The ASA received 1,054 complaints, plus a further 3,296 postcards which made up a petition organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), and another petition with 63 signatures. In addition there were 327 pre-transmission
complaints. As some viewers objected that the TV ad carried a political message, because they believed the advertisers actively campaigned to change the law on abortion, the ASA referred those complaints to Ofcom.
Three women were featured in a TV
ad for Marie Stopes International (MSI), a not-for-profit organisation which provided sexual and reproductive healthcare advice, information and services. First, a woman waiting at a bus stop, looking down the road, with the onscreen text Jenny Evans
is late ; then, a woman in a park with her two small children, with the text Katie Simmons is late ; and finally, a woman in a café, with the text Shareen Butler is late . A female voiceover said: If you're late for your period, you
could be pregnant. If you're pregnant and not sure what to do, Marie Stopes International can help . The end caption carried the text Are you late? , a phone number, and the website address.
Complainants included members of
the public, GPs, people who offered counselling, MPs and other representatives, and MPs who forwarded their constituents' concerns.
The complainants objected that the ad was misleading, offensive and harmful and queried its compliance with
specific Code rules.
1. Viewers objected that the ad was offensive because: it promoted abortion; of their religious beliefs; it trivialised the difficult decision faced by women experiencing an unwanted pregnancy; decisions about the life of an
unborn child were being equated to decisions about consumer goods; it would be distressing to those women who had taken the decision to have an abortion; it did not take into account the views of the father; it was sexist towards women by implying that
the pregnancy was solely the woman's responsibility; and by featuring a mother with her small children, it suggested that the life of an unborn child was less important than a woman's existing children.
2. Viewers objected that the ad was harmful
because: the ad would encourage viewers to have an abortion when they had not previously considered that option; and, it would encourage promiscuity, especially amongst young people.
3. Viewers objected that the ad was misleading because: it
promoted abortion, but did not make reference to the physical and mental health risks or physical and psychological effects which could be experienced after an abortion; the ad was illegally offering abortion on demand; it implied that obtaining an
abortion was easier than it was in reality; it failed to mention that pregnant women who wanted advice should contact their GPs or seek the advice of family members; and it was unclear what services were on offer; some believed Marie Stopes offered a
full range of advice about pregnancy, whilst others believed the advertisers were advocates for abortion.
Some viewers challenged whether MSI should be allowed to advertise on TV, because:
4. they believed MSI was a commercial company that
charged for its services;
5. the ad promoted a Prescription Only Medicine (POM) or a medical procedure, which they believed was not permitted by the Code;
6. the ad was for a medicinal product aimed at children;
7. the ad offered a
remote personal advice service on health matters, which they believed breached rule 8.1.3 of the Code relating to services offering remote personalised advice on medical or health matters or which offer to prescribe or treat remotely.
viewers objected to the scheduling of the ad at times when children might see it.
ASA Assessment: Not upheld
1. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that the issue of abortion was controversial and
distasteful to some, and that the complainants had strong personal and religious objections to the advertising of abortion services, or services that gave advice about abortion. We also noted that many complainants regarded the advertisers as advocates
of abortion and therefore interpreted the ad as a promotion of abortion. However, the ad was for an advice service for women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, and stated that MSI could help women who were pregnant and not sure what to do . We
understood that MSI provided a wide range of advisory and health services and advised on all options during consultations with clients. We noted that the ad did not focus on any one particular service offered by MSI and did not mention abortion. We
therefore considered it was an ad for a general pregnancy advice service for women who wished to learn about and discuss their options, which might include, but were not limited to, abortion.
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. Whilst the ad featured three women, we did not consider that it suggested that only the woman would be affected, or that she should take any decisions alone. We did not consider that the ad focused on or advocated any
particular choice or course of action over another, or put forward any assumptions about what the women would or should do. Whilst we recognised that any reminder of a difficult time, such as an unplanned pregnancy, could evoke a response in someone
directly affected, we considered that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence on that basis.
2. Not upheld
We noted that the ad promoted a general advice line for women who were pregnant and not sure what to do, but did
not explicitly mention or advocate abortion. We therefore did not consider that the ad promoted abortion or would encourage women to contemplate one particular option above any other. We noted that the ad featured three different women of child-bearing
age, but did not focus on their lifestyles or the circumstances of any particular pregnancy in any detail. We also noted that the women were shown in everyday settings and were not presented in a glamorous way, and we did not consider that the ad would
have a particular appeal to young people or encourage promiscuity. We therefore concluded that the ad that was not harmful.
3. Not upheld
We noted that the ad was directed at women who thought they might be pregnant. We considered that it
was clear that the ad was promoting the Advice Line as a source of information for those women, and noted that it did not advocate one option over another. We did not consider that it suggested that pregnant women should not consult their GP or family
members for support or advice. We understood that MSI was a Pregnancy Advice Bureau (PAB) regulated by the Department of Health and, as a provider of services on behalf of the NHS, were obliged to offer a range of advice on all the options available to
pregnant women. We were satisfied that any callers to the Advice Line would be advised about the health implications of any intervention or procedure which might be appropriate for her, in consultation with a qualified and regulated healthcare
professional. We noted the ad did not refer to abortion and considered there was no evidence that MSI offered abortion on demand, in conflict with the law.
4. Not upheld
We understood that Marie Stopes charged private clients for its
services, but that NHS-referred clients did not pay fees. We understood that MSI was a charity registered with the Charity Commission and revenue derived from its fees was not for profit, but was used to support charitable works directly related to
post-conception advice and services, as well as family planning, contraception and other sexual and reproductive health related issues. We considered that the ad promoted a non-commercial advice service, and therefore concluded that MSI was permitted to
advertise that service on TV under the Code.
5. & 6. Not upheld
We noted the ad was for MSIs general pregnancy advisory service, and that it did not refer to any medicinal product or medical treatment. We therefore considered that the
ad did not promote a POM or medical procedure.
In addition, we did not consider that the content of the ad was directly targeted at children, or would have a particular appeal to children. We therefore concluded that the ad was not in breach of
the Code on these points.
7. Not upheld
We noted that rule 8.3.1 of the BCAP Television Advertising Code stated that ads for services offering remote personalised advice on medical or health matters were only acceptable where that advice
was provided by staff who were regulated by a statutory or recognised medical or health professional body. We understood MSI operated within a clear regulatory structure supervised by government. We also understood that any caller who contacted the MSI
Advice Line, and who wanted specific advice on which healthcare option might be most appropriate for her, would only receive advice on medical and health matters from a registered nurse or qualified counsellor. Because we understood that the advice was
only provided by staff who were subject to regulation by statutory or recognised medical or health professional bodies, we did not consider that the ad was in breach of rule 8.1.3 of the Code.
8. Not upheld
We noted that the ad had been
given an ex-kids timing restriction, which meant it should not be shown on dedicated childrens channels, or in or around those programmes on other channels made for, or specifically targeted at, children. We considered that that restriction was
sufficient to keep the ad away from times when younger children were likely to be watching TV alone. We did not consider that the ad needed to be kept away from times when older children would be watching TV, and therefore concluded that the ex-kids
timing restriction that had been imposed was sufficient.
An advert offering abortion services will be shown for the first time on British television next week.
Last year the authorities changed their code of practice to allow condoms to be advertised on television in an attempt to reduce teenage and
unwanted pregnancies. However, they postponed a decision on whether to allow abortion, or post-conception , services to advertise because the issue was too controversial.
The new advert shows images of various women whose period is late and
are wondering what to do. The first advert will run at 10.10pm on Channel 4 on Monday and the campaign will continue until the end of next month.
The organisation that pre-vets TV ads, Clearcast UK, has not imposed any restrictions on the time of
day it can be aired except that it is not to be shown around children's programmes.
Marie Stopes International, a charity that carries out about 65,000 terminations a year at its British clinics, said that it wanted to encourage people to speak
more openly about abortion, and reach the widest possible audience with information about its services.
Julie Douglas, marketing manager at Marie Stopes, said that the advert made clear that termination was one of the services that Marie Stopes
offered, although the term abortion was not used. The ad features ordinary women who are not sure what to do if their period is late. All women will recognise that message. We do not use the term 'abortion' because we would never assume someone
wants an abortion.
Anti-abortion campaigners said they deplored the campaign. I can only express utter disbelief that this is being allowed, said Michaela Aston, a spokeswoman for Life.
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.
Whatever your opinion of the procedure . . . it is ending a human life.
Campaigners also claim that the availability of abortion has encouraged more teenagers to have sex without contraception, and prevented progress in reducing the number of
teenage pregnancies. The British rate is among the highest in Europe.
Vivianne Pattison of 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.
Channel 4, as a publicly-funded broadcaster, needs to reassure people that it is not going to take sides on one of the most
controversial issues in British culture, said Simon Calvert, of The Christian Institute.
He added: The public and Parliament are split right down the middle on this. Why on earth can't the regulator stop the
advertising of abortion services on TV until there has been proper consideration?
Calvert said: People will be shocked to know how much public money is given to Marie Stopes to carry out abortions for the NHS: They
will be more shocked some of that money is being used to promote the pro-abortion agenda.
Comment: Nutters 'Shocked'
"Marie Stopes should not be allowed to 'ride roughshod over the widely held and deeply felt objections of a very large section of the British public', said Mr Calvert".
Yeah a bunch of God
botherers who think their religious beliefs gives them the right to dictate what women can and cannot do with their bodies makes up a very large section of the British public.
"People will be shocked
to know how much public money is given to Marie Stopes to carry out abortions for the NHS".
Or rather they might be reassured that the NHS is helping an organsation give help to young and frightened women who need help!
The first totally innocuous UK TV commercial offering advice on abortion services has generated 350 complaints to the advert censor, the ASA.
Launched on Monday night on Channel 4 at 10.10pm, the ad for sexual health charity Marie Stopes
simply asks the question Are you late? in reference to how missing a period could mean pregnancy.
The Advertising Standards Authority has received 350 complaints from viewers 'offended' by the commercial. The ASA will assess the complaints
to see if there is grounds to investigate whether the TV commercial breached the advertising code.
No doubt the ASA simply won't want to get involved in the ongoing moral argument.
Vincent Nichols, the newly-designated Archbishop of Westminster, has urge Roman Catholics to oppose new plans to allow abortion services to advertise on radio and television.
Nichols is asking lay members to contest a new initiative which would
relax rules on how pregnancy services and condoms can be advertised. As The Independent revealed last month, Britain's advertising censors are considering allowing television ads for abortion.
The Broadcasting Committee on Advertising Practice
(BCAP), which covers TV and radio, and the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) have proposed allowing pregnancy services to advertise during prime-time television and to allow condoms to be advertised before the 9pm watershed. Aware that the issue
will be controversial, particularly within religious communities, the watchdogs have launched a three-month consultation.
Nichols said: I doubt that any intended adverts about abortion would be fully truthful and tell the whole truth of the
effects of abortion on a woman's life. He also attacked the latest condom adverts, calling them demeaning because they promoted casual sex on the street corner and drunken sex. I do not think these things do anything to
genuinely help young people to understand themselves in their own dignity and in the proper meaning of what human sexuality is about .
Marie Stopes International, Britain's biggest independent pregnancy advisory service, has said it may
consider paying for prime-time adverts and last night it criticised Archbishop Nichols' stance on abortion adverts. A spokesperson said: Advertising condoms and pregnancy advice services could work as a tool to educate young people to be sexually
responsible when they are discovering sex. Earlier advertising of condoms and pregnancy advisory services will be a step forward in meeting this aim and may contribute to lowering high rates of teenage pregnancy.
The Terrence Higgins Trust,
the country's largest HIV and sexual health charity, said the Church was out of touch with young people.