Britain’s first televised advert for abortion services has been cleared by the advertising watchdog despite the ad generating over a thousand complaints.
The commercial, by abortion provider Marie Stopes International (MSI), provoked a storm of controversy when it was aired on Channel 4 earlier this year.
Critics warned that the 30-second ad was misleading and trivialised human life. It generated 1,054 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority from members of the public, GPs, counsellors and MPs.
However, the ASA has now released their ruling on the ad. It claims that the ad didn’t promote abortion and that MSI was justified in offering advice to pregnant women.
A spokesman for the pro-life charity Life said: “As Marie Stopes is Britain’s largest abortion provider, to claim that the ad does not promote their abortion service is disingenuous to say the least.”
“How can an organisation which, for instance, has a 24-hour abortion-booking hotline on its homepage claim to offer ‘a general advice service’ or a ‘totality of pregnancy services’?
“What they actually offer is a fast track to abortion, before women have time to think. They are also leading abortion providers not just in the UK, but worldwide.”
The comments were echoed by the ProLife Alliance who warned that it was “preposterous to assert that the ad was not misleading”.
The 30-second ad focused on the question ‘Are you late?’ to grab the attention of women who may have missed their period.
In addition to the complaints the ASA received a further 3,296 postcards as part of a petition organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
The ASA’s decision stated: “We understood that post-conception decisions could be very difficult, but considered the ad dealt with the issue of possible pregnancy in an understated way and was not sensationalist.
“The women featured in the ad looked deep in thought, and we did not therefore consider that the ad trivialised the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy.”
MSI has welcomed the decision and expressed their hope that other abortion providers will now run their own TV ads.
The ad had its first showing in May and was quickly condemned for endangering women who are already in a vulnerable position.
Speaking at the time Vivianne Pattison, chair of radio and television watchdog Mediawatch UK, said: “We are not a pro-life group but we do have issues with this because women with an unplanned pregnancy are in a vulnerable position.”
Norman Wells, Director of the Family Education Trust, said: “Every abortion involves a personal tragedy for a mother and a child which will have lasting consequences whether immediately felt or not.”
And Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “These adverts will just mean more women will end up on the abortion industry conveyor belt.”