Pro-Life Group To Defy Morning-After Pill Ad Decree

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

London ( - A major British pro-life organization plans to defy the country's advertising watchdog and continue to publish material that states that the "morning-after pill" induces abortion.

Britain's Advertising Standards Council upheld a complaint against the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) last week. On Monday, SPUC national director John Smeaton said his organization would continue to run the advertisements.

"The decision is totally biased," Smeaton said by phone. "Our advertisement is based on simple and unambiguous biology."

The advertisement, which first ran in the Catholic newspaper The Tablet, read: "Help us beat the morning-after pill. 50-mile sponsored walk from Liverpool to Manchester by SPUC's directors in September. SPUC is going to court to challenge the government over its decision to make abortion-inducing morning-after pills even more widely available."

In January of this year, the British government decided to make the emergency contraceptive pill Levonelle available without a prescription to any woman over age 16, provided they answer a series of health questions. Officials have also started a series of trial programs to provide the pill free of charge for girls under 16.

In its citation against the SPUC, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that the morning-after pill "prevented a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb, but could not be used to terminate an existing pregnancy."

"The UK Government considers that the accepted legal and medical view is that the morning-after pill is not a method of abortion: the morning-after pill works before implantation, before a pregnancy is established," the citation read.

The SPUC, on the other hand, argues that pregnancy begins with fertilization rather than implantation. Smeaton said the ASA ignored scientific evidence presented by the SPUC that demonstrates that use of the pill is tantamount to abortion.

"This evidence was drawn from the world's most respected scientific sources," he said. "They, on the other hand, had no scientific evidence on which they based their decision."

Smeaton also bristled at the ASA's assertion that "most readers would understand 'abortion' to refer to the expulsion of the fertilised egg from the womb post-implantation."

"That is saying that most Catholics don't abide by the teachings of the church," Smeaton said. "The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at fertilization. The ASA has not even pointed to the most basic reader survey to back up their statement. It's totally unfair."

The ASA has asked the SPUC to change the wording of its advertisements. Smeaton, however, has refused to sign a document pledging that his organization will change the ad. An ASA spokeswoman said Monday that in cases of repeat violations, the authority may ask media outlets not to run advertising from the offending group.

Smeaton said that he would "go to prison" if necessary to defend the SPUC's right to publish such advertising. It's unlikely that he would have to, though - the ASA is a non-statutory body and can only ask advertisers and media outlets to voluntarily abide by its decisions.