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Outrage as Marie Stopes Plan to Broadcast Abortion Advert on UK TV

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Issued by the Christian Legal Centre

Press Release

For Immediate Release

20 May 2010

Outrage as Marie Stopes Plan to Broadcast Abortion Advert on UK TV

PLANS by abortion providers Marie Stopes International to make TV history by advertising their abortion services on 24 May 2010 has angered pro-life and Christian groups, who are seeking Counsel’s opinion before launching a legal action to stop the advert being aired.

Marie Stopes International provides both NHS and private services, charging £80 for a telephone consultation, with prices rising to £1720 for an abortion between 19-24 weeks.  According to their 2008 financial figures, Marie Stopes International receive nearly £100,000,000 per year, mostly though government reimbursements for providing ‘sexual and reproductive health services’.  In a press release obtained by pro-life groups, MS claim that the advert is part of a wider campaign to ‘confront the taboo of abortion’, and plans to air the advert at 10.10pm on Channel 4 on 24 May and then throughout June.

Whilst adverts by commercial Abortion clinics are prohibited by the advertising codes, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) has stated that the meaning of “commercial” does not include not-for-profit organisations. This means that technically, Marie Stopes International, a registered charity, is not explicitly banned despite the fact that they charge the public for their private services and the campaign covers the commercial 24 hour helpline.

BCAP’s interpretation of the advertising codes has severely narrowed the scope of the prohibitions that many thought were in place.

Advertisements are regulated by the Advertisement Standards Agency, which applies codes written by the BCAP, which  consulted the public in 2009 about potential changes to the codes, and, after a strong response from pro-life organisations and concerned members of the public, decided not to change the codes in relation to ‘post-conception advice services.’ 

On 1 March 2010 BCAP clarified this position in a statement which read: “...when the new Broadcast Advertising Code is published, the regulatory position for advertisements for post-conception advice services will remain unchanged...advertisements for commercial post-conception advice services offering individual advice on personal problems will not be acceptable.”

The draft code, due to come into force in September states: “Advertisements for commercial post-conception advice services offering individual advice on personal problems are not acceptable.”  The code expands by saying: “Given that abortions are lawful only in exceptional circumstances, and are subject to particularly stringent requirements in Northern Ireland, broadcasters may wish to seek legal advice before advertising.”  However, the codes appear to be misleading.

Andrea Minichiello-Williams, barrister and director of the Christian Legal Centre said: “It is entirely unsatisfactory that the advertising codes supposedly allow these adverts to take place, based on a very narrow reading of the term ‘commercial’. Members of the public will be enraged that such adverts are allowed to be beamed into their living rooms, especially as early as 10.10pm, when very many teenagers are around.

Over 200,000 abortions take place each year in the UK and the figures are not falling.  So-called ‘family planning’ is a multi-million pound industry and should not be aided by TV advertising.  The notion that the destruction of human life can be advertised freely on TV as a service to the public is outrageous and we will be doing all we can to stop the advert from being aired.”


For further information/interview:

Andrea Minichiello-Williams: 07712 591164 / (020) 7935 1488


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