Complaining to the ASA about the Marie Stopes Advert

I know many of you were offended by the Marie Stopes advertisement on Channel 4 on Monday. Here’s a quick guide to how to complain to the ASA.

1. Go to the ASA Website – click here

2. Enter your personal details and click next

3. Type of Advertisement is “Broadcast and Cinema”; Subtype is TV Ads

4. In the first box type “Channel 4”

5. In the second box type “10.10pm, Monday 24th May”

6. In the third box type “Marie Stopes International”

7. In the fourth box type something like the following

I wish to complain about the above advertisement which breached advertising standards. This advertisement should not have been aired because

* Although MSI is a charity, the services which it will advertise involve a commercial transaction, as the public are charged for £80 for a telephone consultation and hundreds of pounds for an abortion.

* These services are also ‘medical’ since they require the signature of two doctors and therefore by analogy are prohibited by the code (which prevents advertising for prescription only products and services).

* The subject of ‘abortion services’ is a matter of significant political debate and controversy. Furthermore, MSI openly engage in the political campaigns to change the law on abortion and refer to this advert as part of ‘a wider campaign’. Commercial advertising of such issues is not permitted.

8. Click Next and select which privacy options you want

If you felt led you could also email your MP with a similar short but precise letter. I’ve emailed my MP Mark Prisk and you can find out who your MP is here (just type in your postcode).

Zachary died at the same age as some of these babies are murdered. He was not just a lump of flesh.

25 Comments on “Complaining to the ASA about the Marie Stopes Advert

  1. I have seen this advert and abortion is not mentioned once. However I note that Marie Stopes does offer termination and this is not something I am personally comfortable with. It rather sickens me that MEN feel they are authoritative on this matter and this is my cop out in discussing the matter. Certainly I am not a fan of abortion on demand, but then I do not agree with making abortion illegal.

    What is REALLY needed (as I bore myself and others saying) is a more healthy attitude to sex and sexuality. Take a look at Scandinavia or Holland, where there are liberal attitudes to sex and good sex education in schools and we see much lower rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and (ironically) a higher age when teenagers first have intercourse. So continue the moral bleating – but what would REALLY lower the number of abortions is to put your efforts into lobbying for better sex education in schools and a more tolerant and open attitude to sex and sexuality in society.

    As an aside, it would be interesting to note how much money and effort anti-abortionists give to single-parent charities or in offering unwanted children a home…

    • "It rather sickens me that MEN feel they are authoritative on this matter and this is my cop out in discussing the matter."

      I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here. Are you suggesting that men should have no input on abortion?
      My recent post Less hopeful?

      • I am suggesting men should know their place in this debate. I can witter all I like about abortion, but it is not me who is going to face an unwanted pregnancy is it? As noted it is my 'cop out'. Much that is written and much that we see in media about this topic is emotive and openly condemns women who have often been shafted (literally!) by men.

        I was at a family funeral recently and asked why my aged aunt (by marriage) was raised by a step mother and told her mother had died, in 1922, of a botched backstreet abortion. When I worked as social worker I also came across the results of failed abortions. It is easy to sit here and judge those who have broken the 11th Commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Get Found Out' – particularly when you are (like me) a comparative, affluent, middle-class man who has the luxury of choice and gender.

        It is a complicated issue and 'Abortion is Murder' is just too simple. Many Christians happily use contraception, which could be argued as negating God's purpose, even denying life – we don't hear as much debate on that issue do we…?

        • Steven, are you suggesting that ending the life of an existing individual is the same as taking an action that results in conception not occurring?

          I agree that the social and legal problems around abortion and sexuality are complex. But the actual issue itself is not especially complex, and arguably the existence of abortion reduces people's willingness to address issues such as deprivation and irresponsible men.

          The real reason why we have so much abortion in Britain in 2010 is that easy abortion is an essential component of our current debased sexual culture, specifically the unrealistic demand that sex be just for fun, without any consequences.

          As Ann Furedi, the chief executive of BPAS and a fierce pro-choicer, says:

          "…arguments for increased access to contraception…are built on the assumption that these developments will bring down the abortion rate. The anti-choice movement counter that this does not seem to be the case in practice. Arguably they are right. Access to effective contraception creates an expectation that women can control their fertility…Given that expectation, women may be less willing to compromise their plans for the future…In days when sex was expected to carry the risk of pregnancy, an unwanted child was a chance a woman took. Today, we expect sex to be free from that risk and unplanned maternity is not a price we are prepared to pay."

          In the same article as this quote appears she notes that 60% of women who come to BPAS seeking abortion were using contraception. So it is not quite as simple as just saying "do what thou wilt, but wear a condom".

          • Niall

            As I have noted in a post either here, or on another blog (you lose count sometimes!!); one of the problems with the British version of liberal democracy is that there is a propensity to keep one half of the bargain – and take take, without social responsibility. I am afraid (looking at another reply you have addressed to me) you get me wrong if you think I am a liberal per se. I am certainly not – I more of a centralist libertarian. And to elaborate on my work within the field of disabilities – I have a particular dislike of Stopes because of the founder’s eugenics agenda.

            My belief in a thorough sex education in schools is because it is so often lacking in the home (funny, parents will pay to have their child learn to drive a car, but many give little advice on how young people should use their bodies!!!) is rooted in the fact if people are aware of the facts, they can make informed choices – AND LIVE BY THE CONSEQUENCIES OF THOSE CHOICES. I do not believe abortion should be used as a means of contraception and my own belief is that abortion should only be available for rape victims (and only when the pregnancy would have serious mental health problems for the victim) and if the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother. However as I stress, gender (and class and education) gives me (and you) the luxury of making hypothetical decisions we don’t have to live by. And for that reason caution is necessary.

            I hope that clarifies things.



    • I would want to ask what the causes for the lower teenage pregnancy rates (and higher age of first sexual encounter) are. Is it linked to education, the age of consent, or are there cultural factors at play? If so, then throwing money at education won't solve the problem.

      You have a very good point about what pro-life activists are doing to help women who decide not to murder their babies. The anti-life activists certainly make no provision.

      • Peter

        From what I can gather – and there is data on this, have a trawl of Google Scholar for academic papers – it is both cultural and related to education. These societies, unlike Britain, adopted a welfare state model of greater reciprocation and social responsibility. Whereas as for the Brits it is just take take and little giving. However sex education is also important – partly because if often so lacking in the home. If you think about it, it is common sense. Children are sexual creatures – they’re not innocents – and this makes for confusion in a society where there is increasing sexualisation of children and expectations about sex in general. Educating children on the responsibilities of sexual behaviour is a means of overcoming the ‘consequence-free’ sexuality often portrayed in the media.

        We just need not be so anal about sex. It is a natural desire – like eating and sleeping and to make the taboo many religious authorities have constructed only leads to ignorance and the consequences (e.g. unwanted pregnancies – shame and guilt etc.) these bring.



  2. Gosh, where to begin, Steven?

    Abortion "is not something I am personally comfortable with".

    What does this weaselly formulation even mean? Wearing an Arsenal shirt is not something I am personally comfortable with. Dancing the tango in Wellington boots is not something I am personally comfortable with. Wearing shorts at the North Pole in winter is not something I am personally comfotable with. Abortion is ending the life of an unborn child. If you do not think that ending the life of an unborn child is wrong, then just say so.

    "what would REALLY lower the number of abortions is to put your efforts into lobbying for better sex education in schools and a more tolerant and open attitude to sex and sexuality in society".

    Britain has been becoming more "tolerant and open" about sexuality for half a century now. In that time the level of abortion has increased enormously (and yes, I am well aware that there was illegal abortion before 1967, but all the evidence – rather than the pro-choice propaganda – suggests that it was not especially common). There is very little evidence to link "better sex education" with lower rates of abortion, and your analysis of the Scandinavian and Dutch situations is extremely simplistic. For your first assignment, read "Deconstructing The Dutch Utopia":

    "As an aside, it would be interesting to note how much money and effort anti-abortionists give to single-parent charities or in offering unwanted children a home…"

    I work for the charity LIFE: Offering alternatives to abortion is exactly what we're about. And there are thousands of Christian parents who would love to offer homes to unwanted children. It's just that the abortion clinics usually get to the children first.

    So less of the smug liberal superiority, please. As a final question, I wonder, do you support the eugenic abortion of disabled unborn children (which is of course legal right up to birth in the UK)? If so, how precisely does this fit in with liberal principles of equality and non-discrimination?

    • Thanks for the comments. It is difficult to do justice to the topic here. In short no, I do not agree with abortion on demand, though I do think it is the only alternative in some situations.

      No, I do not agree with the termination of children with disabilities. Aside from years of work as a social worker and a lobbyist for rights of disabled people, a best friend has Morquio's , is a wheelchair user, yet also a career high flier – he would not have been born with today’s amniocentesis testing. So in answering your last question – which you’ve attempted to answer for me – perhaps denotes we can all possess a little of the smug superiority.

      As a doctoral candidate, used to appraising research, I take with a pinch of salt, its bias appears reactionary and simplistic – though I will peruse its articles. Whatever, secular, liberal society has given us greater social morality than when the churches were full and the Bible better known of that there is little doubt.

      Yes, it is laudable charities provide homes for unwanted children. My partner and I have considered this – the nastiness from vicious Christian reactionaries has put us off to some degree, though we are still looking at this. Again, as a social worker I have watched children languish on the adoption register – so demand doesn’t seem to outstrip supply…

      Because of the tone of your comments, I imagine, my words will fall on stony ground. But I can live with that.



      • Steven:

        Please let's not play the "who can be most offended?" game. Yes, my tone is strident – because there are tens of thousands of lives at stake. And besides, you called Peter "obsessed" and a "hypocrite", you call Christian conservatives "vicious" and call their intelligence and integrity into question before you'd even read the piece I referenced, make snide remarks about pro-lifers, and profess to be sickened by people who disagree with you, so forgive me if I don't tiptoe around the issues.

        Just as an endnote, one of the reason why so many children are languishing in care is that, now that the State has a monopoly on adoption, it has been made so difficult to adopt, especially for people who hold unfashionable views about parenting and sexuality.

        • Gosh, you really are a nasty piece of work aren't you,

          As noted, I can live with that…



          • I'm curious, Steven. Given that you don't know me from Adam, what exactly are you basing that assessment on? A robust debating style (which you yourself also possess)?

            Or is just that I am a conservative who disagrees with you, and am therefore ipso facto mean and uncharitable?

  3. Helpful in what way, Canon Andrew?

    I happen to agree with Cranmer in this case, but cases like the one in which Sister Margaret was involved in – i.e. where the mother's life is genuinely threatened by the continuation of a pregnancy, or where the mother needs an operation or procedure that will result in the child's death as a foreseen but unintended side-effect – are a vanishingly small proportion of the 200,000 abortions that occur in Britain every year. It is all very well for those who are functionally pro-choice to focus on the hard cases – rape, incest, risk to the mother's life – but what is this but an implicit acceptance that most unborn children are aborted for reasons that are, objectively, relatively trivial?

    • reasons that are, objectively, relatively trivial?

      Not wanting to undergo pregnancy or childbirth, and not wanting to have to raise a child for the next 20 years are not trivial reasons for abortion

      They may be reasons you don't agree with but they're not trivial.

      • They can seem trivial when you are not the one facing them :)

        They are not in any way trivial, but nor is abortion something which is trivial, either morally or practically and emotionally for so many women who undergo it. I do wish we could convey this message in a way that does not seem anti-feminist.
        My recent post Growing flowers

        • As a reason for ending someone's life, the fact that their existence is massively inconvenient for you *is* relatively trivial. We would not accept that as a defence for ending a life in any other circumstances. I know the situation can be terribly, terribly traumatic – I work with people who do post-abortion counselling for a living, remember. But recognising that abortion is an understandable response in some circumstances does not mean accepting that abortion is right, or that it should be as widely available as it is as present.

          • It depends what you mean by "right"? In the recent case of the mother who was 11 weeks pregnant and about to die of a pulmonary condition, the abortion saved the life of the mother. The life of her unborn child could not have been saved in any case, so this was the "right" decision. That does not mean that is was not a tragedy, or that the situation was in any way desirable.

            You say that,
            "We would not accept that as a defence for ending a life in any other circumstances"
            No, but the circumstance and "life" of a few weeks old fetus in not equivalent to a life ended in other circumstances. Three out of ten pregnancies abort spontaneously within the first few weeks and in many conceptions the fertilised egg just doesn't implant in the womb lining. I can't agree with the view that a fertilised egg has the same status as an adult life when difficult moral and ethical decisions are made.
            This does not make me an advocate for abortion, just for balance; I actually think the number aborted ( when this should be largely preventable) and the fact of late term abortions is horrendous.

        • That seems trivial to me, as well. I do wish we could change that kind of mindset, as well as the kind of mindset that says it is OK for a woman to die instead of a fetus.

  4. I think pro lifers do their cause no favour if they are unable to respond with sensitivity to this highly emotive issue. Yes, one side can give horror stories of aborted fetuses and the other can give horror stories of abused girls dying from botched back street abortions – both sides have a point. I do think Steven IS actually articulating a fairly anti abortion stance, but with an awareness of a need for balance and compassion. I think once we get to the point where we say that the rights or situation of a fully grown, sentient woman ( and perhaps her partner and other children) are not even to be considered against the rights of a fetus of a matter of weeks, we lose all right to be presenting a reasonable case for the consideration of the unborn as among the most vulnerable in our society – (posted below an example of the extremism we can see.)

    Also, at least three out of ten pregnancies spontaneously aborts within the first trimester, many within the first few weeks – and the number may be higher. A doctor friend once asked me why God allowed so many to die in this way. I didn't have an answer.

  5. I am always amazed by people who say that they would not themselves terminate in any circumstances given that they have not been in those circumstances! I was offered a termination ( my eldest son) for reasons I won't go into and said "no" – but even I am not able to say I would not have terminated in ANY circumstances. I have never been pregnant through rape, incest or had a pregnancy where my life was threatened.
    One in three women, apparently, has had a termination. That statistic does sadden and sicken me for the pain for all involved. I personally have never had a failure of contraception, I do think most failures in contraception are down to human error. I wish we could instil in women , and perhaps more importantly in men, a sense of the consequences of a sexual relationship for everyone involved.

  6. Perhaps I am just a bit dim in all this debate – I am not always the brightest of souls – but I just can't see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps what is really needed is that a Christian and/or anti-abortion organisation sets itself up as being able to offer advice on contraception and unwanted pregnancies and then puts an advert on TV for its services? Instead we have the usual griping and moaning on the part of the moral minority.

    I often find myself wondering why, when so much of British society was controlled – overtly or covertly by Christian morality, it was so poor at coming up with the goods of a just and social moral society (indeed why all those 'moral' reformers, who had to borrow so heavily from Enlightenment ideals of individual rights etc. despite many doing their 'reform' from a Christian stand point). In the 19th century, the churches were full, the Bible well known and yet society was not a very nice place.

    Surely if a 'Christian' morality is what seems to be wanted to be imposed on British society here, then provide a viable alternative to unwanted pregnancies! Instead of whinging to the ASA, form your own welfare organisation, get your own adverts on TV. Sell us some PRACTICAL (i.e. money where mouth is) advice! You might just find people listen to you then!

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