Complaint on pro-life poster not upheld
On 2 August, the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) published its ruling on a poster by the pro-life campaign group Both Lives Matter following a challenge by fourteen complainants on whether the claim “100,000 People are alive today because of our laws on abortion” was misleading and could be substantiated. Their complaints were not upheld.
The advertisement description
A poster by the pro-life campaign group Both Lives Matter, which appeared in two locations in Northern Ireland in January 2017, featured the claim “100,000 PEOPLE ARE ALIVE TODAY BECAUSE OF OUR LAWS ON ABORTION. Why change that?”. Smaller text stated “Stand with us. BOTHLIVESMATTER.ORG”. The ad also featured images of two placards which contained the text “#Both Lives Matter” and “PRO-WOMEN and PRO-LIFE”. A photograph of the billboard poster is in the Catholic Herald.
Fourteen complainants challenged whether the claim “100,000 People are alive today because of our laws on abortion” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Both Lives Matter said that they had attempted to estimate the number of people alive in Northern Ireland today because the 1967 Abortion Act introduced in Great Britain had not been introduced in Northern Ireland. They said it was not possible to calculate an exact figure, but 100,000 represented a credible and conservative estimate. They provided a link to a report they had published on their website, which contained their first methodology based on the application of the abortion rate in Scotland to Northern Ireland. They also provided a second methodology based on the application of the abortion ratio in Scotland to Northern Ireland, alongside the application of the England and Wales abortion ratio and the combined Great Britain abortion ratio.
The ruling includes further justification by Both Lives Matter.
The ASA concluded its assessment by stating:
“…we considered that readers would expect from the ad that there was a reasonable probability that there were around 100,000 individuals alive in Northern Ireland today who were born to mothers who would have aborted their pregnancy if it had been legal to do so. While Both Lives Matter’s first methodology had inflated the overall headline figure by just over 8,500, their application of the Scotland abortion ratio – subject to our revisions – produced a figure of just over 106,000.
While the calculations did not take account of societal differences between the Northern Irish and Scottish populations, most notably religious differences, there was no evidence on which to suggest that the actual figure would have been significantly lower than 100,000. On balance, we concluded that the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so. Because we considered that readers would understand the figure to represent an estimate, we concluded that the claim was unlikely to materially mislead readers.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) 3.7 (Substantiation), and 3.9 (Qualification), but did not find it in breach”.