Are you late?
Tonight, after a smattering of media hype and much discussion on forums both pro-life and pro-choice, Marie Stopes became the first organisation to wind itself around loopholes in order to advertise their services on primetime television. During Davina McCall's new live game show – which, thankfully I wasn't obliged to sit through after finding I could already view the said advert on Youtube – the audience will have witnessed a turning point in history, and in a long arguement over whether or not it is morally correct and should be allowed to promote on the television.
Three women are depicted, each single, one with two children and all to the background music you might here in a depressing part of a low budget, depressing ITV drama. The first young girl is at a busstop, the second pushing her pram through a park and the third looking miserably into her coffee cup as though she's just failed her driving test for running over her own cat. What do they all have in common? Here's the clever bit – they're late… not for a meeting, or a date, or for school, no, no, no… for their period.
Now, this is where I get confused. These ladies all look lost, so, good for them, the nice voiceover lady directs them to contact Marie Stopes straight away – end advert. Hang on… as long as I have known anything about the birds and the bees et al, I thought that the next step after finally realising you are late is to check whether or not you might be pregnant? A trip to Boots would surely do the trick – a bit of Clear Blue (or drastically cheaper own brand urine test for the less snobby amongst us). What worried me greatly when I read over a bunch of news reports in the run up to this controversial event, was that Marie Stopes claimed that research had shown that a scarily massive percentage of women 'would not know where to turn if they were late for a period'. Did they never read 'Just 17' or 'Sugar' or 'More'? Did they never gossip in the playground, have a half decent sex education or embarassing 'talk' with the parentals? I find the statistics more than hard, impossible to believe, because as with any health problems, it is common sense that first stop – if you know of no specialist services at least – is your GP. Embarassment or worries about confidentiality should not be an issue, and even if they were, reluctance is much different than ignorance. When I was at high school, which by the way was Catholic and therefore did not advocate the use of contraception, everybody knew that we could speak to the school nurse about things in that 'area', and if not that, there was always 'Central Youth', which stood in Grand Central complex in Stockport and was usually filled with teens getting tested for allsorts and getting the pill and free condoms and the oh so reliable morning-after pill. Stockport has a comparitavely high teenage pregnancy rate, but at least we all knew those services were there and were aware of what we could do to protect ourselves.
I'm getting sidetracked – I just cannot believe where that statistic came from, or how the words were bent in order to persuade Channel 4 to change their rules and air this advert. So, statistics aside, what do I think of all this?
It won't take a genius to see that I am against the idea of advertising Marie Stopes or any similar organisation on television, but not for the reasons that even I thought I would give initially when I first heard that it was due to air. My gut reaction to the news was that it would simply be wrong to advertise abortion, and not just because I am personally against it. In truth, I know that Marie Stopes offer more than just abortion services – they also offer advice on contraception, other options available to those who are 'late' and also (thankfully) post-abortion counselling. However, even after learning about the extensiveness of the organisation, I still felt uneasy about the situation and have many questions swimming around my brain yet to be answered.
The airing in itself completely goes against the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) statement on the subject released on March 1st this year which stated that ‘advertisements for commercial post-conception advice services offering individual advice on personal problems will not be acceptable’. How they got round this one I do not know. On a more individual level, my heart goes out to every woman on this earth who may see this advertisement and have it remind them of the time that they decided (or had it decided for them) to have an abortion. Many women suffer years, often lifelong, of depression after a termination, especially around the anniversary of the abortion, and the birthday of their unborn child. How would seeing this droll advert make them feel? A pang of guilt I imagine, one that needn't be there as they already live with constant reminders and 'what ifs?'. There is always and will always be arguements for and against abortion, be those on religious grounds, moral grounds or personal experience – I find it strange that the producers of the advert went out of the way to show equality in terms of race and skin colour, but ignored the fact that some races or religions or whatever could be deeply offended by what Marie Stopes offer to women… I won't comment, as my opinion means nothing to you, but this does seem somewhat hypocritical. What effect might this advert have? Raising awareness of contraception, raising self esteem and body confidence is all well and good, but it feels peculiar and somewhat troubling to be witnessing what appears to be an increasingly lax attitude towards abortion – a casual perspective was employed by spokespeople supporting the decision to air the advert, one that provokes questions on whether they see termination as a form of contraception – will we see a rise in the percentage of terminated pregnancy as a result of this advert, and more if it turns out to be 'successful'? All this, and the nasty thoughts that came into my head when I researched the life of Marie Stopes, a fond follower of Adolf Hitler.
We do not need this. Whether it is right or wrong – you watch, you decide – we should be focussing on preventative measures: improved Sex and Relationships Education, increased self esteem from a young age and encouraging women of all ages to be mature enough to act responsibly.
Rubber up lads, rubber up.
Tagged in: abortion, channel 4, marie stopes, prolife, termination
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