National Catholic Register


Selling Death on TV

U.K. Eyes Abortion Commercials



April 12-18, 2009 Issue | Posted 4/3/09 at 12:06 PM


LONDON — TV advertisements for abortion providers will soon be allowed on British television if a recommendation by a leading government-sponsored body goes forward.

A group called the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV — known as IAG — was set up by the government in 2003. IAG’s chairman, Baroness Joyce Gould, is also president of the Family Planning Association, which is Britain’s leading pro-abortion campaigning organization. She is an active campaigner in the House of Lords in support of widespread promotion of abortion and chairs an all-party Parliamentary pro-choice group.

IAG has now called for abortion and condom providers to be allowed advertisements on TV, including during the time generally set aside as “family viewing time,” before 9 p.m.

A number of IAG’s key members are paid by groups providing or promoting abortion. They include the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the chief executive of Brook Advisory Centres — which distribute contraception among teenagers — and the chief executive of the Family Planning Association (in addition to its president, already mentioned).

Other members include a founding member of a homosexual men’s advisory group and another activist with Brook who also chairs a lobby group called the Sex Education Forum.

The IAG’s recommendation is supported by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), another government body. It seems set to go ahead, although it is being strongly opposed by groups supporting family values and working for the pro-life cause.

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the proposal “threatens to further commercialize the killing of unborn children. It would completely disregard the adverse effect of abortion on women’s health. Agencies with a financial interest in abortion will be in a position to buy expensive broadcast advertising, whereas groups which provide objective information about abortion and its impact on women’s health will be unlikely to afford to advertise.”

“We note the proposed requirement that any group advertising counseling services for pregnant women must make clear if the group does not refer women for abortion,” he said. “We will be scrutinizing the ASA’s proposals closely for any similar signs of potential discrimination against pro-life groups. The ASA already demonstrated a bias against pro-life groups when it attempted to ban advertisements which stated correctly that morning-after pills may cause early abortions.”

Smeaton added, “We are also concerned about the proposal to allow advertisements on television for condoms before the 9 p.m. watershed. Such a move would only serve to sexualize young people, and the resulting promiscuity would lead to more abortions, more teenage pregnancies, and more sexually transmitted infections.”

‘Yet Another Hammer Blow’

Catholic Member of Parliament Anne Widdecombe agreed, saying she completely opposed the proposal.

“It’s a direct encouragement to abortion,” she said. “It’s a complete minefield. I have spoken to people who have been to, for example, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, thinking they were going to get impartial advice, and then later felt they had been pushed towards a particular choice.”

She also noted that over recent years there had been more and more sex education and contraception for school children, and “we’ve never had such a high rate of teenage pregnancy.”

But opposition is unlikely to deter either the ASA or the IAG. One of the IAG’s abortion supporters, Julie Bentley, who draws a salary from the strongly pro-abortion Family Planning Association, said, “It is crucial that women who are pregnant have access to high-quality, accurate information about all of their choices.”

This seems unlikely to occur, however, as the high prices of TV advertising will place it beyond the range of any groups offering alternatives to abortion, of which there are several in Britain, including Life, and Scotland’s Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative.

These groups offer information, support, practical care and, where necessary, accommodation to pregnant women. Even if they were able to raise the funds for TV advertising, they would probably be limited in what they were allowed to say and would be labeled as not offering a full range of choices.

Bishop Patrick O’Donohue of Lancaster said the proposal threatened “yet another hammer blow to the sanctity of human life in this country.”

“I am appalled that this proposal will result in the deaths of many more preborn children and cause untold harm to women,” he said. “As a society, we need to wake up and stop treating abortion as a quick-fix solution to pregnancy and offer compassionate and practical support to women facing crisis pregnancies. The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative in Scotland is a shining example of the Church and others reaching out to pregnant women who find themselves isolated and frightened, offering emotional support and practical help, such as liaising with families and providing financial assistance to women in need.”

“The killing of the innocent can never be a genuine solution to a problem,” Bishop O’Donohue said. “I urge all those who care about the sanctity of human life to voice their opposition to this proposal with one voice.”

Joanna Bogle writes

from London.