Minister bans pro-life advertisement

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The advertisement banned by Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
The advertisement banned by Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

The advert Minister Andrew Constance says is too “appalling” for the public to see

If you live in Newcastle this is the ad that you aren’t allowed to see on the roads.

Pro-life organisation Emily’s Voice has called on the NSW Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance to reverse a decision to pull its advertisement from two Newcastle buses last week.

It was the first in a media campaign which will roll out this month in WA, Tasmania, NSW and QLD for the Brisbane-based organisation to promote its website notbornyet.com. The ad featured an image of a woman’s hands forming a heart shape over a pregnant abdomen, with the words ‘A heart beats at four weeks’.

But it was removed by bus company Keolis Downer after one complaint was posted by a member of the public on NSW transport minister Andrew Constance’s Facebook page on 20 June.

The complaint and the reply have since been removed but a spokesperson for the Minister confirmed that he had responded to the message saying he would instruct the ad be removed from the buses, and saying, “I’m similarly appalled”.

The spokesperson said Minister Constance is awaiting the result of Keolis Downer’s investigation into the matter, ordered by him, and would not comment further on the issue until then. In a statement the bus company said that advertising must comply with Transport for NSW standards and guidelines, “which do not permit advertisements that are contentious in nature”.

Pro-life and women’s groups question ‘ironic’ decision

Paul O’Rourke, CEO of Emily’s Voice
Paul O’Rourke, CEO of Emily’s Voice

CEO of Emily’s Voice Paul O’Rourke told The Catholic Weekly that the artwork had been approved with the bus advertising provider Go Transit and that he was surprised and disappointment it had been pulled.

He has written to the minister asking him to reconsider his decision.

“Given that the pregnancy support centre Zoe’s Place had run an ad on government buses and recent ads have been run advising women not to drink while pregnant, we couldn’t see what the difference was and neither could they,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Rachael Wong, managing director of think tank Women’s Forum Australia, said she found it “ironic that so much material that objectifies and degrades women is permitted in advertising, but content that affirms motherhood and supports informed choice for women is deemed ‘appalling’.

“It’s deeply troubling how intent our culture is on hiding from women information about the prenatal development of children in the womb,” she said.

Rebecca Gosper, director of Life Choice Australia, said women deserve to know the facts when it comes to their bodies, particularly when they are considering abortion, “a life-altering and irreversible decision”.

“It is a scientific fact that an unborn baby’s heart starts to beat just 21 days after conception and shielding women from this information is not only dishonest, but harmful.”

“I’ve heard far too many women say ‘I thought it was just a clump of tissue. Nobody told me it was a baby’,” Ms Gosper said.

“No woman should ever be tricked, deceived or forced into an abortion, and censoring scientific facts does just this.”

Silenced for stating the facts

Melinda Tankard Reist, movement director at Collective Shout which campaigns against advertising that demeans women, expressed frustration that Minister Constance could act so quickly on the pro-life ads when “hateful” remained on Wicked camper vans and pornography-inspired portrayals of women on lingerie retailer Honey Birdette storefronts.

Melinda Tankard-Reist
Melinda Tankard-Reist on stage at the 2017 Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“Slogans which demean and degrade women, which even promote rape and murder, go unaddressed,” she said. “While four states and territories have taken action to de-register vans plastered in anti-women messaging, NSW lags behind.”

“More broadly our ad standards system is broken. Even when the self regulatory body rules that an ad is in breach of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics, there are no powers of enforcement and no penalties for non compliance.

Mr O’Rourke wrote to Mr Constance on 26 June informing him that the advertisement “simply states the scientific fact that an unborn baby has a heartbeat from four weeks (about 22 days from conception).

“Our advertisement nor the related website contained images or information that in any way shames, condemns or is critical of women who may have had an abortion.”

Mr O’Rourke told The Catholic Weekly that Emily’s Voice is “for women and children, motherhood and family, we’re not against anything”.

“We simply think women should make informed decisions about their pregnancies and should be encouraged particularly when a pregnancy is unexpected or there is a situation of crisis,” he said.

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