The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a media regulator in the United Kingdom, announced yesterday that it has rejected 1,054 complaints about the UK’s first television commercial for family planning services including abortion. The advertisement, part of the ‘Are You Late’ campaign, was sponsored by Marie Stopes International (MSI), one of the world’s leading family planning organizations. The ad directed women with late periods to call the group’s 24-hour helpline. The commercial aired for four weeks in April and May and elicited the seventh highest number of complaints ever made to the ASA.
Complaints about the campaign, which asserted that the ad was misleading and offensive, were received from general practitioners, members of parliament, members of the general public, and mental health counselors, according to UK Wired. Additionally, some viewers complained that the ad promoted abortion and was sexist for implying that pregnancy was only a women’s responsibility, according to BBC News.
In response to the complaints, the ASA said that the advertisement did not mention or advocate for abortion. According to 24 Dash, the ASA said, “we understood that post-conception decisions could be very difficult, but considering the ad dealt with the issue of possible pregnancy in an understated way and was not sensationalist.” The ASA added, “we noted the ad did not refer to abortion and considered there was no evidence that Marie Stopes offered abortion on demand, in conflict with the law.”
Marie Stopes International maintains that the commercial did not encourage abortion and served to promote their advice line. A statement issued by the organization said, “we believe that our decision to advertise our services was justified and in the interest of women everywhere. Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can be an isolating and frightening experience, especially if the woman concerned is uncertain about whether or not to continue it. Our unique 24/7 advice line helps hundreds of thousands of women every year,” reported 24 Dash.