Controversial anti-abortion ad pops up again on Lethbridge billboards

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
July 4, 2018 - 1:22pm Updated: July 4, 2018 - 6:17pm

LETHBRIDGE - A controversial advertisement, which was pulled from Lethbridge bus stops and shelters after more than 100 complaints were made to the city, has popped up once again.

This time, large billboards displaying the same message from the Lethbridge and District Pro-life group are situated near 3 Ave S. and 16 St. S. Another is located on 13 St. N. near 2 Ave. A N. 

The Ad Standards Council (ASC), the non-profit body responsible for self-regulating advertising in Canada, ruled near the end of May that the ads showing what appears to be a near-term fetus with the words "Pre-born babies feel pain. Say no to abortion," has contravened the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

The Council is made up of volunteer members from advertisers, advertising agencies, the media and the public. A group met May 24, 2018 to consider a complaint sent in by Lawyer Miranda Hlady. However, their decision was never conveyed to Pattison Outdoor Advertising, who were left to believe that the City of Lethrbidge had chosen to pull the ads off of buses and bus benches.

The council decided the image of a well-developed and mature-looking fetus appeared to be more representative of a fetus not in its early stages of development, but at a later gestation, when abortions are typically not performed or permitted.

The ruling also indicated that the image shown was misrepresentative of fetuses when they are aborted, and that all fetuses at all stages of gestation will feel pain if the pregnancy is aborted.

Further, it stated that the preponderance of scientific evidence appears to refute the statement that all fetuses feel pain at all stages of their development, and:

"Contrary to Clause 14(c) of the Code, the advertisement demeaned and disparaged women who have had or are considering having an abortion, by implying that women who decide to terminate their pregnancy intentionally inflict pain on their unborn fetus."

Similar ads were also removed by the City of Grande Prairie.

An appeal was made by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform in 2015, indicating it had a right to freedom of expression.

In late April, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that city's decision to remove the ads was reasonable, because it would likely create fear and confusion among children, and psychological harm to women.  

Pattison Outdoor Advertising issued the following statement: "On July 3, PATTISON Outdoor Advertising was made aware that Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) decided that the Lethbridge & District Prolife advertising creative referenced in your inquiry contravened the Code. PATTISON Outdoor Advertising immediately complied with the decision and began removal of the advertising. Any additional questions regarding the decision can be addressed by the ASC directly."

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