Abortion debate not simple: Drama writer

The writer of a new drama which focuses on abortion in Northern Ireland has said she was “amazed” to discover how many women from the Province travel to England to undergo the procedure.

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 1:01 am
Updated Monday, 3rd May 2021, 7:45 am

Gwyneth Hughes’ two-part series ‘Three Families’, starring Sinead Keenan, is set between 2013 and 2019, and tells the true story of three women and their families before the recent change to legislation.

Abortion laws in the country were liberalised by MPs at Westminster in 2019 at a time when power-sharing was collapsed.

New regulations came into operation a year ago and, while individual health trusts are offering services on an ad hoc basis, the Department of Health has yet to centrally commission the services on a region-wide basis.

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However, in the absence of fully commissioned services being available, women from Northern Ireland are still travelling to England to access abortions.

Hughes said she has lived her whole life in a country where abortion is legal, adding: “So when executive producer Sue Hogg first asked me to write ‘Three Families’, I was amazed to discover that thousands of women from Northern Ireland still had to get on planes and ferries and go to England in search of terminations they could not access at home.

“I arrived in Belfast to begin my research at the height of a ferocious campaign, which culminated in the Westminster Government controversially imposing legal change when Assembly was suspended,” she added.

“But I did not want to write a political film, or a campaigning one.

“I wanted to be fair to both sides – to all sides, in fact, as in the world of real life there are always more than two!

“Classically, the abortion debate is presented as two opposing and immoveable camps – ‘pro life’ and ‘pro choice’.

“But as I discovered, it’s not as simple as that.

‘Three Families’ begins on May 10 on BBC One.