In what is a rather confusing article on the BBC, apparently the Archbishop of Westminister has responded to a public consultation on allowing advertisements promoting safe sex and sexual health services on TV and radio, by asking for all adverts from organisations that refer women for abortions to be banned. “Archbishop Nichols urged Catholics in England and Wales to respond to the consultation, saying that the country would not expect abortion to be advertised "alongside a packet of crisps".” Somebody else, or perhaps him as well (bad writing journalists!!), ask for organisations that refer women for abortions to clearly state that in their ads. The need for such advertisements on TV and radio is due to the dramatic increase in STDs amongst under 16s and a desire to tackle these issues.
It seems to be that there are number of problems with this issue. First, seeing as in the UK, the vast majority of (but not all) sexual health services and sexual health advertisements are provided by the NHS, who also provide abortions, this would mean that the NHS could not advertise, so no stop smoking ads, no stop drinking ads, no phone the NHS hotline, not your Dr, ads etc, etc. Alternatively, they may just have to state that they provide abortions services in their ads, so look out for: ‘Stop Smoking Phone 0800 *****, ps you can also get an abortion with your nicotine patch’.
Second, the fact is that equating the advertising of sexual health services with advertising abortion is really just a bunch of scare-mongering to turn a rather banal issue into a hot topic. These adverts are to stop STDs, not ‘encourage’ abortion. By providing info on contraception it might even help prevent the need for abortion. But, if we must imagine that advertisers are lining up to sell abortion: How exactly does one advertise abortion anyway?
‘Hey, you’re pregnant and you thought having a child was the thing for you-Stop, have an abortion, it’s an experience of a lifetime’.
‘it’s a Saturday night and you’re bored- you were going to have a packet of crisps, but instead, have an abortion?’
Perhaps the adverts are to make sure people are aware that organisations that provide abortion exist and to ensure they can make an informed choice, but it seems unlikely, and frankly demeans women, to suggest that they will or will not choose to have an abortion based on a TV advert. Abortions are not life-style accessories (perhaps unlike children?). They are a necessary service that prevent women’s deaths, help protect their fertility, and give women control over their own bodies. The only way that an advert will improve the likelihood of a woman having an abortion is by offering her information to get one that she previously lacked. And, do you really want to argue that you think enforced pregnancy is a better option that a 30-second advert, next to the one about a packet of crisps?
Perhaps, I don’t want to know the answer to that.