Report BPAS to the ASA

BPAS have been accused of exploiting the recent abortion limit controversy by launching a new pro-choice campaign, to be featured on billboards and in bus shelters around the country, called No More Names. 

The campaign raises a number of issues, such as whether or not an organisation which receives £25 million a year, most of which is received from the taxpayer for providing abortions on the NHS (93% of its work is NHS funded) should in fact be advertising to normalise and promote as a good, what is for very many people, a last-ditch enormously tragic procedure.

Of primary concern is the dubious claim that one in three women will have an abortion in their reproductive lifetime, abortion is therefore a necessary medical procedure and women should not be stigmatised or called names for having one. No-one is arguing that women who have abortions should be stigmatised and neither is there any evidence to suggest that any marginalisation does take place; despite claims to the contrary, none of the groups who conduct clinic vigils in the UK, either 40 days for life or Abort 67 are in the business of shouting or name-calling of women entering the clinic. There are there to help and offer alternative solutions, not to alienate and abuse women who they recognise are often in a very difficult position. No Christian with a shred of spiritual conscience,  intellectual honesty or emotional intelligence would so abuse a post-abortive woman in such a way, the default position is always one of compassion and sympathy for all involved, we know that these situations are not always easy and for many their decision has come about for a variety of reasons.

So if there is no discernible name-calling, then the entire point of this campaign is to normalise and promote abortion, which is always an ethical choice, as a necessary medical procedure, which most women will need to undergo in their lifetime. This is demonstrably false. Last year no abortions were performed under grounds F and G, i.e. in the case of an emergency to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent grave permanent injury to her physical or mental health. 102 out of 189,931 abortions last year were performed under ground B, which is deemed necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. No abortions were performed solely to save the life of a woman – ground A. The 45 abortions that fell into this category, were combined with other grounds such as the most common one, ground C, which gives the most flexibility. If we then factor in the findings of a recent maternal health symposium in Dublin which ruled that direct abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother, this idea of abortion being necessary, looks increasingly shaky.

If abortion is a medical necessity, then why does it need to be advertised on billboards, hoardings and in bus-shelters alongside consumer products as if it is a lifestyle choice? It rather makes a mockery of the attempted perjorative “anti-choice” label? Are these adverts, which seek to promote abortion as well as brand awareness of a major abortion provider, suitable for children and teens, who are being sold a message that abortion is a necessary and desirable procedure?

The advert itself could be construed as pro-life, featuring a photo of a beautiful baby. The agency either missed the irony of putting a photograph of a baby on a clinic that provides abortions and suggests that we should call women who have had abortions, “mother”, or more disturbingly, wants to present an idealised stylised image of motherhood in the same way as any company wishing to sell you a product to make you buy into an image or vision. In this case we have a picture of a beautiful young model and her baby. The message is clear, unless you are in a position to have the perfect yummy mummy lifestyle with the beautiful blond haired blue eyed angelic looking baby, then abortion is the answer. Abortion advocates have switched to using worrying new tactics – unless you can live a sepia-toned, airbrushed vision of motherhood, the kind of lifestyle promoted by manufacturers of baby products and magazines, then you should not be having children. It is not life that matters, but presumed quality of life and nothing less than a sanitised, white teeth and baby-Boden vision will do. If you can’t live the yummy mummy dream, then you should not be having children.

The choice of models is equally telling, they are all middle-class, and bar one, all young and white. Abortion is obviously the choice of the young beautiful white people, whereas the statistics tell us a very different story. 49% of women who had repeat abortions in 2011, were Black or Black British, 45% were mixed race, 33% were Chinese or another group and 32% were Asian or Asian British. Statistically speaking it is not the white middle classes who are having to resort to abortion, which begs the question why the advert does not reflect this, unless of course they are seeking to extend their client base, hence the unrepresentative models.

The crux of the advert, is the claim that one in three women will have an abortion. I previously wrote about who the one in three women are, but I’ve been doing some digging as to the basis of this statistic, which has been provided by the Guttmacher Institute, the research body funded by Planned Parenthood, America’s biggest abortion provider. BPAS provide no breakdown or statistical analysis of how they have produced this figure, other than it has come from the Guttmacher Institute.

The Guttmacher’s figures relate solely to the American population, so is it statistically correct to extrapolate this to the situation to the UK? Secondly the figure appears to be some sort of straight averaging, which is again misleading. A woman who has had multiple abortions (36% of abortions carried out in the UK IN 2011 were repeats) is going to skew the figures. Furthermore it seems that abortion is defined in these statistics as a Dilatation and Curettage (D&C), which is not strictly used for abortion. Many women require a D&C post natural miscarriage, or in my case, following the birth of my first child, therefore it is inaccurate to include D&C procedures within abortion statistics. Perhaps a third of women will require a D&C at some point in their reproductive life, but that is not the same as a third of all women requiring abortion.

The Advertising Codes laid down by the ASA state that advertisements must not mislead or offend. The BPAS advert definitely falls into the former category and for a significant majority of the population, the latter. It misleads as to the number of people who have an abortion, the type of people who have an abortion, provides no statistics to back up any of it claims, either in terms of the amount of women who have abortions or the perceived stigmatising of post-abortive women. It is offensive in that it portrays an ethical decision which results in the destruction of an unborn child and often severe trauma to the mother, as being a medical necessity and/or a consumer choice. The complaint form is here. 

Women who have abortions are mothers, sisters, friends. They all deserve better.

2 thoughts on “Report BPAS to the ASA

  1. Hi, Caroline

    I’m not sure that The billboard poster itself can be complained about, as it doesn’t make any claims. Do you have a link to the ‘meat’ is of the campaign?

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