Anti-choice Ads: Why I Don’t Want Them Banned

Over the past week or so in Dublin, ads like this have been appearing on the side of buildings:

There will be a lot of them.

 “There are 220 Luas ads up as well now,” said Life’s Niamh Uí Bhriain. There will be 200 advertisements on Dublin buses for four weeks, from June 25th. There will be screens at Heuston Station in Dublin, showing a moving unborn baby. There will be advertisements on buses in Limerick and Cork.

Some of them look like this:

Many people seem to want them taken down:

“This [advert] is very one sided and doesn’t have women’s best interests at heart. If you have enough money and are ideologically motivated it seems you can put up whatever you please because there’s no one there to stop you.”

Stephanie Lord, Choice Ireland.

“Abortion is not a billboard issue…. Whether you’re for it or against it, essentially it’s very difficult, very delicate. It’s totally private and here it’s totally in your face.”

 – Mother of two, quoted in the Irish Times

“If this group really cared for women, they wouldn’t be putting up these posters.”

Clare Murphy, BPAS

I don’t want them taken down.

Firstly, the Advertising Standards Authority say that because of the “political” and non-commercial nature of the ads, they have no authority to ban or amend them. Siren Magazine has issued a template letter of complaint to the advertising company, JC Decaux, with no results as yet, so it seems we are stuck with them for the next few weeks.

It could be worse, I suppose. The ads aren’t visually disgusting, as many of the anti-choice protest images can sometimes be. I think the tagline “There’s always a better answer” is totally incorrect and easily falsifiable, but I suppose that could be construed as a matter of opinion.

I’d rather not see them, but given the ASAI’s current position, I can think of no solid, legal reason why they shouldn’t be allowed up there. And more than that: I don’t want to focus my energy on having those posters banned or taken down.

But I’ll tell you what I do want. I want those who call themselves journalists to investigate how much Youth Defence paid the media buyers, how much they paid for printing, and where they got all that money from: some experts indicate that the cost could be up to €250,000.

I want women who have had abortions to push back against the “tragic” narrative being forced on them and their choices by this campaign. With at least 4,000 Irish women a year travelling to Britain for abortions for the past twenty years, surely some of them could speak out?

I want everyone who is pro-choice in Ireland, everyone who hates those posters and the shame and lies they stand for, to donate to the IFPA or Choice Ireland or Action on X or whatever other organisations are standing up for women’s right to their own bodies in their own country. I want those pro-choice organisations to put up their own ads, ads that say “We trust women”, and not just be content to provide outraged quotes to the papers. Writing letters of protest to an advertising company is a distraction when we should be writing to our TDs, telling them to legislate for our rights to our own bodies.

I want talk.

Silencing the abortion issue is what we have done for decades, and it’s time for it to stop.

12 thoughts on “Anti-choice Ads: Why I Don’t Want Them Banned”

  1. Banning abortions doesn;t stop abortions from happening.


    Making them safe, legal, and available means that there will be less of them (South America v. Northern Europe.)


    Since abortion will not stop, and the goal for these people would theoretically be to prevent as many as possible, why not the logical answer of “make it legal.” *I know, logic.


  2. I agree that this stuff shouldn’t be censored (the whole “I hate what you’re saying but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” argument has always rung loudly with me) and that the pro-choice movement needs to be more pro-actively vocal, but how do we make that happen?

    It’s so difficult to promote a message of “Trust Women” without the opponents turning it into “Abortion: YAY!”

    And, yeah. It bugs me that these posters are promoting a big fat lie.  There ISN’T always a better answer.

    1. Firstly, we need to stop bombarding the advertising company with emails and letters, and start bombarding our TDs, the only people who can pass actual legislation.

      The group TFMR (Termination for Medical Reasons in Ireland) are doing a good job at putting real women’s stories behind the ‘always a better answer’ lie, but their perspective is a narrow one, and I certainly think the press could be doing more.

    2. I think the best way to do that is to make sure women who have had abortions can tell their stories. I once stumbled upon a site when I was still anti-choice, and read about a woman who had an abortion because she and her husband were unemployed and had two children already. Reading about a woman who had to sell her wedding ring to buy groceries for her family helped me realize that what I thought I knew about abortions and the women who have them were misguided and false. So many anti-choice ads (like the one above) focus on either the fetus or how “destructive” abortion is, when in reality women get abortions for so many reasons that you can’t just make a blanket statement about why they get them or how it affects them.

      We also need to make the discussion about the woman, and not the fetus. Even if you can’t get everyone to empathize with a woman’s situation, a lot of people are so focused on heartbeats and fingerprints at 3 weeks, they don’t realize it’s the woman and not the fetus that is most affected by abortion.

      1. Absolutely. TFMR Ireland have their stories on their website and facebook page; the Dutch organisation Women on Web also host women’s stories (Irish page here) though it’s not very well-known or user-friendly. But these aren’t enough, more women need to speak out and be assisted to do so.

  3. I am so, so happy you wrote this. I read a statistic (published in an article reacting to this news story) that out of all abortion-seekers in England, fully two thirds of them have Irish passports. Clearly, banning abortion in Ireland isn’t working. And you’re right – we need discussion about it, not censorship.

    1. Holy freaking crap, I did not know that. That’s a pretty staggering, and telling, statistic.

      If you happen to know, how strong would you say the pro-choice movement is in Ireland? I don’t know much about the circumstances, other than the fact that abortion is illegal.

      1. It’s hard to say. I mentioned three pro-choice organisations (the Irish Family Planning Association, Action on  X, and Choice Ireland) there, and have discussed survey results before but in general my impression is the Irish population is more conservative than in the UK or other European countries. Certainly our policiticians (with a few notable exceptions e.g.: Senator Ivaca Bacik, TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace) are quite conservative on the issue.

        Previous articles on the subject: – recent attempts to legislate for abortion where the woman’s life is at risk. – discusses Irish attitudes towards abortion and the legalities in more depth.

    2. I think that stat is two-thirds of the non-residents who have abortions in Britain are Irish. From the Guardian’s report on the latest UK Dept of Health stats:

      “In 2011, 6,151 women came here, the biggest number, 4,149, from Ireland, followed closely by Northern Ireland.”

      But yes, you’re right – Irish women have abortions all the time, just not in Ireland. And the sheer cheek of these organisations campaigning against something that’s already illegal just boggles the mind. But if we seek to have these ads banned because they’re “offensive”, who’s to say they couldn’t say the same about pro-choice advertising?

      1. If abortion were to be outlawed throughout contiguous US, I would be interested to see how much of a spike there is in the amount of non-resident abortions in Canada. Because those who can afford it will go back to what they’ve always done — Canada or France.

        Irish politics have always fascinated me. I spent 6 months living there in the first half of 2006. I never heard anyone speak out against abortion, which is something I hear in the US, even in the liberal bastions I tend to inhabit.

        1. Exactly. And although research is lacking, that’s the impression I get of Irish abortion too – those who can afford it go to England, Wales, or the Netherlands; those who can’t afford it might try buying abortion medication from the internet and going it alone; or just decide to live with an unplanned pregnancy.

          We don’t tend to talk about abortion very much – it’s taboo and very hush-hush. At the least, these ads might get people talking – and hopefully realising they are in favour of legislation, thought that might be my hopeful pro-choice side talking…

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