An advertisement by Marie Stopes International aired on 24 May, has sparked controversy and fierce resistance from “pro-life” and religious groups and already generated more than 370 complaints within the first week after the broadcast. Marie Stopes is a provider of “clear, non-judgmental information” on post-conception advice services, and this will be the first advertisement of its kind to run on UK television, even though it has long been possible under the existing Advertising Codes for non-commercial organisations providing advice on such issues to advertise their services. Marie Stopes is a not-for-profit organisation which, it argues, does not promote abortion, but allows women to make confident and informed choices about their sexual health. Interestingly, the broadcaster running the advertisement, which will go out after the 9pm watershed, has taken the decision not to run it Northern Ireland, where abortion remains illegal.

During the review of the advertising Codes which took place over the last year, there was a great deal of pressure to prevent “pro-choice” organisations from being allowed to advertise in UK media. However, when the revised Codes were launched in March 2010, no firm decision had been taken on the subject, and it is still under discussion between BCAP and Ofcom. BCAP has announced that it will make a statement in due course. For further information about the revised advertising Codes, please see our Ad Guide.