Anti-abortion poster was not misleading, advertising watchdog rules

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Aug 03, 2017
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The Advertising Standards Agency said people would assume the claim made on the poster by Northern Irish campaigners was an estimate, not an exact calculation

Both Lives Matter/PA

Advertising watchdogs have ruled that a controversial campaign was accurate in its attempts to estimate the number of people currently alive in Northern Ireland because it did not implement legislation allowing abortion.

More than a dozen complaints were made over a poster that appeared in two places in Northern Ireland last January, which read: “100,000 people are alive today because of our laws on abortion. Why change that?” The campaign referred to the fact that Northern Ireland did not implement the Abortion Action 1967.

The complainants said that the posters were misleading and that the figure could not be substantiated. But yesterday the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that 100,000 was a fair estimate.

In its ruling, the watchdog said that those reading the poster “would appreciate that it was not possible to calculate the precise number of abortions that would have theoretically occurred in Northern Ireland if abortion had been legal over the past 50 years”. As a result, the watchdog said, it was a fair assumption that readers would expect the claim to be an estimate based on a methodology that showed there was a “reasonable probability that around 100,000 individuals were alive today who had been born to mothers who would have aborted their pregnancy if it had been legal to do so”.

Reacting to the ruling, Dawn McAvoy, a spokeswoman for Both Lives Matter, the campaigning group that produced the advertisements, said: “This is a victory for common sense and free speech. All too often people claiming to be pro-choice shout down any opposition, but the statistics speak for themselves.”

Department of Health statistics from 2013 showed that there had been more than 8 million legal abortions in England and Wales since the 1967 Act came into force.

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