Advertising Standards Authority Rules Pro-life Billboard "Offensive" - 10 November 2011

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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ruled that the Christian Action Network's (CAN) billboard stating "Abortion Kills Babies," is "offensive" and must be withdrawn.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 in question reads "Since 1997, 700 000 [updated in 2010 to 1 000 000] babies have lost their right to life. Abortion kills babies. 'Choose Life so that you and your children may live'" next to a picture of an 18 week old pre-born baby sucking its thumb.

The other side of the billboard not considered in the ASA ruling, depicts an 8 week-old pre-born baby and states "8 weeks after conception: heartbeat, brainwave, fingerprints, hiccups, somersaults, thumb sucking. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves..."

"This is incredibly hypocritical of the ASA to rule our billboard offensive when they allow billboards from strip joints with highly suspected involvement in trafficking to depict half-naked women as sex objects," says Taryn Hodgson, International Co-ordinator of the Christian Action Network.

The mobile billboard has been used twice a year by CAN for over 10 years as part of their pro-life demonstrations - on the National Day of Repentance (1 February) - the anniversary of the legalisation of abortion in South Africa, and secondly on International Life Chain Sunday. "These demonstrations are legal according to the Regulation of Gatherings Act, so is the ASA suggesting that the hundreds of placards also stating that 'Abortion Kills Babies' are also illegal?" asks Hodgson.

The complainant stated to the ASA that billboard is offensive because abortion is legal and likened the billboard to "white supremacists stating their racist views".

"Apartheid and slavery were also once legal, but neither were right. Abortion is legal, but that does not make it right. We have the Constitutional right to freedom of speech to speak up for the Right to Life of the pre-born."

"In our response to the woman's complaint submitted to the ASA, we pointed out that NGOs have billboards with pictures of pre-born babies and warnings not to drink or smoke whilst pregnant as it could 'harm your baby'. In their judgement, the ASA stated that our message in contrast to such billboards, is not one of 'social responsibility' but a "viewpoint on moral values, something substantially more subjective and intimately personal."

"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," says Hodgson.

"It is notable that the ASA, paid by the advertisers, so often rules in favour of advertisers' adverts offensive to many South Africans, yet rules a billboard stating the obvious truth that 'abortion kills babies', as 'offensive' to the hypothetical 'reasonable person'!"

"At all our Life Chains we collect baby items which are donated to Christian organisations dedicated to helping the destitute and those facing a crisis pregnancy."

CONTACT: International Co-ordinator of the Christian Action Network, Taryn Hodgson on 072 215 4801 or 021-689 4480, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa [email protected] - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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