Carolyn Moynihan 24 Jun 2009
From the country that brought you the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe -- television ads for condoms and abortion. Will the British government never get it? The more “harm reduction” they go in for, the worse the problem gets.
Friday last saw the end of a three-month consultation by the government’s broadcasting standards watchdog, the BCAP, on a proposal to allow abortion clinics to advertise on TV before 9pm. Condom ads, currently confined to one channel, would also be shown in the earlier time slot. Pro-life pregnancy counselling services could also advertise -- if they could afford it -- but would have to make it clear that they do not refer for abortion, “so that delays do not result in medical complications,” as one news report puts it. It would be too bad, wouldn't it, if women had time to think about what they were doing.
Already the morning after pill is advertised after 9pm on three channels. If the proposed broadcasting regime goes ahead it would be one of the most liberal in the world. The BCAP says it is responding to government calls for action to combat rising teenage pregnancy. Some doctors, at least, are against the move. The Mail on Sunday reports:
Dr Mark Pickering, a GP in York, said: ‘We know that TV is a powerful medium which gives young people messages that sex is fine, sex is great and they are not getting enough of it. It is full of beautiful young people jumping in and out of bed with each other. Allowing abortion services to advertise on TV would then be saying, “Here is a quick medical fix for the consequences of having sex.” That is giving all the wrong messages and is very disturbing.’
Dr Pickering said doctors at a meeting of the British Medical Association next Sunday would vote against it.
In a submission prepared by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales pointed out that abortion is still illegal in the UK unless it meets certain criteria and that advertising it like a consumer product would send a profoundly misleading message. It would further normalise an action that is the deliberate taking of an innocent human life, and would increase the number of abortions and sexual infections -- which the country is supposed to be trying to reduce.
“What is needed is the development and financing of a comprehensive programme aimed at reducing the abortion rate and promoting positive values of human life and relationships.”
Advertising condoms to those under 16 would contribute to the sexualization of children, raising legal as well as moral issues since the age of consent is still 16, the statement said. No evidence had been given for the claim that that it will combat teenage pregnancy and STI rates;in fact, the opposite may happen, as even those who support condom use admit to frustration when it comes to reducing STIs in practice.
“The analogy between condom promotion campaigns and promotion of “reduced risk” cigarettes may be instructive. Whereas young people are standardly advised to reduce risks of sex by using condoms, rather than abstain, health campaigns have tended to urge smokers to ‘quit’, rather than promoting ‘reduced risk’ cigarettes. One study found that “the unregulated promotion of “reduced risk” products threatens to undermine smoking cessation (which is proven to save lives), cause former smokers to resume their addiction, and even attract young people to tobacco products.”
The bishops’ statement concludes:
Our society is already failing young people by presenting an impoverished view of sex, too often entirely separated from any context of committed love and readiness for parenthood. It is very important that this process is not encouraged by a willingness to advertise services which have already done enormous damage to perceptions of sex in our society. In the many cases where respect for life, as well as sex and marriage, is at issue, the situation is still more serious, since not only the rights of young people are at stake, but those of any child they conceive. Respect for life, sex and parenthood are central to a healthy society, and advertising standards should reflect this.”
Let’s hope common sense if not moral sense prevails in the government. But with lords and baronesses pushing sexual pragmatism, the odds are stacked against it, one fears.