Abortion Pushed In Northern Ireland

Ulster, Northern Ireland (Belfast Telegraph March 9, 1999) Two Ulster radio stations have banned a pro-life group from the airwaves, it emerged today. Citybeat and Downtown told the pro-life group Precious Life they could not run its advertisements.

The advertisements were part of an all-out campaign by the group to oppose any change to abortion legislation in Northern Ireland. The Ballymena-based organisation has also bought advertising space on 70 billboards and 300 buses for the major publicity blitz.

But bosses at Downtown said they had refused the advertisement, because it might cause offence.

Sales director Ciaran Boyle said: "We would avoid any ad which was likely to stir up a contentious public debate."Citybeat station manager Simon Walker said his station had referred the advertisement to the radio advertising watchdog, the RACC, which advised them to drop it.

Mr Walker said: "We run the risk of incurring a fine from the watchdog if we run politically sensitive advertising."Precious Life is campaigning against any move to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

The House of Lords voted last year against transferring policy to the Assembly which means the Act could be extended even after devolution.

There have been repeated calls from the Labour Party and an all- party parliamentary group to extend British laws which allows abortions up to 24 weeks - to the province.

Precious Life hope the adverts and 60,000 glossy leaflets will mobilise public opinion against the move.

The group declined to say how much the campaign was costing, but said: "We are spending thousands of pounds and all the money is from public donations."One Ulster donor had given enough to buy 20 billboard spaces in one go - a cost of around 4,000.

Spokeswoman Bernie Smyth said: "The Labour Party are fiercely pro-abortion and having an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons, there is a real danger.

"We want to put the Assembly on notice that they must oppose the Government's efforts to impose abortion on Northern Ireland." The campaign will last for two weeks.

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