Prime Time never held a single debate scrutinising contents of abortion Bill

In the 10 weeks from the publication of the Government’s abortion bill in 2013 until its passage in the Dáil, there was not a single debate on RTÉ’s Prime Time scrutinising the contents of the proposed legislation. Given that the legislation was arguably the most controversial social legislation in the history of the State, it is a stunning fact. How can RTÉ credibly claim to be a fair and impartial broadcaster and behave like this?

During this 10 week period, however, Prime Time managed to hold two studio discussions pushing the case for abortion in situations where the baby has a terminal illness. On both occasions, Prime Time made a big deal out of the fact that the proposed legislation did not cover situations like these.

So not only did Prime Time abjectly fail in its responsibility to scrutinise the contents of the new abortion bill, it also helped create a public impression that the proposed legislation was extremely restrictive given that it didn’t provide for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality.

In truth the new legislation allows for abortion throughout the full nine months of pregnancy based on a threat of suicide even though it is accepted by medical experts that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings. It is a disgrace that Prime Time never challenged proponents of the law on this point or informed the public on the matter.

Note: Prime Time held a studio discussion on abortion on Tuesday 30th April 2013, the night the heads of the abortion bill was published. The broadcast started before the bill was officially released by the Government so RTÉ cannot credibly refer to this programme as evidence of a debate on the contents of the bill given that the panellists had no time to study what was contained in the Government’s proposal.