Media Influences

The architects of the successful British campaign sought to change public opinion through personal stories of women in particularly difficult circumstances, who sought backstreet abortions. These stories of "hard cases", elicited a sympathetic response.

The message was not about seeking abortion on demand, but that a humane society should be able to provide women in the "hard case" category, with access to safe, legal abortion in a designated clinic or hospital.

In New Zealand, a new women’s magazine "Thursday", was a major cultural influence in making abortion acceptable. Under editor Marcia Russell, Thursday was designed to appeal to the "thinking" woman, and the formula proved a publishing success.

Thursday was committed to social change on abortion, regularly featuring "hard case" stories. In the late 1970s, Marcia Russell was involved with a sympathetic television documentary on the Auckland Medical Aid Trust abortion clinic, which Television NZ showed on an evening prime time slot.

The counsellors were soft-voiced, kindly and gentle, the procedure explained with a diagram of the womb, the baby represented by several dots in the middle - and described as the "contents of the uterus".

A patient was taken into the operating theatre and throughout the operation, the counsellor was seen in close-up, holding her hand and softly offering encouragement. Piped music played Mozart in the background.

In this public relations campaign for hearts and minds, the 'pro-life' group, The Society for Protection of the Unborn Child, believed they were handicapped by one key problem. To actually show a twelve week-old foetus being dismembered and the remains lying in a glass jar, is too grisly to be acceptable for public television, or for newspaper and magazine advertising.