Abortion publicity stunt and how the ‘news’ is made

Today bpas (the ironically named British Pregnancy Advisory Service) announced that they were setting up a new phone line for women seeking help after they have taken abortion pills bought online.

bpas sent out an embargoed press release 36 hours before the announcement. Various BBC news stations and other media news outlets began to get in touch with the Evangelical Alliance office to say they were running the story and looking for comment – the tail wagging the dog! It is fascinating how quickly a story that fits a particular agenda is picked up.

The press release said that “woman who cannot travel for abortion treatment have no choice but to break the law and order pills over the internet.” That statement is both wrong and unhelpful.

bpas then go on to use the press release to highlight two websites were these illegal drugs can be obtained. They also ran an advert hinting at these websites. This would appear to be a blatant attempt to promote websites that provide abortion pills – at no other time would the media run a story promoting illegal drugs. Online abortion pills are dangerous and are illegal throughout the UK. If obtaining drugs online is as safe as bpas suggests then there is no need for a 240hour helpline. Offering this service is a reminder of just how dangerous taking illegal drugs ordered online is. Of course the chair of bpas is Cathy Warwick, the head of the Royal College of Midwives who are advocating a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy when it comes to potentially life threatening pills.

We at EA are working with others to see the best possible care for women and children within the current law because both lives matter. Meanwhile outside groups are seeking to use the women of Northern Ireland to further their own interests.

Charity Commission reports show that bpas generated £28.4 million from the provision of abortions and related services last year. They are the industry leaders and are now pushing for change in the law here which would allow them to expand their work.

Today bpas engaged in a publicity stunt and it worked getting them plenty of coverage. We responded with a press release calling it a ‘publicity stunt’ and to be fair a number of news outlets ran with that. There is a very interesting article by Andrew Sandlin about Herbert Marcuse with a section on the destabilisation language. He says “The meaning of words must be destabilized. If you can destabilize words, you can destabilize the culture. If you can convince women that abortion is all about ‘choice’, and not about killing, it’s much easier to legalise abortion.” This was apparent throughout the cycle of this story. Groups were described as pro-choice and anti-abortion (rather than pro-life). bpas talk about pills leading to an early miscarriage as if it was an unfortunate but natural outcome.

The law in Northern Ireland is clear and I support it. Others disagree and they are welcome to push to change the law. But undermining the law, and putting lives in danger by highlighting illegal drugs available online, is irresponsible and unacceptable.

The service offered by bpas is a stunt operating in a legally grey area. But it is also an interesting example of who shapes the news agenda and how.

 

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