Shock and outrage has ensued following the announcement of something legal being advertised on TV. It’s a neat and understated little ad, and after all the furore I was amazed at how low-key the message is. You can watch it here.
I’m not much interested in reiterating why this is a good thing, and why this subject deserves to be talked about some more. But the usual “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” outcry is as annoying as it was predictable. Personally, I kinda hope nobody did spend much time thinking about the children while making this clip. It’s not for them, it’s not being aired anywhere they’re likely to see it, and even if they do see it they’ll experience nothing that can possibly sully the little bastards’ innocence and purity.
A lot of the objections I’ve read – from people savvy enough to avoid coming across as old-fashioned puritans, and steer clear of saying anything too overtly anti-feminist – is that it’s unnecessary. That there’s enough information out there already about pregnancy terminations, and women just don’t need to be provided with yet more reminders of the options available to them.
To which my first thought is: have you ever seen adverts before? Have you any idea the amount of pointless crap that gets peddled, hawked, and oversold constantly on every commercial channel on the planet? Why does it suddenly bother you now?
And anyway, that’s crap. We’re not nearly at a point where good information about pregnancy-related issues and the availability of safe medical procedures so saturates our culture that anything more would be overdoing it. According to that CiF article, there are over 50,000 “backstreet” abortions a day worldwide, leading to 80,000 deaths per year. And it’s happening as near to home as Northern Ireland. Technically that’s part of the country I live in.
I’ve never been pregnant, partly because I had the good sense to be born into the dominant gender which can delegate all that messy stuff to someone else. But I can get my head around the notion that, if you’ve got yourself one of those baby things fermenting in your ovaries (or however it works), and you’re in the middle of making a nice salad when suddenly you’re overcome by a sharp sensation of abdominal OW OW OW, you might find yourself a little on the fucking scared side.
So having, say, a phoneline that people are aware they can call, to ask questions about exactly this sort of thing, is kind of important. I know I’m not their primary target demographic, but I’d never heard of Marie Stopes International before this ad, so you can’t argue that there’s no room at all for raising awareness.
And honestly, for all the fuss made over it, this is one of the most delicate and innocuous messages about sexual health I’ve ever seen. It’s thirty seconds long. It doesn’t mention abortion once. It shows a few brief shots of some women, who an on-screen caption tells us are all “late”. A voiceover then says:
If you’re late for your period, you could be pregnant. If you’re pregnant and not sure what to do, Marie Stopes International can help.
They’re not telling anyone what they should do. They’re offering to help if you don’t know what to do.
It’s not “advertising abortion”. It’s advertising a sexual and reproductive health service that provides advice and safe medical options to those who need it. They advise on contraception, they offer counselling, they test for STIs – and yes, they offer pregnancy terminations and advice thereon where appropriate. These are useful services for people to be aware of. There is no reason to panic over one tiny TV spot letting people know about organisations like this.
If you want to hear what somebody informed thinks, Dr Petra’s written about this too.