Anti-abortion group told to drop 'misleading' ad

The council that regulates advertising in Canada has ruled that a PEI Right to Life ad that appeared in a Charlottetown newspaper was "inaccurate" and "misleading."
This ad from PEI Right to Life appeared in the local newspaper. (CBC)

The body that regulates advertising in Canada has ruled that a PEI Right to Life ad that appeared in a Charlottetown newspaper was "inaccurate" and "misleading."

The full-page ad appeared in The Guardian on Oct. 20, the same day that pro-choice rallies were held in Charlottetown and other cities around the country.

It included a number of statements, such as "abortion is never necessary to save the mother's life."

Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, was in P.E.I. for the rally. She was shocked when she saw the ad.

"The ad was just unbelievable," she told CBC News Thursday from her home in Vancouver. "It was chock full of inaccuracies and just crazy statements, demeaning implications about women."

Arthur filed a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada, the industry's self-regulating body.

Following a review, the council ruled that three claims in the ad were "inaccurate, misleading, and not supportable," and thus were against the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

The statement about a mother's life was one of those questionable claims.

The second stated "there is strong evidence linking abortion to breast cancer." The third claimed that the current lack of an abortion law in Canada "does nothing more than permit abortion on demand."

To refute the breast cancer claim, the council took the position of the Canadian Cancer Society, which says science doesn't support a link.

Amend or shelve

Advertising Standards Canada told PEI Right to Life to amend or permanently shelve its ad. However, it cannot force the association to act.

PEI Right to Life says it has no plans to run the ad again.

The group does plan to file an appeal, even though it calls the decision a meaningless attempt to discredit its efforts.

"[It's] nothing that I'm concerned about. If they could take a whole page article and find only three little things they don't like, that's a darn good article," said Ann Marie Tomlins, with the association.

Tomlins said the finding amounts to "nitpicking a couple of statements we can easily defend."

She also said the decision won't prevent her group from getting its message out in the future.

Pro-choice groups, on the other hand, are claiming victory.

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada where abortions are not performed in hospitals. The provincial government will pay for abortions performed on the mainland.