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Abortion advert complaints rejected

More than a thousand complaints about the first UK television commercial for abortion services have been rejected by the advertising watchdog, it was announced.

Marie Stopes drew 1,054 complaints from the public, GPs, counsellors and MPs objecting that its "Are you late?" campaign was misleading, offensive and harmful.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc) also arranged for another 3,296 postcards to be sent to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) opposing the ad.

The ad for advice about an unplanned pregnancy ran for four weeks in May and June.

It asked "Are you late?", in reference to a woman who has missed her period, and directed those facing an unplanned pregnancy to Marie Stopes International's 24-hour helpline.

Viewers complained that it was offensive because it promoted abortion, offended their religious beliefs, did not take into account the views of fathers, was sexist for implying that pregnancy was solely a woman's responsibility and equated decisions about the procedure to choices about consumer goods.

Among the objections that it was harmful were concerns that it would encourage viewers to have an abortion when they had not previously considered the option and would encourage promiscuity.

Others complained that it misled viewers by not referring to the physical and mental health risks of abortion and failed to mention that pregnant women who wanted advice could contact their GPs or seek the advice of family members.

Defending the campaign, Marie Stopes said it did not mention abortion and did not promote the procedure but aimed to draw attention to its advice line for any women concerned about a missed period or unplanned pregnancy.

The company said it received an "overwhelmingly positive" response to the ad, taking significantly more calls to the advice line during the period the ad was shown from women and health professionals who expressed gratitude for the support.

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