A Canadian advertising standards agency is demanding that pro-life ads be removed from city buses in Peterborough, Ontario.
The pro-life ads sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform have been a contentious issue in the city for months. The pro-life group filed a lawsuit against the city after it rejected the ads, and the two groups reached a settlement earlier this spring, Peterborough This Week reports.
On April 4, the ads were posted on the backs of several city buses. They say, “Abortion kills children: End the killing,” and show images of unborn babies at 7 weeks and 16 weeks and a blood-red circle with the word “Gone.” They are scheduled to remain in place until July.
This week, the pro-life group said it will not give in to the agency’s demands to remove the ads, The Peterborough Examiner reports. The Advertising Standards Canada is a private regulatory group and does not have the legal authority to remove the ads itself.
“My client isn’t about to remove an ad that the courts have said it has the right to post, simply because a private regulator doesn’t like the ad,” Carol Crosson, a lawyer for the pro-life group, told the newspaper.
She said the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical reform has a court order ensuring that the city will continue to run the ads through July.
Here’s more from the report:
Crosson said the regulator’s “opinions” aren’t binding – but the court’s rulings are.
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Although CCBR has 10 business days to appeal the request from Advertising Standards Canada, Crosson said they have no intention of even responding.
“There’s no need to respond,” she said. “Individuals have a right to share a message, pro-choice or otherwise.”
Janet Feasby, the vice-president of Advertising Standards Canada, said that if the 10 days elapse with no response from the advertiser, then the carrier of the ad (in this case, the city) will be asked to remove it.
Advertising Standards Canada claims the ads are misleading and could be “seriously disturbing” to children, according to the report. One of the agency’s issues is that the ads show the image of a 16-week unborn baby; it wrongly claims the image is misleading because most abortions are not performed that late in pregnancies.
The agency is wrong. Abortions are legal for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy in Canada. While the majority of abortions occur in the first trimester, abortions at 16 weeks and later are not uncommon. A report from Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada indicates about 1,400 unborn babies were aborted at 17 weeks or later in 2015, while 1,500 more were aborted between 13-16 weeks.
In April, abortion activists protested the ads, and one city bus driver refused to drive a bus with a pro-life ad on it. They criticized the city for not censoring the ads, and blasted the pro-life message as “hateful.”
In the United States, a pro-life pregnancy center in Indiana faced a similar court battle when the Fort Wayne city bus system tried to censor its ads in 2013. The courts eventually sided with the Women’s Health Link in June 2016, ruling that it was unconstitutional for the city bus system to reject the ads.
The Indiana organization’s 11-by-17-inch ads showed a smiling woman’s face and the words “You are not alone” and “Free resources for women seeking health care” with the organization’s website and telephone number.