The ASA and Both Lives Matter- What happened?

Both Lives Matter | The ASA and Both Lives Matter- What happened?

Both Lives Matter is collaborative movement of individuals & organisations seeking to re-frame the abortion debate in Northern Ireland and beyond. It held its first public event on 5 December 2016 at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival. On 18 January 2017, Both Lives Matter produced and released a report arguing that an estimated 100,000 individuals were alive today in Northern Ireland because of our law on abortion compared to what would have happened if the 1967 Abortion Act (the law governing abortion in England, Scotland and Wales) had been in operation here. The report itself can be found here. As a part of the launch of Both Lives Matter, billboard advertisements were placed at a number of sites around Northern Ireland highlighting the 100,000 figure and questioning why anyone would want to change that. You can see the billboard here.

After the launch of the billboard, there were a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which regulates all forms of print and broadcast advertising in the United Kingdom. Some argued the billboard was “inappropriate, inaccurate and offensive.”[1] On 9 February, Both Lives Matter received a letter from the ASA outlining the complaint and launching an investigation in to the billboard. Initially, the ASA were of the view that the ad was misleading and the figure could not be justified. There followed a period of 5 months of intense legal and statistical discussion. During this time the statistical analysis behind the 100,000 claim was rigorously scrutinised firstly by the ASA’s internal statistical expert and then by independent Chartered Statistician chosen by the ASA. Neither of these experts were known to, or have any relationship with Both Lives Matter. Following this analysis, the Investigations Executive recommended to the ASA Council that the complaint should not be upheld and that making the 100,000 claim was in fact reasonable.

On 21 July, the ASA Council met and agreed that the complaint should not be upheld. In their final recommendation, they stated the following: “On balance, we concluded that the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so.”[2] The final recommendation was published on August 2.


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