Abortion complaint dropped by Advertising Standards

Advertising Standards Canada has stopped its proceedings on a complaint against the P.E.I. Right to Life Association.

The group shut down the complaint process against an ad published in the Charlottetown Guardian in October because the complainant, Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, breached confidentiality on a preliminary decision.

The council says if it determines a complainant's "primary intentions is to generate publicity for a cause or issue" it is required to stop proceedings.

Arthur says it was not her intention to get publicity. She feels there was a misunderstanding about what her group could share.

"[It] said at the bottom of the letter that the decision may not be excerpted or republished without permission, which I did not do," said Arthur.

"I published the decision using my own words and you know, didn't republish the letter, so maybe I took it too literally. But I was not interested in keeping this undercover, so to speak, because I didn't understand why that should be the case. It didn't seem right."

In a preliminary ruling late last year, the Advertising Standards Canada said the Guardian ad placed by the P.E.I. Right to Life Association was "inaccurate" and "misleading."

The council ruled that three claims in the ad were against the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. It told the P.E.I. Right to Life Association to amend or permanently shelve its ad. It could not, however, force the association to act.

One claim stated "there is strong evidence linking abortion to breast cancer." The council took the position of the Canadian Cancer Society, which says science does not support a link.

But the council has now said it will no longer proceed with the complaint because of the breach of confidentiality. Advertising Standards says while it did send its decision to both parties, it says it was clear the information was confidential until the process was complete and a final report published.

The process was not complete, because the P.E.I. Right to Life Association had the right to appeal the decision.

The ad is still available on the P.E.I. Right to Life Association web site.

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