Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were upheld.
Claims on www.abortionchoices.org home page stated "Considering Abortion? For an Immediate Appointment: Fill in our online booking form or call us on [telephone number]. Abortion Alternatives Free Confidential Advisory Service Free Pregnancy Testing Special Service for Teens - Confidential and Supportive. Still undecided? Not Sure What You Want to Do? Take Advantage of Our Free Advisory Service. Just Call or Email us for help. FREE SCANS ... Irish visitors to our site get a quick, local appointment and get all the information you need".
1. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service challenged whether the claims on the website were misleading, because it was unclear that the service did not refer women directly for a termination.
2. The ASA challenged whether the claims were irresponsible, because they gave the misleading impression that the Central London Women's Centre (CLWC) was an abortion clinic.
1. & 2. The CLWC believed the website reflected what their "Considering Abortion?" service offered. They said they made clear that they helped women to consider abortion and offered abortion alternatives. They argued that their clients were happy with the service they provided and would send friends and family to them, which they believed proved the website was not misleading.
The ASA noted CAP Code rule 12.24 12.24 Marketing communications for services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy must make clear if the service does not refer women directly for a termination. Given that terminations are lawful only in some circumstances, and are subject to particularly stringent requirements in Northern Ireland, marketers may wish to seek legal advice. stated that marketing communications for services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy must make clear if the service did not refer women directly for a termination. We understood that CLWC did not refer women for a termination and therefore, because the website did not make this clear, we concluded that the advertising breached the Code.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.24 12.24 Marketing communications for services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy must make clear if the service does not refer women directly for a termination. Given that terminations are lawful only in some circumstances, and are subject to particularly stringent requirements in Northern Ireland, marketers may wish to seek legal advice. (Services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy).
We considered that the headline claim "Considering Abortion? For an immediate Appointment ..." on the home page gave the impression that the advertiser offered terminations and was therefore an abortion clinic. The claims "Free Pregnancy Testing", "FREE SCANS" and "Irish visitors to our site get a quick, local appointment and get all the information you need" added to the overall impression that the advertiser was a clinic offering terminations. We noted the claims "Abortion Alternatives" and "Free Confidential Advisory Service", but considered that they would be understood to be additional services on offer.
We also considered that the advertising was irresponsible, because women seeking a termination could be unnecessarily delayed by contacting the advertiser under the false impression that CLWC was an abortion clinic and would offer impartial advice. We therefore concluded that the advertising was both misleading and irresponsible.
On this point the marketing, breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) and
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising).
The claims must not appear again in their current form. We told CLWC to ensure that their marketing made clear the nature of the service that they offered.