Health TV

My Foetus

It had plenty of warnings about content, but I pity anybody channel flicked onto My Foetus last night. My sister encouraged me to watch it in part because a friend of hers was involved in it. Initially I thought I wouldn’t watch it, but eventually relented, with the proviso that I’d turn it off if it was too disturbing.

It was very disturbing. Profoundly so. Some of the images shown were truly horrific. One had me wincing away from the television, unable to watch until it had gone. And one doctor’s description of his work was equally gruesome. It was the sort of stuff that could easily spark nightmares (and there’s something a tad ironic about disturbing programmes such as this having to be shown late at night just before bedtime).

But it was also compelling viewing, challenging the viewer with the stark facts, and encouraging people to weigh up the arguments both for and against, and make up their own minds.

My opinion remains something of a cop-out: I am pro-choice, but the realities of abortion are something I would find hard to deal with if ever involved personally. Late-term? No — a lower limit should be imposed except in extreme cases — perhaps 7 weeks. (12? 9? Not sure.) And contraception should be cheap, safe, quick and easy. The less people who have to make The Choice, the better.

To give this programme a thumbs up or thumbs down may seem crass. But it is remarkable film-making. Very difficult, confronting material to watch, but if you need more information to make up your mind about the issue, it could be very enlightening (maybe too much), and I thought quite even-handed. Certainly it should be compulsory viewing for anybody choosing to study, debate or legislate on the topic.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

7 replies on “My Foetus”

I was thinking about women watching this program that had an abortion and feel ambivalent about it. I think it might have an upsetting effect on them without offering them anything. While the tone of the program was matter-of-fact I have a sneaking suspicion that it was motivated by attention seeking. (unknown film maker, never before shown footage…)
I also thought that the film maker had herself an awful lot as the subject, I think I would have preferred the focus to be more on the topic.
For example, why can’t women who abort late term not give birth instead and give the baby up for adoption? At 7-8 months this would obviously be a much better option for everyone?


Abortions at 7-8 months would be extremely rare and in some cases illegal as the operation would be a traumatic and certainly much more dangerous than the early termination (at 4 weeks) shown in the program. There would have to be some extremely extenuating circumstances for this to occur.

The case in the UK is up to 24 weeks (about 5-6 months). The vast majority of abortions occur within the first 3 months.

In terms of late term abortions (5-6 months), it is important to focus on the context. Women who have late term abortions often do so because the foetus has a severe disability (ie something so great as to mean that the child would probably not live even if carried to term). This happened to a friend of mine. It was very traumatic and not something she did lightly or without a very great deal of thought. There are other equally distressing reasons for having a late term abortion. I re-iterate, this is not something anyone would do lightly.

It seems to me that abortion is always something to be regretted but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not right. It seems to me that it very much depends on context. And that’s why it’s important that people be informed about it so that choices can be made in very difficult circumstances.

I’m somewhat glad I missed it if it got that reaction from you, Daniel. There’s always lots of factors to consider in such situations. Whilst I am pro-choice, I don’t think abortions should happen post 4-5 months except under extreme situations, but like Justine said, it’s all about the contex and exactly why the abortion needs to happen in the first place.

It’s interesting that the filmaker grew up surrounded by a culture of pro-choice, as her father was heavily involved the pro-choice movement in the UK. For her, the making of the film questioned her own beliefs she had grown up with, and she was surprised at the feelings she had at its conclusion. This I found out from an excellent interview on Lateline late last week.

Daniel, it’s all very well to suggest that abortion should be limited to earlier gestation periods, but you have to remember that many women don’t even know that they are pregnant until around 8 weeks or more and then they need time to have diagnosis of abnormalities made and to come to terms with any decisions that they need to make. My understanding of the situation in NSW was that abortion would not be done after 16 weeks and is generally kept below 12 weeks. Later term abortions are the domain of China, I thought. I know plenty of women who have had abortions and I support their choice. It’s a choice that I hope I never have to make, but one that I always hope that I will have.

Dear Mr.D,

I just had to write and tell you how good I think your writing is. I fashion myself a writer also but didn’t puruse your site because of that. I actually was looking up a way to get my Ray-Bans fixed and there you were Diary of an Average Australian. I am delighted with your straight forward Aussie explanation for your daily experiences. I am particularly impressed with your candor about this difficult subject re: abortion so chose to let you know I am a Pro-life American in California. I got involved with Life issues more over the controveries surrounding genetic engineering some 25 years ago than with the abortion debate. I just cannot find a way to remain authentically opposed to human genetic engineering that allows for any intentional damage to the human species exposed there in the Petri dish and then turn around and say but when the specimen is inside a full member of the human race, I capitulate and grant that human sovereignty over the damage done to the same group of cells. Is it just me? Keep up your insightful postings, I have always enjoyed Australia and you make it come alive as I remember it from my last visit in 2002. G’day mate.

It’s a very difficult thing to do to go through pregnancy and labor then give the baby up for adoption. But I do think a line has got to be drawn somewhere at which point you say, sorry sweetheart you should have decided you didnt’ want a baby within a couple of months of knowing you had one….

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