Ad placement can mean mixed message

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Put up whatever sign you want on your own property, by all means. But most would expect limits of some kind to messages placed in buildings or other assets theoretically owned by the public.

One Canadian city is facing a challenge from an organization that’s trying to promote its philosophy. The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform attempted to have its anti-abortion advertising signs placed on city buses in Peterborough, Ont.

The city’s decision not to allow the campaign has the pro-life group challenging it in court today, with the usual claim that goes along with this sort of denial: that it infringes on free speech and violates the organization’s charter rights.

For its part, the city is taking a soft position in the case, saying it is not planning to fight the matter, but will await the court’s decision. The organization is hoping for a declaration saying its rights were breached.

The ads depict pictures of fetuses with the caption “growing, growing, gone.”

The issue is not about deciding the ethical implications of having abortion services available – that’s one that modern societies will not likely ever see general consensus on. It’s a matter that’s highly emotionally charged.

At the same time, it’s not at all surprising that a pro-life group would use whatever practical effort it can to persuade people of its message. Placing media in areas with plenty of public traffic would be a prime target.

This case is reminiscent of instances in the past in which religious organizations tried to have their advertisements posted on city buses. Again, the right to freedom of speech and expression is a principle most of us cherish. But in multicultural, multi-faith societies, some will question the appropriateness in publicly owned spaces.

Granted, placement of these slogans is presumably paid for by the organization. The problem is, that might not be obvious to everyone.

A city will have a local health authority that, among its many functions, makes this particular medical procedure available to citizens who feel they need to use it. Its availability is there in a non-partisan, non-judgmental way.

Ads reflecting on the procedure that have an element of judgment in a publicly owned area would present the appearance, at least, of taking a side.

Organizations: Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

Geographic location: Peterborough

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Recent comments

  • Me
    February 23, 2016 - 18:01

    Advertising is for selling products. Not religion or opinions.