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Pro-lifers urge block on Brit TV abortion ad

WASHINGTON (BP)–British television’s first commercial for abortion services — sponsored by Marie Stopes International — drew calls from pro-life organizations for the government to block the advertisement after it aired for the first time.

The controversial ad was telecast May 24 — a day after a woman died while undergoing an abortion at a Marie Stopes clinic in Nepal and five days after the head of the ministry responsible for China’s coercive population control policy spoke at Marie Stopes’ London headquarters.

Channel 4 of the British Broadcasting Corp. aired the 30-second ad after 10 p.m. in the United Kingdom, although it was not shown in Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal.

The commercial, which BBC News says is to run until the end of June, does not use the word “abortion.” Instead, it consecutively shows three women who are described as being “late” for their periods. The off-camera narrator says, “If you’re pregnant and not sure what to do, Marie Stopes International can help.” The ad closes with the words “Are you late?” and a phone number displayed.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) urged Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to instruct Ofcom, the regulator of the UK’s communication industries, to block the ad.

“The advertisement is deceptive, in that it doesn’t explain what Marie Stopes is and what Marie Stopes does,” SPUC communications manager Anthony Ozimic said in a written release after the commercial was shown for the first time on the Internet. “Marie Stopes’ main business is the killing of unborn children. Its telephone consultation line is an abortion booking service which puts women on a fast-track to abortion.

“Marie Stopes advertises itself as an abortion provider on the London Underground but has soft-soaped its image in this Channel 4 advertisement. We can only conclude that this is a way for Marie Stopes to evade restrictions on advertising.

“Women deserve better than abortion,” Ozimic said. “We want the government to ensure that women are not misled by this kind of deceitful propaganda.”

In describing the ad on its website, Marie Stopes said, “The time has come to talk more openly and honestly about abortion and we hope that the TV commercial will help to break down the taboos that persist around this issue.”

The ad serves as the launch of its “Are you late?” campaign, according to Marie Stopes.

Marie Stopes, which describes itself as a “not-for-profit sexual and reproductive health” organization, provided 920,000 abortions internationally last year. That was an astonishing 56 percent increase over 2008. That total included abortions by both surgery and drugs, such as RU 486.

In Nepal, Durga Devi Khadka died May 25 at the Marie Stopes Center in Damak, a municipality in the southeastern part of the Asian country. She was 10 weeks pregnant, according to the Nepali newspaper Republica. Police are investigating and have detained the clinic owner, Chitra Bahadur Karki.

Marie Stopes hosted Li Bin, the minister of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, for a May 19 speech at its London office, Tibettruth reported. Supporters of Tibet organized a protest of Li’s speech, according to Tibettruth, a network that advocates for human rights and independence for Tibet and East Turkestan.

The National Population and Family Planning Commission oversees China’s population control program, which has been commonly referred to as a one-child policy since its implementation in 1979. The policy generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children.

Forced abortions and sterilizations have been used to enforce the policy, and infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported.

Pro-life and human rights advocates have charged Marie Stopes with collaborating with the Chinese government in its coercive population control policy. Marie Stopes operates five clinics in China, according to its website.

In 2008, the Bush administration cut off United States aid to Marie Stopes because of its alleged support of China’s program. The administration described Maries Stopes as “the major implementing partner” of the program in China operated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Bush administration refused during its last seven years to forward $235 million in federal money to UNFPA because it concluded the organization’s work in China violated the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment. That law prohibits funds for any entity that, as decided by the president, “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

The Obama administration restored funding to UNFPA in 2009.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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