Withdraw offensive ‘baby killer’ billboard, advertising watchdog orders pro-life campaigners

2011-11-11 00:00

THE Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has ruled that the Christian Action Network’s (CAN) billboard stating “Abortion Kills Babies” is offensive and must be withdrawn.

The side of the mobile billboard, which is used twice during the year by CAN, reads “Since 1997, 700 000 babies have lost their right to life. Abortion kills babies”. The text is positioned alongside a picture of an 18-week-old foetus sucking its thumb.

The other side of the billboard, not considered in the ASA ruling, depicts an eight-week-old foetus and states “Eight weeks after conception: heartbeat, brainwave, fingerprints, hiccups, somersaults, thumb sucking. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves …”

The complainant told the ASA that the billboard is offensive because abortion is legal, and likened it to “white supremacists stating their racist views”.

The ASA refers to the use of the word “kills” and says that the use of the term is incorrect and is deemed “an offensive opinion. The correct term to use is ‘terminate’.”

The ruling by the ASA states that the advert uses statistics in an emotive manner to label “those who have had or are contemplating having an abortion as killers”.

“This goes beyond objectively communicating a personal view,” reads the ruling, “and ventures into the territory of name-calling and sensationalising an issue for the sake of a getting a reaction, irrespective of the likely interpretation of those who may see the billboard”.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Taryn Hodgson, international co-ordinator of the Christian Action Network, said “We are stating what we believe is a scientific fact — that abortion takes a life.

“We think that speaking up for the right to life of pre-born babies is our social responsibility and we will be appealing this ruling as a violation of our constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion,” said Hodgson.

• ryanc@witness.co.za

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