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Senator: my abortion interview was cut and edited for Prime Time

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has written to PrimeTime to complain that an interview the Senator was edited and cut to pieces by the programme, resulting in a negative portrayal of her views. She also revealed that the Prime Time reporter told the Senator not to discuss the area of perinatal hospice as an alternative to abortion and that the programme had refused to interview a mother whose baby had been diagnosed with a disability, because her baby was considered 'viable'.

Senator Healy-Eames wrote: 

"On Wednesday morning I spoke with Conor your researcher with PrimeTime (PT) and outlined to him how dismayed and disappointed I was with the way PT portrayed me on Tuesday evening’s show, in relation to the tragedy of babies diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities. 

As you know I met with Rita Reilly, your reporter, in the Shelbourne Hotel and I felt reasonably satisfied after the interview. That was until I saw the show and the editing job that was done on my interview. I was cut to bits and the outcome depicted me very poorly. The level of feedback, vitriol and unsavoury comments, in relation to this bears out my concerns. Some of the public comment I can ignore, but when I viewed it, I, myself, wasn’t happy with it. My internal recall did not match what I saw and that was down to the way the piece was edited.

For example, at one point it shows me pulling a face/grimace which was a reaction to her previous questions. The lead up into this isn’t shown though, and it comes across as if I’m very disrespectful. This was commented on numerous times by members of the public and once again it is referred to this am again in the Journal.ie. This type of treatment is unfair and unjustified. Why was my interview treated this way? 

At another point I felt I had said enough, had conveyed my point and had no more to add but then she pushed me on the ‘suffering’ point. In hindsight over-pushed me. 

On two points there was clear bias against a pro-life viewpoint and incidentally I’m not a member of any prolife group: 

1. I made the point that abortion should not be seen as the only solution and that I wanted to talk about how important the provision of a peri-natal hospice is for parents facing this tragedy. Rita then told me she didn’t want me to get into that! On reflection, this is outrageous.  This is control and not acceptable from a publicly-funded broadcaster. What right has a journalist to decide what I should / should not say, once I was invited to participate? 

2. I also said that I hoped that two mothers representing both sides of the coin were included, not just one view. She then confirmed that they only had a mother that represented ‘terminations’ because the mother the pro-life side offered had had a ‘viable pregnancy’. I was surprised with this and offered to make a call to get another mother but Rita confirmed it was too late and that I was the last being interviewed.   

She continued: "Ironically, I felt Rita Reilly understood me in that my first, up-front request, before I did any interview was that my contribution would be reported in a fair, balanced and sensitive manner.  Instead, my interview was edited in such a manner so as to give a distorted and leading impression of what I had to say on this sensitive issue, despite the fact that I have absolute empathy for all mothers and families who get this difficult diagnoses, regardless of the decision they make. 

How do I feel now? I feel hurt, that RTÉ Prime Time is biased and has important questions to answer."

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