Thursday, May 26

Three Families Review: A Surface Level Study on Abortion Distress | Television and radio

II guarantee that just a couple of years ago most people in Britain realized the fact that, although the Abortion Act of 1967 has allowed for the termination of unwanted pregnancies for the past 50 years, its mandate was never fulfilled. spread to Northern Ireland. An extraordinary grassroots campaign (#RepealtheEighth) to grant the country’s women the same rights that exist in England culminated with Westminster forcing the decriminalization of the procedure in 2019.

The Gwyneth Hughes drama Three Families (BBC One) began in 2013 and took the situation at the time, and the fight for law liberalization, through a series of personal rather than political lenses. The trio of narratives was based on Hughes’ interviews with three women whose lives were altered by the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

The first story centers on Theresa (Sinéad Keenan). Despite her religious scruples, she orders termination pills for her pregnant minor daughter and is charged under the Crimes Against the Person Act of 1861 with procuring an abortion. The second chapter follows Hannah (Amy James-Kelly), who is forced to carry on with a much-desired pregnancy even after the unborn baby, a girl, is diagnosed with a fatal fetal anomaly. The child cannot survive after birth, if he survives that.

Lola Petticrew and Sinéad Keenan in Three Families.
Lola Petticrew and Sinéad Keenan in Three Families. Photograph: Steffan Hill / BBC / Studio Lambert

Hannah is, even under Northern Ireland rules, technically entitled to a termination, but her doctor refuses to allow it and is misinformed about the deadlines for the operation in England. Find comfort in activism and join the campaign, here called Right to Choose, to change the law.

The third story begins in the second episode of the two parts and involves Rosie (Genevieve O’Reilly), a woman who again qualifies, on paper, for a dismissal, due to the likely catastrophic effect on her mental health if necessary to give birth to a baby who will die before or shortly after birth.

By its content, it could not be more than an emotional drama. But her potential power was greatly tempered by an undertone and underpowered script (“I want a life, Mommy! I don’t want …”, “A life like mine?”) That never allowed her to transcend looks. to check boxes or unfold. the characters far beyond the figures.

And, given the depth of sentiment and the historical divide that was, and still exists, on the issue in Northern Ireland, there was very little tension throughout (even in the second half, where I could have expected some changes). Theresa’s internal conflict was quickly brushed aside. All of the women’s husbands essentially supported her decisions, and the showdown you would have probably thought of between Theresa and her best friend Louise (Kerri Quinn), who spent her free time protesting outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, pressing embryo models from plastic. in the hands of women escorted through the maelstrom to access their services, it did not materialize.

While it may accurately reflect the personal experience of Hughes’s interviewees, Three Families failed to dramatize the major issues at stake. The massive and enduring resistance to giving women the right to choose wine and it comes from somewhere. It remains one of the most intractable issues in the country (decriminalization still resists officially and unofficially today).

Aside from Hannah’s involvement in the campaign (which was only briefly shown, had her husband’s full support, and caused no problems there or in their broader relationship), the focus on personal appearance created a strangely depoliticized drama about a period in which the absolute opposite happened. This was a time when ordinary women found themselves marching, handing out brochures, talking about their experiences and demanding that they be granted human rights commensurate with those of women on the other side of the small strip of sea that presented such a barrier. to freedom, in a situation never seen before. numbers. And yet the biggest prejudice the three faced here was when a colleague of Hannah’s was informed of the anomaly and responded, again with the characteristic lack of subtlety in the script: “The abortion is wrong. He’s killing babies, “and he kindly told her that he wouldn’t repeat the conversation as” It’s not something you want people to gossip about. “

Perhaps if we had been given three hours to tell the stories, we would have had a better idea of ​​the complexities and intersections between the influences (church, state, sexism, each permeating the other) that have shaped and constrained the laws of the country for so long. weather. . As it was, it felt too rushed and superficial. But sadly, there will be many other opportunities to tell these stories yet to come.

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