First UK abortion TV ad to face legal challenge

Sexual health clinics group Marie Stopes International has unveiled plans to launch the first ever national campaign to raise awareness of sexual health and confront the taboo of abortion, pending a legal challenge from the Society For The Protection Of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Marie Stopes International abortion campaign
Marie Stopes International abortion campaign

The commercial will promote unplanned pregnancy and abortion advisory services, and is scheduled to breakon Channel 4 at 10.10pm on Monday (24 May) and run throughout June.

The clinics group says it created the “ground breaking commercial” after independent research showed that only 42% of UK adults stated that they would know where to go for specialist advice, other than going to their GP, if they or their partner were faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

However, the advert will be subject to a legal challenge from SPUC who argue that the clinics have a “financial interest in drumming up demand for abortion.” The group have been campaigning to keep abortion adverts off TV screens as the focal point of its White Flower Appeal 2010.

Its survey also revealed that over three quarters of UK adults (76%) agree that commercials about unplanned pregnancy advice services should be allowed on TV within appropriate broadcasting times.

In a statement, Marie Stopes International says: “Despite the fact that one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime , the subject is still not always openly, or honestly, discussed. While there is a lot of information about abortion available unfortunately not all of it is accurate or impartial. Marie Stopes International works to improve public understanding of unplanned pregnancy and abortion, and to help women make confident, informed sexual health choices.”

The campaign will focus on the question ’Are you late?’ and will direct them to Marie Stopes International’s 24 hour helpline, where they can receive non-judgemental support, advice and services.

Dana Hovig, Marie Stopes International’s CEO, says: “Last year alone we received 350,000 calls to our 24 hour helpline. Clearly there are hundreds of thousands of women who want and need sexual health about their sexual health.”

In 2008, 215,975 abortions were performed in the UK – of which 195,296 were for women resident in England and Wales. In this same period, 1,173 women were forced to travel at their own expense to England from Northern Ireland, where abortion remains largely unavailable.

Other groups including TV watchdog Mediawatch and lobby group Life have also expressed fears that the ad will not provide useful information to women considering their options.


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