Nothing wrong with Dutch pro-life commercials, says watchdog

14-12-2021

Western Europe

Anne Vader, RD

"Don't forget the little boss in your own belly." That's a pro-life answer to the pro-choice slogan "Boss in your own belly". Photo Niet Nix Productions

All 960 complaints against pro-life commercials were rejected by the Advertising Code Committee (RCC) in the Netherlands. The radio and TV adverts that were broadcast during the so-called Week of Life early November fall under the freedom of expression, said the RCC on Monday.

“An unborn life also has a body but no choice. A heartbeat is already present at five weeks of pregnancy. Abortion puts an end to this.” The advertising watchdog received almost a thousand complaints about the campaign with that message. The committee considered the three most representative of these.

The first complainant alleges that the ad is illegal because abortion is an “acquired right governed by law.” She also considers the choice to have an abortion a private matter. “Women should not be confronted with statements about this other than in line with the law.” The lady calls the ad “needlessly hurtful” and “contrary to good taste and/or decency.” She claims that advertisements are not there to convince others of ideological views.

The RCC disputes that the campaign is spreading a message that is against the law. Based on freedom of expression, the view may be expressed that the advertiser disagrees with the 24-week limit. It is also “sufficiently clear” to the viewer that the message in the TV commercial reflects the advertiser’s opinion.

Traumatising

A second complainant points out that abortion is a “medical act.” “The ad provides one-sided and incomplete medical-biological information about what ‘new’ life is,” she says. The beginning of the development of life is, in her view, wrongly equated with the existence of a living being. She calls the images “shocking” and, in combination with the text “inflammatory and traumatising”, especially for women who have had an abortion.

The latter has not been shown, the RCC stated in the rejection of the complaint. “There is no question of deception,” the committee writes. There is no proof that the text and images of the embryo “do not correspond to reality.” Although the committee understands that not everyone will appreciate the TV commercial, it does not violate freedom of expression.

Heart

The last complainant disputes the claim that a heart beats at five weeks. This would only be the case at 6.5 weeks. However, the advertising watchdog is satisfied with the defence of the pro-life organisations that the five weeks correspond “to a scientifically valid and acceptable method of calculation.”

The complainant also calls it misleading to speak of a child or human being. But according to the committee, it is sufficiently clear that those terms arise from the advertiser’s opinion.

Final

Diederik van Dijk, chairman of the platform behind the commercials, says he is happy with the rejection. “The campaign for unborn life and for better help for unintentionally pregnant women continues. Determined, loving, decent and factually correct,” he wrote on Twitter.

The decision of the RCC is not yet final. Both parties have two weeks to appeal the ruling. Only if no appeal has been lodged is the decision final.

This is a translation of an article published in Reformatorisch Dagblad on December 14th, 2021

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