Today Marie Stopes International, one of the UK’S biggest abortion providers, launches a television advertising campaign. The advert (which you can watch here, or tonight on Channel 4 at 10.10 PM) directs women who have missed a period to the Marie Stopes unplanned pregnancy and sexual health helpline. Marie Stopes says the advert is a response to research that finds the majority of people wouldn’t know how to access specialist advice if they or their partner faced an unplanned pregnancy. Anti-abortion organisations Life and SPUC have complained that advertising Marie Stopes services trivialises abortion. SPUC says it is taking advice on whether to challenge the legality of the advert.
It is not surprising that an advert that alludes to abortion is controversial. The consensus in the UK seems to be that abortion is something that should be freely provided, but should not be talked about if at all possible. Although one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in their lifetimes, this common procedure remains shrouded in myth and mystery. This is one of the reasons why the EFC blog has launched Myth-Busting Monday today and will be posting a new myth-busting fact each week. It’s also the reason why we welcome clearer and more accessible information for women on how to access abortion if that is what they have chosen.
National helplines play a vital role in providing accurate information for people wanting to prevent pregnancy and those who face unplanned pregnancy. For many women a telephone service is the best, most convenient way for them to access information and advice, but these services must be complemented by good, accurate information about local services available from the professionals women meet face to face every day. That means that whether a woman asks her family planning clinic, her GP, her health visitor or other health practitioner locally, they should all be able to provide really good, clear information on how to get support with unplanned pregnancy. Young women especially need to know that they can ask the professional they trust – whether it is a school nurse or other health worker, a youth worker, a social worker, or a Connexions worker – to give them the support they need to consider their pregnancy options and access the services they need to continue healthily with a pregnancy or to have an abortion. Training should be available for all professionals who work with young people to ensure that they can provide accurate information about all pregnancy options and local referral pathways.
But before you open that phone book, keep in mind: Some services which offer advice and guidance for women facing unplanned pregnancy are anti-abortion and may try to deter women from having an abortion. Organisations which advertise free pregnancy helplines, pregnancy testing, abortion counselling and post-abortion counselling, may not always provide accurate information or impartial support. This video shows how some of these centres operate. For more information on how to assess a local information service EFC’s Best Practice Toolkit: Pregnancy Decision-Making Support is free to download.
Helplines you can trust:
Brook - provides a specialist sexual health helpline for young people and has a network of clinics around the country providing face-to-face support
Fpa – provides a helpline for men and women of all ages and will help you find a local clinic
Marie Stopes and bpas – provide a range of sexual health services including abortion. Most of the abortions they provide are funded by the NHS
NHS Choices – information on all aspects of health including abortion, ante-natal care and child health