Abortion and Youth Defense – I agree with much of this letter

A Dhaoine Uaisle,

I’m getting in touch about the Youth Defence billboard campaign
currently underway. I’m sure you’re familiar but as a recap, there are
two posters being run, one with a photo of a young woman, and one with
a photo of a foetus at 18+ weeks, both with the caption “Abortion
Tears Her Life Apart – There’s ALWAYS a Better Answer”. I consider
this, in both instances, constitutes false advertising and
misrepresentation of abortion in the vast majority of cases; 89% of
abortions take place before 13 weeks (at embryo, not foetus stage
and 95% of Irish women who have had an abortion consider that the
outcome was the right thing to do
(http://www.crisispregnancy.ie/pub/cou.pdf). Not to mention the fact
that in cases of Termination for Medical Reasons, among others, there
is NOT always a better answer.
As Dublin City Council provides some of the billboards being used by
Youth Defence for this campaign, I would like to register my
dissatisfaction here (I have already contacted JC Decaux, Bravo
Outdoors, my local TDs, the Minister for Justice, the Minister for
Health and Senator Ivana Bacik). I would like to inform you that, as
an Irish woman, these people do not protect me or my interests – and
in fact by running these disingenuous, damaging advertisements they
(and thus Dublin City Council) are actively harming me and many other
women. I am pro-choice, but defend the right of those who are
anti-choice to voice their opinions – but only if they are
intelligent, well-considered and based on facts rather than harmful
lies, emotive scaremongering and judgement. These advertisements
(including images of a torn sonogram and an unborn child) not only
spread misinformation about the emotional outcome of abortion for
women, but are also extremely damaging as regards how judgmental and
guilt-inducing they may be for many women and couples on a daily
basis. Essentially, I believe that these posters are wrong and that
Dublin City Council are morally at fault by agreeing to display and
propagate them.

No matter one’s opinions on the choice debate, those pro- or
anti-choice alike should recognise that these billboards are, at best
inappropriate and, at worst, extremely damaging to many Irish
citizens. I wish to emphasise to you that this is not an argument
merely about choice, but about the manner in which Youth Defence are
furthering their agenda, and the manner in which you are facilitating
that behaviour.

The billboards you have chosen to run for Youth Defence are not
informative, factual or persuasive. They are emotionally manipulative,
based on lies and unfair to women. Specifically, taking into account
the ASAI Manual of Advertising Self-Regulation
(http://www.asai.ie/code.asp), it can be found to fall down under all
of the following:

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

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 X Case, 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

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.

These advertisements are therefore not only extremely inappropriate
for daily viewing by children, vulnerable members of society and
couples/women who have chosen to undergo abortion, but also very
probably running contradictory to ASAI guidelines. I am shocked and
angered that Dublin City Council would run this number of billboards,
taking into account what I have outlined above. Bear in mind that this
negatively impacts upon the image of the Council, and reflects poorly
upon you. Please remedy this situation in the manner you deem
appropriate – may I suggest by not running anymore Youth Defence
campaigns that use these methods in the future.

Essentially I feel that in such gross misrepresentation of the norm of
abortion for Irish women Youth Defence is engaging in deeply
misleading advertising and as the ASAI are saying on their website
it’s outside their remit, I’m asking you to consider applying to the
High Court for an order prohibiting the publication of this campaign.
Ireland is finally making a very limited amount of progress on
abortion and it’s too important an issue to allow factually incorrect
materials to muddy the waters in such an emotive and manipulative way.

Thanks and regards,