Private clinics that charge for pregnancy services, including abortions, will be able to advertise on television and radio under new regulations.
Clinics offering a range of "post-conception advice services" (PCAS), including counselling and terminations, will be free to advertise in broadcast media because there is no justification to prevent it as long as they are not harmful, offensive or misleading, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) said.
Not-for-profit pregnancy services are already allowed to advertise on television and radio and for-profit clinics can already advertise in all other media, including newspapers.
Under new rules clinics will now have to make it clear in all advertising if they do not offer referral for termination. This is because of strong public health grounds, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) said. The new rules will take effect on April 30.
A statement from BCAP said: "BCAP decided to remove the television rule, which effectively prevents commercial PCAS offering personal advice from advertising, and the radio rule which effectively prevents only PCAS with local authority or NHS approval from advertising.
"BCAP understood that the removal of these restrictions would allow legally available PCAS to advertise, while maintaining robust protection for general audiences through existing rules which prevent broadcast advertising from causing harm or offence."
It added: "We held a full public consultation in summer 2011 and invited the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Department of Health to respond. We did not receive any response."
Matt Wilson, a spokesman for BCAP, said: "There is not going to be some sort of free-for-all saying 'come to us to get an abortion'. They are not there to promote abortion, they have to promote an array of services. It is about being responsible, and commercial pro-life pregnancy services will now be able to advertise too."
But Tory MP Nadine Dorries told the Daily Mail: "What this is actually going to do is desensitise what abortion is and the seriousness of it, and making it sound like it's as easy as having your lunch."
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, an anti-abortion campaign group, said: "This decision will only serve the abortion industry's money-spinning trade which hurts women through killing their unborn children".