Right to Life Lays Complaint over misleading TVNZ Close Up Programme

Broadcasting Standards Authority,

Dear Sir/Madam

Complaint – TVNZ

I wish to lay a complaint against TVNZ for an item included in a Close Up programme.

Featuring an interview with Dr Norman Maclean and Ms Allison McCulloch. The interview was on Close Up on Tuesday 16 October 2012.

It is the opinion of this Society that the item breached Guideline 5a of the Code of Broadcasting Practice: Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that current affairs and factual programming:

· Is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and/or

· Does not mislead.

At the commencement of the item there were graphics featuring the Lyndhurst abortion facility. A person had been charged and convicted with tunnelling under the facility from a neighbouring property. The item stated that a threat had been made the same day to bomb an Auckland abortion facility. No arrests were made in the latter case by the Police in this matter and the identity of those responsible is unknown. Right to Life condemns violence against persons and property and issued a media release at the time deploring this attack on the Lyndhurst clinic.

The item included the statement that doctors and staff who performed abortions in the United States had been attacked and murdered by pro-lifers. The visual and verbal impact of this introduction was to infer that members of the pro-life movement in the United States and by implication the newly formed group, Southlanders for Life, were prepared to assault and murder staff who worked at abortion facilities. These inferences are totally unfounded and must be challenged.

The international pro-life movement is totally opposed to violence against any person. It is also totally opposed to the destruction of property. The pro-life movement supports the inalienable right to life of every human being from conception to natural death. The pro-life movement condemns the murder of doctors or their staff, who perform abortions. It also condemns physical attacks on these people. The pro-life movement has repeatedly made public statements to this affect. There is no place in the pro-life movement for persons who have no respect for life or property.

In the last 30 years three abortionists and four abortion staff were murdered in the United States. There have been 383 death threats and 41 bombings and 173 arsons and 91 attempted arsons. All these are serious crimes against life and property. There is no evidence that the criminals concerned belonged to the pro-life movement. Their lack of respect for life and property would disqualify them from membership. There are a number of reasons for this criminal activity. It is believed that many attacks on abortion clinics are inflicted by men who are deeply traumatised by the loss of a child that they have fathered and who they were unable to save from being killed at an abortion clinic. There are others who suffer from mental illness and who are opposed to the killing of unborn children. There is also documented evidence that some arson attacks were made by abortionists seeking insurance.

It is well known that the pro-abortion movement seeks with the assistance of the media to portray the pro-life movement as being violent and a threat to Society. This is untrue, for the Pro-life movement is the most peaceful and law abiding human rights movement in New Zealand. Southlanders for Life is led by Dr Norman McLean, a very respected member of the Southland community, He was until his retirement the head of Obstetrics at the Southland Hospital. He is a fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The organisation of Southlanders for Life has the support of local Church leaders including Bishop Colin Campbell, the Catholic Bishop of Dunedin. The inference that the pro-life movement including Southlanders for Life condones assault, murder and arson is deeply offensive.

The commencement also included the statement that Southlanders for Life were seeking the names of those involved in performing abortions at the Southland Hospital in order that:

they be named and shamed.”

This statement is false and slanders the good name and reputation of Dr Norman McLean and his colleagues. There is no intention of seeking to shame those involved in performing abortions. There is no statement made by Dr McLean that would support that accusation. The accusation is one that has been made by the Abortion Law Reform Association with the intention of discrediting the Southland group. The stated reason for Southlanders for Life seeking to obtain the relevant names, is the belief that the public have a right to know who is working in this public hospital. The public have a right under the Code of Health Rights to make an informed choice as to whom they are going to seek to have health services from. A woman who is pregnant has the right to choose, should she wish, a midwife to care for her and her baby during her pregnancy, who is not involved in the killing of unborn children.

Conclusion

Our Society is concerned about violence against women and their unborn:

· Firstly in New Zealand according to the annual reports of the Abortion Supervisory Committee there have been 421,430 defenceless unborn children who have been killed in abortion clinics since the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act was passed in 1977. Of these 98 per cent have been on the grounds of mental health but are clearly for socio-economic reasons masquerading as psychiatric.

· Are you aware that the leading cause of death of pregnant women in the United States is murder. That murder being because the woman refused to have an abortion. Were you aware that there have been 30 documented cases of abortionists in the United States being charged and convicted of the rape and sexual assault of hundreds of women who had an abortion, this is accepted as being just the tip of the iceberg.

· There have also been three abortionists in the United States who were charged with the murder of women while having an abortion.

· There are well documented cases of 80 women who were murdered in the United States for refusing to have an abortion. It is not known how many women have been threatened with violence and murder to coerce them into having an abortion against their will.

The false accusation concerning the murder of abortionists and staff and the inference that Southlanders for Life and the pro-life movement in New Zealand are involved in violence and arson are very serious. The fact that the programme was on national television with a large audience contributes to the serious nature of this complaint. The false accusations have the following consequences:

· They damage the good name and reputation of the pro-life movement in New Zealand.

· They jeopardise the support that the movement has from the community

· They discredit the objectives of the movement to promote respect for the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death.

I wish to comment on the response of TVNZ of the 23 November 2012 to our complaint

TVNZ states that at least two murders of abortion clinic staff in America have been linked to men affiliated with pro-life groups there. While the Committee understands your point that pro-life groups in general respect all human life, we do not agree that the statement in America abortion staff have been attacked and killed by pro-lifers is inaccurate.

Response

? You state: it is well known that the pro-abortion movement seeks with

the assistance of the media to portray the pro-life movement as being

violent and a threat to Society… Southlanders for Life is led by Dr

Norman McLean, a very respected member of the Southland community…

the inference that the pro-life movement including Southlanders for Life

condones assault, murder and arson is deeply offensive.

As discussed above the discussion of these violent actions in the Close Up item

was not linked to the pro-life movement in New Zealand or Southlanders For

Life. Dr MacLean was aware of the nature of his participation in the programme.

Dr MacLean had time and space in the item to put across his points concerning

the issues under discussion. The presenter was even-handed with both

interviewees. The Committee disagrees that either Dr MacLean or Southlanders

For Life were portrayed as violent.

? You state: The commencement also included the statement that

Southlanders For Life were seeking the names of those involved in

performing abortions at the Southland Hospital in order that: “they be

named and shamed”. This statement is false and slanders the good name

and reputation of Dr Norman MacLean and his colleagues. There is no

intention of seeking to shame those involved in performing abortions.

There is no statement made by Dr McLean that would support the

accusation.

On 14 October Anti-abortion group Southlanders for Life told Fairfax Media it

was “vowing to step up protests outside the clinic, and to "name-and-shame"

medical staff.”   Southlanders for Life’s Father Vaughan Leslie said the group was

planning weekly demonstrations outside the clinic “and to name those who work

there.” We feel if you’re pregnant you have a right to know if your midwife

performs abortions as well.”

On 15 October it was reported Southlanders for Life chairman Norman MacLean

said last night the group had "no intention" of stepping back now the service

had begun and would continue to find ways to stop abortions being performed.

He had personally asked for the names of doctors and nurses doing abortions at

Southland Hospital, he said.

Our Society commends TVNZ for the normally high standard of programmes on Close Up. We request that your Board upholds our complaint which seeks to rectify the damage done to the good name of Southlanders for Life and the national pro-life movement by requiring TVNZ to make an apology following the news at 7pm.

Yours sincerely

Ken Orr

Secretary,

Right to Life.

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