Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 00:03 UK

Archbishop condemns pregnancy ads

'I would never want abortion presented as a simple solution'

The incoming Archbishop of Westminster has called on Catholics to oppose proposals to allow pregnancy advisory services to advertise on TV and radio.

The services, some of which provide abortion information, would get airtime as part of proposals aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy and sexual infection.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols also urged Catholics to fight more condom adverts.

He said existing condom ads "demeaned" young people by depicting "drunken" and "casual sex on the street corner".

The new archbishop was appointed by the Pope last week - replacing Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - and will be installed at Westminster Cathedral on 21 May.

The idea to advertise pregnancy advisory services is part of a review of advertising codes by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice (BCAP).

I doubt that any intended adverts about abortion would be fully truthful... I seriously wonder if any advertisements for the use of condoms would be tasteful
Archbishop Nichols

The proposals also suggest relaxing restrictions on condom adverts, such as showing them before the 2100 watershed, although not around programmes aimed at children under the age of 10.

Currently, Channel 4 is the only outlet where condoms can be advertised from 1900.

BCAP said the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health had called for the changes after a rise in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

It pointed to figures which showed more than 11,000 under-16s were diagnosed with chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis or genital warts from 2002 to 2006.

Adverts for pregnancy advisory services would have to make it clear whether it referred women for abortions.

The two committees will oversee a public consultation, which closes on 19 June. The consultation is UK-wide, but any changes would not necessarily be applied across the UK.

'Reflect reality'

Archbishop Nichols urged Catholics in England and Wales to respond to the consultation, saying that the country would not expect abortion to be advertised "alongside a packet of crisps".

He said: "Advertisements should be truthful and tasteful.

"I doubt that any intended adverts about abortion would be fully truthful and tell the whole truth of the effects of abortion in a woman's life.

"I seriously wonder if any advertisements for the use of condoms would be tasteful because the ones we have at the moment are demeaning of the young people of this country.

"They depict casual sex on the street corner and drunken sex. I do not think these things do anything to genuinely help young people to understand themselves in their own dignity and in the proper meaning of what human sexuality is about."

He said while the media often claimed its role was to "reflect reality", it also had a "responsibility to put something in front of people to which they can aspire".

The archbishop - formerly the Archbishop of Birmingham - suspected advertising involving abortion services would present it as a "simple solution", he said.

"But in fact it has traumatic implications in women's lives," he said.

Honest facts

The proposals would mean that for the first time pregnancy advisory services advertisements that were not government approved would be permitted on broadcast media.

Marie Stopes International, one of Britain's biggest independent pregnancy advisory services, whose clinicians also perform abortions, has said it would immediately consider running adverts.

When the proposals were announced last month Simon Blake, chief executive of Brook - which offers sexual health advice and services to young people - said the move would help people obtain accurate information.

"Clear, honest, factual advertising about services which provide honest messages is clearly going to be part of shifting the balance away from this over-sexualised media," he said.

But John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the move would "further commercialise the killing of unborn children".

In a wide-ranging interview with the Press Association, Archbishop Nichols added that the Catholic Church's teaching on sexual morality presented a "high ideal". He said he acknowledged the "struggle" in people's lives to live in accordance with "the dignity that God has given us".

Asked about Church teaching on gay relationships, the archbishop said "respect" was due to everybody, regardless of sexual orientation.

"In good Catholic eyes a person's sexual orientation does not matter. Where morality comes in is in their behaviour."

The archbishop also criticised a motion to be put before the National Union of Teachers conference calling on religious groups of any faith to have "no place" in the control and management of schools.

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