Saturday 27 July 2019

The BBC, abortion, Trump, 'Panorama' and bias

I've not had much time to blog recently but when time permits and the impulse is upon me I sometimes find myself wasting a half hour or so of my life watching something I'd never normally watch just to check out a hunch about BBC bias. (May a host of harmonious angels singing Handel rescue me!)

Thus, having just watched Big Nick Robinson's M. Barnier-friendly Panorama on Brexit, I spotted that the subsequent Panorama edition was a US-based report by Hilary Andersson (not to be confused, despite what you might think, with Hillary Clinton). 

Now, the BBC's Hilary and biased Panorama editions go together like a horse and carriage.

We've already posted two detailed posts on the subject. 

One was a jaw-dropper on the Boston bombers - Chechen Muslim immigrants - where she tried to maintain that the Boston Marathon bombers weren't really jihadists and that America's Muslims were victims too.

The other concerned an edition of Panorama that was originally going to be called 'America's Most Hated President?' until the BBC got cold feet. Guess which President Donald Trump Hilary was asking about! It was broadcast on 14 November 2016, almost two months before The Donald actually became president. Gun-toting stereotyped white male Trump supporters duly got contrasted with young minority students fearful of Trumpian racism and Hilary's narrative cannily managed to imply that the only-just-elected president-to-be was responsible for black people being shot by the US police.

Now, on seeing that the subject was 'America's Abortion Wars' and then spotting Hilary Andersson's name, I expected the programme to make a pretence of impartiality but frame the narrative so as to very firmly push the social liberal rather than the social conservative side of the matter.

And guess what? Well, this is the BBC, so it was inevitable really. Should I bother laying out the evidence then?

Well, why not?


"We ask, could women here lose the right to abortion?", was the way the introduction framed the Big Question, and Hilary immediately began by talking of abortion clinics being "under siege" and of the "vitriol".

We were then introduced to Dr. Robinson, a black, female abortionist in the Deep South who also delivers babies. She's "regularly harassed" by anti-abortionists and "she has good reason to be afraid". I immediately spotted her as the heroine of the story.

Then we meet 22 year old Sandra, who wants an abortion. She having to move states. And there's sad music to accompany her story. BBC Hilary sat in on Sandra's abortion and confessed "I found it really hard to watch", but she told us that Sandra felt "relief" and Sandra then told us that herself.

What of the change of law in rose-filled Alabamy?. As Hilary narrates the politics there the programme shows a sign commemorating Rosa Parks and her anti-racism bus boycott. Is that just for local colour, or to slyly link anti-abortionists with white supremacists? (about 8 mins in).

"You could go to jail for up to 99 years", Hilary says to our heroine, Dr. Robinson, before going on, "And it's not just Alabama. 11 other states have joined the crusade" [not a positive word in the BBC's world].

Now we meet our first anti-abortion 'talking head'. It's Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi . He doesn't get to say much, before it's onto Kathryn Kolbert, captioned as a 'reproductive rights lawyer', and the programme's main 'impartial expert'. She doesn't sound at all keen on the conservative way things are going. 

Next comes Maralyn Moseley, an elderly black women who experienced bad things, abortion-wise, in the bad old days of backstreet abortions and then became a pro-abortion campaigner. You might well guess the gist of what she said.

Time for politics, and conservatives, Trump and the US Supreme Court majority: "So could Americans lose their right to abortion?", asked Hilary. 

Kathryn Kolbert, 'reproductive rights lawyer', appeared again to say, not approvingly, that Republicans will overturn Roe v Wade.

Then it was back to Gov. Bryant: "Won't banning abortion lead to more back street abortions?", asked Hilary. 

Off then to Our Kansas, or - as some call it -Arkansas. "It's not called the Bible Belt for nothing", said Hilary. "Most people here - and most women - oppose abortion". Life begins at conception they believe and, she added, "must be preserved at almost any cost".

Time for a spot of 'BBC balance: Here's white, middle-aged Kandi, a mother of seven who had an abortion at 19 and is "still traumatised" by what happened. "Kandi turned to religion", said Hilary, and set up an adoption agency to provide women with an alternative to abortion. Kandi adopted one such unborn girl herself (Anne Marie) - a girl with an incurable skin disease who's "in constant pain" but who has already lived longer than anyone predicted. 

That sounded sympathetic from Hilary Andersson, but then came: "And even if Anne Marie's mother was raped, it makes no difference to Kandi", and she went on:
In America today the most personal matters have become political. If the Supreme Court ruling is overturned, the abortion bans in nine states will even apply to women who've been raped and to those whose children would be born with severe disabilities.
And, to counter Kandi, here came Dina from Alabama, raped at 17,who found out she was pregnant 8 months in and gave birth to a severely disabled child. She told Hilary that she loved the child, but she constantly brought back memories of the rape and her sense of women's shame, imbibed from her dad's religion (which "crushed her"). Little Zoe "had a short, painful life". Dina's "outraged" that women, even in early pregnancy, may "soon lose the right to abortion here". She would have terminated her pregnancy if she could have.
"To Governor Bryant though abortion is simply murder", Hilary said next, before asking him:

  • "You want to ban abortion even in the cases where a woman has been raped or the victim of incest. Is that right?"
  • "But just looking at the issue itself, it's a very difficult issue for a woman to carry her rapist's child".

Republican Governor Bryant was the baddie 'in the dock' on Panorama

So what of the 2020 president election? Donald Trump's recent anti-abortion remarks at a rally led Hilary Andersson to suggest electoral reasons for so doing, and her main 'talking head', Kathryn Kolbert, 'reproductive rights lawyer', accused the President of using "red meat everywhere" because "it riles up his base". Possibly echoing Panorama's use of that Rosa Parks sign earlier in the programme, Kathryn listed "white nationalists" among those supporting President Trump here.

Ah, but, as Hilary then said, "the majority of Americans - around 60% - broadly support the right for abortion". {How broadly?]

And, sticking with Donald Trump and keen to make a 'reality check' point, Hilary continued: 
And now the fight's getting really ugly. President Trump is focusing the debate around the most sensitive issue - abortions in the late stages of pregnancy, which he describes like this: 
"The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don't think so". 
What he described is not a method of abortion used in America. Over 98% of abortions take place before 21 weeks. Very late abortions are rare. Women who seek them out, often desperate."
It was then back to Dina, defending late-term abortions. 

Hilary then talked to a late-term abortion doctor from Washington DC, "one of the most staunchly pro-abortion parts of America" - Dr Leroy Carhart. She called him "one of the most controversial abortionists" and asked him "You don't have a problem with killing a baby?", but was a good deal more sympathetic towards him that she was towards the Governor of Mississippi. "He believes they're [anti-abortionists] trying to push women back into the Dark Ages".

Back then to Gov. Bryant of Mississippi then to repeat that point: "Is there a bigger picture here that you and President Trump are trying to turn the clock back, bring America back to what you see as a more moral kind of age?" 

And then came the programme's concluding passages (minus the 'talking head' clips):

  • "Dr Robinson has carried out 24 abortions this week but today it's time to deliver a new life. It's a girl. The abortion bans may be struck down but women's right to choose in large parts of America has not been in this much jeopardy for decades". Dr Robinson fears for the next generation..."
  • "For all the politics raging around abortion in America the issue is deeply personal for Kandi - Anne Marie living proof, in her view, that all life is precious..."
  • "America's changing profoundly under President Trump. At stake with abortion, what kind of country this will be - one where women can control their own destiny, or a nation where, in the name of God, life always comes first."

I suppose this programme must have passed the BBC's impartiality test - just as the two other Hilary Andersson Panorama programmes must have done, despite neither of them, or this one, being anywhere nearly truly fair, open-minded and impartial.

On the question of abortion especially I'd expect nothing less (or more) from the ultra-socially liberal, anti-Trump BBC.


  1. Will the BBC be showing Gosnell any time soon?

    See Mark Steyn's take here:

  2. I have to say I have never considered supporting a woman’s right to choose as being ultra-socially liberal.


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