United Kingdom

BBC drama Three Families leaves viewers 'in tears'

Viewers of BBC drama Three Families were left 'sobbing' as they watched the stories of women impacted by Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion laws.

The two-part series, which continues tonight, is based on writer Gwyneth Hughes's conversations with three women who were seeking an abortion in 2013, six years before the procedure was decriminalised in Northern Ireland.  

Last night's episode introduced two of the women: Hannah (Amy James-Kelly), who is forced to go through with a pregnancy even after learning the foetus has a fatal abnormality, and Theresa (Sinéad Keenan), who is arrested after ordering termination pills for her teenage daughter who was forced into sex by her violent boyfriend.

The moving drama struck a chord with viewers at home, including many women who shared their own experiences with abortion

Viewers of BBC drama Three Families were left 'sobbing' as they watched the stories of women impacted by Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion laws. In one scene Hannah gave birth to a dying child, as her husband held her, both of them in deep distress, was unbearable for many

The third story, introduced in episode two, centres around Rosie, who is told her baby will die before or shortly after birth and so qualifies for a termination on the grounds of the damaging effect delivering the baby will have on her mental health. 

The moving drama struck a chord with viewers at home, including many women who shared their own experiences with abortion. 

One tweeted: '#ThreeFamilies I knew it was going to be a hard watch. I've experienced first hand what it's like. I cried several times! I can't decide if it's out of relief to be able to relate to others, or if it's releasing the guilt.'

Another added: 'This was a difficult but incredibly important and powerful watch. I am filled with both rage and heartbreak. Women should ALWAYS have control over their own bodies. #ThreeFamilies.'

A third posted: 'Watching #ThreeFamilies tonight is absolutely breaking my heart, sending so much love to anyone who resonates with these stories.'

Last night's episode introduced two of the women, including Hannah (Amy James-Kelly), who is forced to go through with a pregnancy even after learning the foetus has a fatal abnormality. Pictured,  with on screen husband Jonathan (Colin Morgan)

Viewers at home were moved by the story and discussed the restrictive abortion laws

The series started with Theresa, who considered abortion a 'mortal sin'. Her best friend Louise (Kerri Quinn) heckled women outside abortion clinics. 

However when she discovers her teenage daughter had fallen pregnant, she was spurred into taking action to help her terminate the pregnancy by ordering pills online. 

The secret leaked out. After Orla (Lola Petticrew) and Theresa talked to their GP, he called child protection services — and Orla’s school called the police.

Shockingly, Theresa ended up in court, where the magistrate’s voice dripped with contempt as he read out the charge that, in contravention of a 150-year-old law, she was accused of ‘supplying poison to secure a miscarriage’. 

The series starts with Theresa (Sinéad Keenan), who is arrested after ordering termination pills for her daughter Orla (Lola Petticrew) who was forced into sex by her violent boyfriend

Theresa ended up in court, where the magistrate read out the charge that, in contravention of a 150-year-old law, she was accused of ‘supplying poison to secure a miscarriage’

Meanwhile Hannah and her husband Jonathan (Colin Morgan) are dealt a devastating blow when their much longed-for baby is diagnosed with Thanatophoric Dysplasia, a severe skeletal disorder, and are told she will most likely be stillborn.   

While they initially believe they will qualify for an abortion, they are later told this is not the case and Hannah will 'have to carry on as normal'.

Treated by doctors and psychologists as though she had committed unspeakable crimes, by considering an abortion and for carrying a disabled foetus in the first place, Hannah was abandoned by the system. 

The scene in which she gave birth to her dead baby, as her husband held her, both of them in deep distress, was unbearable for many. 

The third story, introduced in episode two, centres around Rosie, who is told her baby will die before or shortly after birth and so qualifies for a termination on the grounds of the damaging effect delivering the baby will have on her mental health

A nurse popped into the maternity room and snapped a picture with a Polaroid camera ‘for your memory box’. 

The episode also sparked a discussion over the current abortion laws in Northern Ireland, which remains a divisive issue. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is currently attempting to amend them again. 

Laws covering abortion were initially the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and later the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Act and Infant Life (Preservation) Act in 1945.     

It was a criminal offence in Northern Ireland to have or perform an abortion except in a handful of circumstances including if a woman's life was at risk or there was a risk of catastrophic damage to her mental health.     

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