LONDON – The head of the Christian Legal Center has condemned plans to air the first ever TV advertisement for abortion services.
Marie Stopes is set to make TV history when it advertises its abortion services on Channel 4 at 2210 GMT on May 24. The ad asks "Are you late?" referring to women who may have missed a period. It will then run throughout June.
It is being broadcast as part of a wider campaign by the registered charity to "confront the taboo of abortion."
The plans have upset pro-life and Christian groups, who are considering legal action to halt the broadcast of the advert.
While commercial abortion clinics are prohibited from advertising on TV by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, the ban does not cover not-for-profit abortion providers like Marie Stopes.
The CLC believes the ban should be extended to Marie Stopes as it charges for its private services and the advert refers to its commercial 24-hour helpline.
BCAP is charged with drawing up advertising codes, which then form the basis upon which the Advertising Standards Authority regulates advertisements.
A 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 CLC warned that BCAP's interpretation of advertising codes has "severely narrowed" the scope of the prohibitions in place.
CLC director Andrea Minichiello-Williams said family planning was a multi-million pound industry that "should not be aided by TV advertising."
"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,'" she said. "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.
"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."
Around 200,000 abortions take place in the UK each year. Marie Stopes earns around £30m a year from the NHS for carrying out abortions.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales also hit out at the TV ad.
"Abortion is not a consumer service. To present it as such erodes respect for life and is highly misleading and damaging to women, who may feel pressured into making a quick decision, which can never be revoked," they said.
"Moreover, to allow the broadcasting advertising of abortion-referral services is, in effect, to allow the exploitative promotion of these services and is not in the interests of the health or psychological well-being of women.