LONDON, March 26, 2009 -- Advertisements offering advice on pregnancy -- including abortion -- could be allowed on British television and radio for the first time under proposed rule changes.
As the rates of teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise in the United Kingdom, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practices is considering rewriting the TV rules regarding advertising as a way of tackling the problem.
Condom ads would also be permitted to air anytime. Currently, they can't be shown before the 9 p.m. "watershed" hour currently imposed on most British channels.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told ABCNews.com she welcomed the proposal.
"Why would we not want women to be able to know quickly and simply where they can get pregnancy testing and referral for abortion treatment or antenatal care, depending on what they decide is best for them?" she said.
This change is one of a number of suggestions the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has under review. The proposals are part of a wider review of advertising codes. After a public review, a decision will come later this summer. If approved, the ads could start appearing in 2010.
Supporters say the advertisements are a logical response to the government's plea for help in curbing teenage pregnancy.
But Dr. Peter Saunders at the Christian Medical Fellowship told ABCNews.com that this is not the solution.
"This is like having the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to deal with the casualties rather than putting up a safety rail at the top of the cliff to stop them falling off," he said.
Teen Pregnancies Skyrocketing in the U.K.
Britain has some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, and the figures are only climbing. According to the office of National Statistics, there were 41.9 conceptions per 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds in 2007 -- up from 40.9 the year before.
Saunders points the finger at government policy for the rise in numbers. "The teenage pregnancy strategy was launched in 1999, so we've had 10 years of it and millions have been spent just for figures to show that pregnancies have risen. The government policy -- largely based on the morning-after pill, abortions and condoms -- is not working."
Morning After Pill as Teen Pregnancies Rage Out of Control
There has been a spate of high profile teenage pregnancies in the British press this year, including the story of Alfie Patten, who got his 15 year-old girlfriend pregnant when she was 13.
It was reported earlier this week that girls as young as 11 will soon be allowed to ask for the morning after pill via text message as part of a school pilot program in Oxfordshire.
Also, the Lloyds Pharmacy chain recently announced plans to offer morning-after pills online. Logging on to the site, you can order up to three pills to be delivered to your door within 72 hours.
A spokesman for Lloyds said the idea for the service came about after many of their customers said it would be useful to have a supply of the pill in advance.
Whether these advertisements get the green light is now up to the British public. The comment period ends June 19.