The Chairman of the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that there were no grounds to proceed on complaints received over a series of television advertisements produced by pro-life organization, Voice for Life.
The advertisements, which screened on TVNZ’s online viewing, On Demand, featured a young woman, Ariana, who had a secret abortion at the age of fifteen. Ariana’s mother, Hilary, also appears in the series of three advertisements.
In the 30-second adverts, Ariana talks about how the abortion has affected her. She says that after the abortion she suffered depression and attempted suicide. Ariana admits to substance abuse saying she turned to “drugs to numb the pain – it doesn’t work.”
Ariana also describes being influenced in her decision to have an abortion by the health nurse, and the life-changing consequence that means she will never be able to have any more children.
Ariana’s mum, Hilary, explained her deep sense of loss saying “our grandchild had been taken away from us, but also our daughter had been taken away from us in a sense… we can’t get that back.”
She also remembers the day she found Ariana hanging in the shed during her attempted suicide.
The main complainant, K Heus, acknowledged that “this is an emotive issue” for “both women who choose to have a termination, and occasionally medical staff involved in providing this service, are (internationally) frequently exposed to external duress.”
Heus goes on to say that the duress experienced “originates from lack of information, inaccurate information, religious or other bias.”
According to the full decision by the Advertising Standards authority, other complainants felt that “Ariana’s experience of drug use, suicide attempts and infertility as the result of her abortion” could be deemed as being “misleading and offensive” as it was not “representative of all women’s experience after undergoing the procedure.” Therefore for several of those who complained, the advertisements were “playing on fear.”
Some did not believe that television was the appropriate place to address the issue of abortion.
Still others were offended by the suggestion that “nurses would encourage a woman to have her abortion.”
However, the ASA Chairman decided that the advertisements obviously came under the banner of “advocacy,” which is outlined in Rule 11 of the Standards. This rule allows for “expression of opinion in advocacy advertising” as long as opinion is “clearly distinguishable from factual information.” According to the rule, the advertiser’s identity should be clear.
The advertising fulfilled these criteria according to the Chairman.
It was noted in the final report that “Rule 11 and the Advocacy Principles saved the advertisements from reaching the threshold to be misleading or likely to mislead viewers, to unjustifiably play on fear or to cause serious or widespread offence.”
Therefore it was found that “no apparent breach of the Code of Ethics” could be found in the Voice for Life advertisements, and that there were “no grounds for the complaints to proceed.”
Voice for Life’s national president, Bernard Moran, said he was pleased that the complaints had not been upheld.