Pro-lifers have blasted plans to allow an abortion advert to be screened on national television, warning that it “trivialises human life”.
Abortion provider Marie Stopes International (MSI) is due to run an advert promoting abortion services on Channel 4 next Monday.
MSI claims the campaign will help women make informed choices about unwanted pregnancies, but critics have warned that the ad will mislead women.
Anthony Ozimic, a spokesman for Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), warned: “Abortion ads will trivialise abortion. It is an insult to the hundreds of women hurt by abortion every day.
“Such ads are offensive and will mislead viewers about the reality of abortion.”
SPUC is currently taking advice on the legality of the adverts.
And Michaela Aston, from the pro-life charity Life, cautioned: “To allow abortion providers to advertise on TV, as though they were no different from car companies or detergent manufacturers, is grotesque.
“By suggesting that abortion is yet another consumer choice, it trivialises human life and completely contravenes the spirit of the 1967 Abortion Act, which was supposed to allow for a small number of legal abortions in a limited number of hard cases, but has been twisted and distorted to allow for mass abortion on demand.”
The 30-second abortion ad, due to air at 10:10PM next Monday, will focus on the question ‘Are you late?’ to grab the attention of women who may have missed their period.
But critics have warned that in reality the advert, which will continue to be aired until the end of June, will endanger women who are already in a vulnerable position.
Vivianne Pattison, chairman 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.”
And 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.”
Earlier this year the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) indicated that plans to permit abortion adverts had been put on hold.
But MSI, a not-for-profit organisation, sought legal advice on launching a TV advertising campaign, and press reports indicate that permission was granted because they are a “non-commercial organisation”.
However, 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.”
“Marie Stopes may not make profit but they don’t get paid at all if they don’t carry out any abortions”, he continued.
His concerns where echoed by the ProLife Alliance, who claimed that the adverts do break broadcasting guidelines.
A spokesman said: “The purpose of an abortion commercial is clearly to ‘sell’ abortion. This is hardly conducive to making the ‘informed sexual health choices’ which Marie Stopes claims to provide”.
But Marie Stopes marketing director, Julie Douglas, attempted to defend the ad, saying: “This ad is all about providing information so women have the confidence to know who they can call to reach people who will be non-judgmental.”
The advert will not be screened in Northern Ireland, as abortion is illegal in the province.
MSI are believed to carry out around 65,000 terminations a year in Britain, and in return they receive an estimated £30 million a year from the NHS.
In 2009 MSI was responsible for one in three abortions performed in England and Wales, and women with unwanted pregnancies who contact the organisation are charged £80 for a consultation.
In 2008 a staggering 215,975 abortions were performed in the UK.