Ofcom clears first UK television abortion ad

Media regulator Ofcom has cleared the UK’s first television abortion advert, rejecting complaints that it was “political” in nature.

Following its airing on Channel 4 between 24 May and 24 June, the ad for sexual health services charity Marie Stopes International was subject to an orchestrated campaign from pro-life campaigners.

The campaign led to 4,000 complaints in total, including 1,054 to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and a petition with over 3,000 signatories about the ad’s “offensive” “pro-abortion” nature but the advertising watchdog also cleared it earlier this month.

Ofcom received 270 complaints about the ad claiming it breached rules in the advertising code, alleging it was politcal in nature.

Political advertising is prohibited on television and radio under sector 321 of the Communications Act 2003.

The ad featured three women in everyday settings who were late on their periods and a voiceover pointed them in the direction of Marie Stopes International for advice.

Ofcom said it received complaints suggesting the ad “actively campaigned to change abortion law” and some which likened it to “propaganda”.

However, after reviewing the sexual healthcare charity’s goals and ethos, Ofcom ruled that as a not-for-profit organistion, Marie Stopes International was not in breach of the Act and the the ad was not politically motivated.

Ofcom also found that nothing in the advert suggested it was part of a wider campaign to change abortion law.

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