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Three Families episode 1 review: BBC drama is a powerful look at the devastating impact of criminalising abortions

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Tonight’s episode of Three Families followed two harrowing storylines (Picture: BBC)

BBC’s new drama Three Families tells the harrowing stories of three women in Northern Ireland seeking abortions before terminations were legalised – and it’s no doubt going to leave a lasting impact on those who watch it.

Based on the stories of real women, the two-part drama addresses how people were affected by curbs on abortion in the devoutly catholic region.

In tonight’s episode, we were introduced to two core storylines.

At the heart of it is the story of mother Theresa (Sinéad Keenan), whose teenage daughter Orla (Lola Pettricrew) reveals to her that she’s pregnant.

Theresa is a devout catholic but once she finds out Orla’s boyfriend has been violently assaulting her to stop the pregnancy, she jumps into action to help her daughter in any way she can.

In a particularly emotional scene, Orla says about the father of her unborn baby: ‘When I told him he said he’d kick it out of me, he said he’d stab the baby when it’s born. He said I have to get rid of it or he’ll tell everyone I’m a slag.’

‘I’m so ashamed.’

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Hannah has been trying desperately for a baby (Picture: BBC)

This story is based on a case from 2015 that made international headlines, where a woman in Northern Ireland was to be prosecuted for buying abortion pills online and giving them to her 15-year-old daughter.

The pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, are prescribed by medics to safely induce abortion. However, because Northern Ireland used to have one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world (abortion was only decriminalised in 2019), they were illegal.

These severe abortion laws included terminations under any circumstances, be it in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities, which Three Families explores.

The second storyline follows young couple Hannah (Amy James-Kelly) and Jonathan (Colin Morgan) who have been trying to conceive for some time.

They’re over the moon when Hannah finds out that she’s finally pregnant but are soon left devastated when their unborn daughter is diagnosed with serious and life-threatening conditions.

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Sinead Keenan plays Theresa in Three Families (Picture: BBC)

Hannah is forced to continue with the pregnancy and the heartbreak this causes is awful to watch, especially when her colleagues and doctors provide her with no sympathy or understanding.

One particularly powerful bit of dialogue is when her boss tells her that abortion is ‘killing babies’ and that she should have more ‘mercy’.

‘You want me to give birth to her and watch her die in agony, how is that merciful to either of us?’ Hannah responds.

Throughout the episode, we are shown the stark contrast of the beginning of Orla and Hannah’s storyline. From witnessing Hannah and Jonathon basking in the joy of being pregnant as they sit overlooking the sea, to Orla screaming and writhing in bed, days after taking the abortion pills.

Sadly, Hannah’s joy doesn’t last long, as she struggles to find somewhere that will help her abort her baby so as to avoid the heartbreak of a stillbirth.

As the episode progresses, Orla, Theresa and Hannah are faced with heartbreaking situations that are bound to change the course of their lives.

Show writer Gwyneth Hughes expertly shows how women all over the world have had hushed conversations behind closed doors, as they’re filled with shame about a decision that they have every right to make.

The episode ends with Hannah joining a group that is campaigning for legal and safe abortions after the heartbreak of her stillborn baby, while Theresa is seen in court.

Each scene is craftily written but this feels like only the beginning, so let’s just hope that only two episodes are enough to discuss everything that needs to be explored.

Even though at times it isn’t easy to watch, Three Families is a moving and nuanced drama that shows why reproductive rights are so important.

The second and final episode of Three Families is on May 11 on BBC One.

Credit: Original article published here.

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