By now most of you will have seen or heard about the current “pro life” campaign from Youth Defence. Billboards and posters went up all over Dublin last week, and have caused understandable uproar from pretty much everyone who doesn’t support Youth Defence.
One of the posters features a torn picture of an ultra-sound picture with “ABORTION TEARS HER LIFE APART” beside the image, and “There’s always a better way” underneath. The other poster features a torn picture of a woman with the same slogans.
Reading through the code of the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, you might think that, as several of the paragraphs appear to directly apply to this sort of advertisement, you’d be able to complain. But you’d be wrong. Darren Hanratty gathered the various parts of the code together and applied them to the billboard, and this is what he came up with:
2.1: The advertisement is not honest and truthful, as there is not always a better option.
2.2 The advertisement is not prepared with a sense of responsibility to society, as it demonises those who go through with abortion, and contributes to a culture of shame, which is to the detriment of anyone in that situation.
2.12 There is significant division of informed opinion on the claim made in the advertisement, but the advertisement suggests it is universally accepted that there is always a better answer, and that abortion tears her life apart, going so far as to emphasise the word “always”.
2.15 This advertisement contains something that is likely to cause grave and widespread offence, by stating outright there is always a better option, especially considering the established legal precedent set by the 1992 supreme court ruling on Attorney General v. X, and furthermore by stating that abortion tears a woman’s life apart.
It may violate 2.19 as they are using offensive copy, and may be doing so simply to attract attention.
It may violate 2.20 Though not specifically a product or service, the “pro life” political stance it promotes is one which is offensive to people, and it seems apparent that they did not “avoid causing offence in such marketing communications”
2.22: The advertisement exploits the inexperience and lack of knowledge of consumers by providing them with absolute statements about things which in reality vary from person to person.
2.24 The advertisement misleads and is likely to mislead as a result of it’s use of exaggeration (both statements made in the copy of advert)
2.27 The claims in this advertisement go beyond a statement of opinion, and they cannot be substantiated.
2.29 By telling women that there is “always” (emphasised) a better option, and that abortion “tears” a woman’s life apart, this advertisement encourages and condones “dangerous behaviour or unsafe practices” as it discourages women from having an abortion in ANY circumstances, even when their lives are medically threatened as a result of the pregnancy
However, even with all that, the ASAI have seen fit to wash their hands of the whole issue, and have posted the following on their website:
The primary objective of the ASAI Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing is the regulation of commercial marketing communications in the interest of consumers.
Marketing communications that do not have a commercial element and which whose principal purpose is to express the advertiser’s position on a political, religious, industrial relations, social or aesthetic matter or on an issue of public interest or concern do not come within the remit of the Code.
We have received a number of complaints about the current Youth Defence campaign. However, as this advertising does not have a commercial element (e.g. a fundraising element) and is expressing the advertiser’s position on an issue of public interest, it is outside the remit of the Code.
We are therefore unable to investigate complaints about this campaign
I find this entire campaign mind-boggling to say the least. The attitude of their supporters is actually frightening. I was on the Youth Defence Facebook page yesterday (trust me, don’t do it to yourself – there is a serious risk of a rage stroke) and there were a lot of people coming onto the page congratulating them on such a wonderful campaign. What the actual fuck!!
Surely, regardless of your personal feelings on abortion, one can appreciate how damaging and upsetting these billboards are for women who have had abortions?
As it stands, women facing a crisis pregnancy in Ireland are already forced to go through the indignity of having to travel to England, and then travel back to a country with no after-care or counselling available, and now they have to see these disgusting billboards. After all, the only possible purpose of this campaign is to target vulnerable women and make them feel guilty for their choices.
I cannot understand why it is that Youth Defence and other “pro-life” campaigners think that they have the right to try to control another woman’s body. Unless these people have been in the situation of going through a crisis pregnancy, who are they to judge?
In fact, the very term “pro-life” is in itself an oxymoron as Youth Defence clearly don’t give a shite about the life of the mother. And on that point-you can be sure as hell that Youth Defence don’t and won’t be around to help any single mothers or other families that continue a crisis pregnancy, as it seems they are only concerned with foetuses and not babies.
They’ve obviously spent hundreds of thousands of euro on this campaign…why not donate that money to a children’s hospital or charity, if they’re so concerned?
Also the fact that they label pro-choice people as ‘pro-abortion’ really pisses me off. There’s a difference between empowering a woman’s right to choose, and thinking that everyone should have abortions all the time.
Abortion is already illegal in Ireland, what more do they want?!
I think it’s time to get out on the streets again. We need to get thousands of pro-choice people out marching. And we really need to bring back the slogan “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries”.
To take action on this, you have a few options:
- The ASAI have washed their hands of this issue, so it’s probably futile to complain to them.
- Contact the advertising companies carrying the billboards: JCDecaux email@example.com and Bravo firstname.lastname@example.org
- It might not be any harm contacting LUAS themselves, as they are currently carrying the posters email@example.com
- Probably the most effective thing to do is to contact your local TDs, as well and complaining directly to the Department of Communications. Consider sending emails to Freedom of Information, Broadcasting, Press Office, Secretary General’s Office, Minister’s Office, and Customer Service.
- There is a template email for this, via Siren Magazine, here.