The first television advertisement offering information on abortion services has been aired in the UK, despite an angry response from anti-abortion campaigners who described the ad as "grotesque".
The advertisment, produced by the UK-based sexual health organisation Marie Stopes International (MSI), aired on Channel 4 at around 10:10pm on Monday night. MSI's ad spot was not broadcast in Northern Ireland, where abortion remains illegal.
"If you're late for your period, you could be pregnant," states the voiceover in the ad. "If you're pregnant and not sure what to do, Marie Stopes International can help."
The screening of the ad, based on the theme "Are you late?", was preceded by a week of publicity during which the charity clashed with opposing campaign groups. The anti-abortion organisation Life was vocal in its opposition to the ad going to air, and has written to the media regulator Ofcom on the matter. Michaela Aston, a Life spokesperson, stated:
"I can only express utter disbelief that this is being allowed, given the opposition to abortion advertising expressed during the recent public consultation. To allow abortion providers to advertise on TV, as though they were no different from car companies or detergent manufacturers, is grotesque."
Anne Quesney, from MSI, told the BBC on Monday:
"We provide information to women who then are empowered to make their own decisions. And we trust women to make the decisions that are best for them because abortion has been legal in this country for over 40 years and one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime.
"So we think it's really important that women have access to this information, but also, that as a society we talk more openly and honestly about the issue of abortion."