Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A disappointing response... to say the least

Last week Edek and I received a response from Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture Sport & Media, to the letter we and several pro life group members sent to our MP Francis Maude about the "abortion ads" issue (see Katherine's earlier post).  Our thanks to Mr Maude for forwarding on our letter to the Secretary of State but, to be frank, I can only describe Mr Hunt's letter in reply as an ecological sin.  Why?  Because some correspondence is not worth the paper and other natural resources it uses up in being written.

Mr Hunt didn't comment on any of our concerns but merely gave an overview of the new situation vis-a-vis TV ads on behalf of commercial "post conception advice services" (known as PCAS), which we knew anyway.  He reiterated that direct advertising of abortion services is still banned, completely ignoring our point that allowing PCAS who financially benefit from providing abortions as one of their services to advertise is effectively promoting abortion "by the back door".

Mr Hunt did provide a link to the statement made by the British Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) as to why it had decided to allow commercial PCAS to advertise.  You can read it here.  I suppose you could say that in doing so he did achieve a partial "result" from using up those ecological resources - he positively made my blood boil (not good news for the hard-pressed NHS though if it contributes to high blood pressure on my part!).  I quote from BCAP:

In line with BCAP’s objective to ensure that advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful and does not contain material which might cause harm, offence or mislead audiences, BCAP also considered the case for introducing new rule for PCAS requiring those that cannot directly refer women for a termination to make that fact clear in the advertisement.

BCAP noted that a number of respondents were concerned that the proposed rule would affect only those services that do not refer women for a termination, which they considered to be most likely those that take an ethical stance against abortion, but did not similarly require other PCAS to state that they could refer women or had a financial interest in the provision of termination services...

In determining the merit of introducing an equivalent rule requiring disclosure by PCAS that can refer women for termination in the advertisement and requiring PCAS to indicate their ethical stance on abortion, BCAP carefully considered the vulnerability of women seeking advice on unplanned pregnancy and what information should be made available to them in an advertisement to afford adequate protection from harm...
In light of the above, BCAP considered there to be a strong case on public health grounds to introduce a rule requiring PCAS that cannot directly refer women for a termination to make that fact clear in advertisements. However, BCAP considered that it would be disproportionate to extend to all PCAS the requirement to make clear that they could refer women for a termination or had a financial interest in women opting for termination. BCAP understood the concerns of organisations, both supportive and opposed to abortion, but considered that irrespective of the ethical stance of the organisation, it was only imperative on public health grounds that advertisements make clear to women whether the PCAS could refer them for a termination should they wish to have that choice available to them because any delay could increase the risk of health complications. There were not equally compelling health grounds to require PCAS that could refer women for termination to state that in advertisements because women seeking advice on unplanned pregnancy were likely to presume that, unless stated otherwise, organisations would be able to offer them a range of options for their unplanned pregnancy which might include termination.

So it seems it is "safer" for a woman to go to a clinic which has a financial interest in offering her an abortion (hmm, not really safer for her baby though).  As Katherine pointed out when she read this response, BCAP feels it is somehow healthier for this to happen than for the woman to go to an organisation which would help her, should she decide to keep the baby rather than offer him/her for adoption, with support, baby clothes and advocacy...

Presumably BCAP are thinking that an earlier abortion is medically safer than a later one, but no counselling service would exert pressure to prevent a woman in the first trimester from going to her GP and asking to be referred for an abortion should that be her decision.  As for the number of pregnancies which give rise to medical complications at an early stage, these are very few and a woman concerned about her health is more likely to visit her doctor than a clinic in any case.

Another thing that I found seriously annoying (to say the least) was the final sentence of BCAP quoted above. "Women seeking advice on unplanned pregnancy were likely to presume that, unless stated otherwise, organisations would be able to offer them a range of options for their unplanned pregnancy which might include termination."  Is this not a tacit admission that allowing commercial PCAS to advertise is implicitly abortion advertising, if BCAP believe that women will be choosing their clinic with this in mind anyway?

The final paragraph of the letter we received from Mr Hunt reassures us that although clinics which profit financially from performing abortions may put their names out there in the ether for all to pick up, a variety of other services may not, including pyramid promotional schemes.  Well thank goodness for that.  Killing unborn human life is one thing but those pyramid sales schemes really are a step too far...

Enough - sarcasm is the lowest form of humour.  We would urge anyone concerned about TV advertising by commercial PCAS to keep plugging away and perhaps contact Mr Hunt directly.  Should you see such an ad, you can contact the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to register your concern, as many did after Marie Stopes aired their TV ad last year.  And please, do give all the support you can to those crisis pregnancy counselling services in your area who have no financial or ideological interest in abortion (in Horsham, this is OASIS).

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