three years after it said that pictures of the aftermath of one were “offensive to public feeling”. The five-minute film shows a London doctor adopting the manual “vacuum pump” method on a woman who was four weeks pregnant. Viewers will be shown the aborted foetus being placed on a petri dish.
Filmmaker Julia Black says, “I wanted to kickstart debate by allowing both sides of the argument to actually look at what an abortion is.”