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Complaint Letters for Anti-choice Lethbridge Bus/Bench Ads

Please send letters to Lethbridge before April 22 and complaints to Ad Standards by March 31. Feel free to copy/adapt portions of these complaints for your own complaint(s), or just use them as guidance, or write your own complaint from scratch, if preferred.


Sample Complaint Letter to City of Lethbridge and Pattison Outdoor Advertising

  1. Click the link at the top of this page, "Email City of Lethbridge and Pattison". It will open a new email in your default email client, with email addresses to the Lethbridge Mayor, City Council, and Pattison Outdoor Advertising.
  2. Copy and paste the following letter into your email. Don’t forget to add your name and contact info at the end.

Dear City of Lethbridge & Pattison Outdoor Advertising,

Re: Anti-abortion Advertisements on Lethbridge Transit Buses and Benches

I'm writing to ask the City of Lethbridge to immediately remove the anti-abortion bus and bench ads that lie about abortion and inflame hatred towards people accessing necessary, safe, and legal health care. Please do not allow the continued bullying and demeaning of women and trans people by allowing these ads to remain in public view.

The ads appear to violate the City of Lethbridge values to be “empathetic, inclusive, open-minded, and ethical” (http://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/City-Council/Pages/Counicl-Strategic-Plan-Vision-Mission-Values.aspx). They also violate the policies and standards of Pattison Outdoor Advertising (http://www.pattisonoutdoor.com/advertising-content-guidelines/), and the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (sections 1 and 14).

Here are the ads that I object to:

These ads imply that pregnant people are aborting full-term infants and causing them pain. The ads can be very triggering for families that have lost wanted pregnancies through later pregnancy termination for necessary medical reasons. The picture and statements are inaccurate and mislead the public on the safe, legal, and necessary health care that abortion represents.

Violations of Pattison Outdoor Advertising Acceptability Policy

Violations of Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Section 1 of the Code is “Accuracy and Clarity”, while Section 14 covers “Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals.” Please find the Code here: http://www.adstandards.com/en/standards/canCodeOfAdStandards.aspx

1.The ad misleads about when abortion occurs and on the medical definition of abortion

Induced abortion by definition is up to viability - estimated by the Canadian Medical Association to be after 20 weeks in most cases. In Canada, abortion rarely occurs at a stage where a fetus could feel pain (which is 24 weeks at the earliest).

The Canadian Medical Association defines induced abortion as: “the active termination of a pregnancy before fetal viability”. (http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/PolicyPDF/PD88-06.pdf)

Further, the CMA states: “According to current medical knowledge viability is dependent on fetal weight, degree of development and length of gestation; extrauterine viability may be possible if the fetus weighs over 500 g or is past 20 weeks’ gestation, or both” Note: Gestation begins at conception, while pregnancy duration is usually measured from LMP (last menstrual period), which may add up to 2 weeks to GA (gestational age).

2. The ad misrepresents abortion practice in Canada

The picture of the full-term fetus implies that abortions in the third trimester or at full term commonly occur, which is false. Over 90% are completed by the end of the first trimester (90.6% of abortions in Canada are done by 12 weeks GA). Only 0.59% occur at 21+ weeks, mostly by 24 weeks (http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/backrounders/statistics-abortion-in-canada.pdf).

3. The ad is mistaken about fetal pain and relies on junk science

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states: “A human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after viability. Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at least 24 weeks of gestation. Because it lacks these connections and structures, the fetus does not even have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least 24 weeks of gestation. (https://www.acog.org/-/media/Departments/Government-Relations-and-Outreach/FactAreImportFetalPain.pdf)

A well-regarded summary of the evidence around fetal pain is this 2005 study: “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence” (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/201429). Since then, the scientific community’s understanding of fetal development has remained stable and the American College of Physicians and Surgeons said of the 2005 study that “no new research has contradicted its findings.” (https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html)

At full term, when the fetus may be pain-capable, no anesthetic is given at birth even though a vaginal birth subjects them to extreme pressure and stress. (https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/if-fetal-pain-is-a-thing-then-all-deliveries-should-require-general-anesthesia/). Further, newborn circumcision and intra-uterine surgery on near-term fetuses is often done with little or no anesthesia. Why aren’t anti-abortion people concerned about these issues?

In fact, anti-abortion people use fetal pain as a political tool to stigmatize or restrict abortion. While being troubled by the imaginary pain of an early fetus, they never think about the real pain of pregnancy and childbirth, especially that experienced by an unwilling woman, or by a woman with a wanted pregnancy gone terribly wrong. Her pain may be more prolonged and severe, and frequently accompanied by significant emotional suffering. (http://www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/sm/v37n4/v37n4a2.pdf). Seeing the Lethbridge “fetal pain” ad would only add to the distress.

4. The ad amounts to targeted bullying and cruelty to those who have had a later pregnancy termination due to tragic circumstances.

Abortion after 20 weeks is extremely rare and primarily occurs because the fetus is gravely or fatally impaired, or the woman’s life or physical health is at risk, or both (http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/postionpapers/22-Late-term-Abortions.PDF). These are tragic circumstances.

It is concerning that the City of Lethbridge would allow a fringe group to target and upset those who have lost wanted pregnancies. For example, some families receive a diagnosis of fetal anencephaly (where most of the brain is missing) and are forced to make a tragic, private decision between themselves and their doctor. Continuing the pregnancy puts their physical and emotional health at risk. Examples of these families and their circumstances can be found here: https://endingawantedpregnancy.com/stories/ It would only compound their suffering to be confronted with this “fetal pain” ad.

5. The ad uses dishonest persuasion techniques against pregnant women, which can elicit shame, fear, and anxiety.

Section 14(d) of the Advertising Code states that ads must not: “undermine human dignity; or display obvious indifference to, or encourage, gratuitously and without merit, conduct or attitudes that offend the standards of public decency prevailing among a significant segment of the population.”

Raising the issue of possible fetal pain serves to shame and frighten vulnerable women who may have had or are considering an abortion. This not only undermines their human dignity and offends standards of public decency, it is callous and cruel, particularly in cases where women need a late termination after a pregnancy has gone catastrophically wrong.

Further, the phrase “Say NO to Abortion” attempts to persuade women not to exercise their legal right to an abortion regardless of their circumstances, and does so in the context of falsely claiming that fetuses feel pain. There is no merit to using such dishonest and insensitive persuasion techniques - it offends standards of public decency.

6. Advertising Standards Has Ruled Against Similar Types of Ads

In May 2017, Advertising Standards ruled against an anti-abortion bus ad in Peterborough that depicted fetuses alleged to be 7 and 16 weeks, and said “Abortion kills children. End the killing.” The ad was deemed to contravene Section 1 of the Advertising Code against “Accuracy and Clarity” because it presented 16-week abortions as common, as well as Section 14, “Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals” because it would be “seriously disturbing” to children.

Earlier in Dec 2016,the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta agreed with the argument of the City of Grande Prairie (Alberta) that the same ad would likely cause psychological harm to women who’ve had or are considering an abortion, as well as cause emotional distress to children, and create a hostile and uncomfortable environment for transit users and other users of the road. For further info, see:

In summary, the Lethbridge & District Pro-life transit bench advertisements violate the City of Lethbridge’s contract with Pattison Outdoor Advertising as well as the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Sections 1 and 14) because the ad is false, demeaning to people who may need an abortion or have experienced a pregnancy termination, and offensive to standards of public decency.

Please take immediate action to remove these ads and ensure that similar ads do not occur again. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sample Complaint to Ad Standards

Submit an online complaint here: http://www.adstandards.com/en/consumerComplaints/howToSubmitAComplaint.aspx and please follow our generic instructions/guidelines. Customized text for the Lethbridge ad appears below which you can copy and paste into the online complaint form.

Where did you see the advertisement?

I saw the ad ____________. But it also appears [inside buses] [on bus benches at transit stops] in a different size and format.

If you have not physically seen the ad, you could say you saw this news story showing the bench ad: http://www.cjocfm.com/news-and-info/news/lethbridge-news/pro-life-ads-result-in-vandalism-to-lethbridge-transit-bench/

Describe the advertisement

The ad says “Preborn Babies Feel Pain. Say NO to Abortion.” A full-term fetus is shown next to the words.

Attach a copy of the advertisement, if available

You can either add your own photo; or download one of the photos below by right-clicking on it and chooising "Save image as":


Please describe your concern about the advertisement

The ad implies that pregnant people are aborting full-term infants and causing them pain. The ads can be very triggering for families that have lost wanted pregnancies through later pregnancy termination for necessary medical reasons. The picture and statements are inaccurate and mislead the public on the safe, legal, and necessary health care that abortion represents.

I believe the ad may violate theCanadian Code of Advertising Standards in several ways. First, it’s inaccurate and misleading (Section 1a). Second, it relies on a junk science claim (Section 8). Third, it’s discriminatory and demeaning to women and trans people (Section 14a). Fourth, it can also bring public contempt onto these groups (Section 14c). Fifth, the ad offends standards of public decency (Section 14d).

The ad misleads about when abortion occurs and on the medical definition of abortion:

Induced abortion by definition is up to viability - estimated by the Canadian Medical Association to be after 20 weeks in most cases. In Canada, abortion rarely occurs at a stage where a fetus could feel pain (which is 24 weeks at the earliest). The Canadian Medical Association defines induced abortion as: “the active termination of a pregnancy before fetal viability” (http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/PolicyPDF/PD88-06.pdf). Further, the CMA states: “According to current medical knowledge viability is dependent on fetal weight, degree of development and length of gestation; extrauterine viability may be possible if the fetus weighs over 500 g or is past 20 weeks’ gestation, or both”

The ad misrepresents abortion practice in Canada. The picture of the full-term fetus implies that abortions in the third trimester or at full term commonly occur, which is false. Over 90% are completed by the end of the first trimester (90.6% of abortions in Canada are done by 12 weeks GA). Only 0.59% occur at 21+ weeks, mostly by 24 weeks (http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/backrounders/statistics-abortion-in-canada.pdf).

The ad is mistaken about fetal pain and relies on junk science:

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states: “A human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after viability. Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at least 24 weeks of gestation. Because it lacks these connections and structures, the fetus does not even have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least 24 weeks of gestation.” (https://www.acog.org/-/media/Departments/Government-Relations-and-Outreach/FactAreImportFetalPain.pdf)

A well-regarded summary of the evidence around fetal pain is this 2005 study: “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence” (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/201429). Since then, the scientific community’s understanding of fetal development has remained stable and the American College of Physicians and Surgeons said of the 2005 study that “no new research has contradicted its findings.” (https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html)

Anti-abortion people use fetal pain as a political tool to stigmatize or restrict abortion. While being troubled by the imaginary pain of an early fetus, they never think about the real pain of pregnancy and childbirth, especially that experienced by an unwilling woman, or by a woman with a wanted pregnancy gone terribly wrong. Her pain may be more prolonged and severe, and frequently accompanied by significant emotional suffering. (http://www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/sm/v37n4/v37n4a2.pdf). Seeing this Lethbridge “fetal pain” ad would only add to the distress.

The ad amounts to targeted bullying and cruelty to those who have had a later pregnancy termination due to tragic circumstances:

Abortion after 20 weeks is extremely rare and primarily occurs because the fetus is gravely or fatally impaired, or the woman’s life or physical health is at risk, or both (http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/postionpapers/22-Late-term-Abortions.PDF). These are tragic circumstances.

The Lethbridge ad is targeting and upsetting those who have lost wanted pregnancies. For example, some families receive a diagnosis of fetal anencephaly (where most of the brain is missing) and are forced to make a tragic, private decision between themselves and their doctor. Continuing the pregnancy puts their physical and emotional health at risk. Examples of these families and their circumstances can be found here: https://endingawantedpregnancy.com/stories/. It would only compound their suffering to be confronted with this “fetal pain” ad.

The ad uses dishonest persuasion techniques against pregnant women, which can elicit shame, fear, and anxiety:

Raising the issue of possible fetal pain serves to shame and frighten vulnerable women who may have had or are considering an abortion. This not only undermines their human dignity and offends standards of public decency, it is callous and cruel, particularly in cases where women need a late termination after a pregnancy has gone catastrophically wrong.

Further, the phrase “Say NO to Abortion” attempts to persuade women not to exercise their legal right to an abortion regardless of their circumstances, and does so in the context of falsely claiming that fetuses feel pain. There is no merit to using such dishonest and insensitive persuasion techniques – it offends standards of public decency.