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Protests over plans to advertise abortion clinics on TV

 Plans to allow abortion clinics to advertise their services on prime-time television and radio have caused a storm of protest from Churches, Christian MPs and pro-life groups. Restrictions on condom adverts could also be relaxed, with adverts being shown before the 9pm watershed.

The Advertising Standards Authority is launching a 12-week consultation which will close on 19 June. If accepted, the new code will come into force next year. The proposal was introduced in response to calls from the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV to tackle Britain's soaring teenage pregnancy rate.

Christian MP Nadine Dorries said: "What we are going to see for the first time is abortion clinics advertising to carry out a procedure which is both distressing and traumatic for people involved without conveying any of that message."

Ms Dorries added: "I object to the fact that this procedure will be advertised on TV in a manner that states that this is an inconsequential, easy to obtain, no problem procedure. Actually it is a very important procedure. It ends life and carries consequences."

Currently Britain has the highest pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases rate in Europe. Between 2002 and 2006, more than 11,000 under-16s were diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections including gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis.

Anne Quesney, head of advocacy at Marie Stopes International, said the adverts would provide vital education to young women to make choices about when to have sex and to practice it safely: "Hopefully this will be an opportunity for parents and young children to have an open and frank discussion about a subject that is so important."

Ms Quesney said that it was important for people to have access to accurate information and that the adverts would not, as critics suggest, contribute to a rise in abortion: "It will enable people to access information and make their own decisions. It will stop people who are currently misleading women into making the choice they want them to in telling women that abortion is wrong."

Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster said: "As a society, we need to wake up and stop treating abortion as a quick-fix solution to pregnancy and offer compassionate and practical support to women facing crisis pregnancies. The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative in Scotland is a shining example of the Church and others reaching out to pregnant women who find themselves isolated and frightened, offering emotional support and practical help such as liaising with families and providing financial assistance to women in need.

"The killing of the innocent can never be a genuine solution to a problem. I urge all those who care about the sanctity of human life to voice their opposition to this proposal with one voice. At the same time, please consider lending your support to our pro-life organizations that care about mothers and their preborn children. "