Thursday, 18 June 2009

Letter sent to Broadcast committee of the Advertising Standards Authority

Dear Broadcast Committee

I am emailing to express serious concern at the proposal to allow the advertising of abortion and condoms on television.

As a parent, a governor of two schools and a Vicar whose church groups attract up to 70 10-18 year olds each week, I am very aware of the pressures on our young people to have sex before they are ready or really willing. Yet I just cannot see how the advertising of means for preventing pregnancy would not deepen this problem by lessing the sense of risk and responsibility that sexual activity should have.

Please do not understand or misquote me. This is not to say I am against mention of these things in other contexts. It is simply that advertising is not the right medium:
(1) Because it inevitably portrays things in a romanticised and attractive way, in order to promote sales or services.
(2) It cannot give the time to the complexities that surround the issues, and the arguements both for and against abortion.

When a teenager myself, I belonged to a group of friends that were sexually active. And even then, there was a flippancy with respect to sex, condoms, abortion and the morning after pill that promoted extreme promiscuity. This led to severe emotional distress to the girls in particular, and this was combined with physical and psychological problems in those who ended up having abortions.

British families are some of the most broken in Europe. And our children some of the most unhappy and most promiscuous. A right response to this is not simply to push means of reducing pregancy from all directions. That would be unthinking and irresponsible, for many of our teenagers have grown up to simply absorb information and advertising rather than engage critically with it. No, what is needed is a thoughtful engagement with the issues surrounding sex and pregnancy prevention in environments where these things can be discussed and questions asked.

In this, it must be noted that opinions vary on abortion in particular. And there are many (religious and non-religious), who regard it as the destruction of human life. Whether or not one agrees with this, the sheer strength of feeling and mere possibility that it actually is a destruction of human life, should be enough to prevent its advertising, and would make a willingness to promote such activity unprecedented.

A final point is to say that it may well be suggested that these things should therefore be advertised on TV after the watershead. But in many families the watershead means nothing. Their young children regularly stay up to watch television.

Please please can I therefore ask that your Authority resists being pushed into the advertising (and therefore promotion) of condoms and abortion.

Yours sincerely,
Revd. Jon Hobbs