Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 9, 2003
Ontario pro-lifers plan massive TV campaign
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The pro-life community in Ontario is gearing up for the largest media advertising campaign ever launched against abortion in the province and hoping to save at least 15,000 unborn infants every year in the process.
Ontario pro-life educational groups, under the umbrella of Alliance for Life Ontario, are working to raise almost $500,000 for a 13-week campaign from January to March 2004 involving television advertisements prepared by the U.S-based Vitae Caring Foundation (VCF).
Officials say the ads have proven themselves highly successful in swaying pro-choice women into the pro-life camp.
In Missouri and Wisconsin, where the ads have aired the longest, abortion rates dropped 35 to 45 per cent, they say.
"We can't afford not to use television advertising," said Denise Neary, of Philadelphia, a fundraising consultant to the VCF and a member of the National Right to Life Committee in the U.S. "It is the only way we are going to be able to shift the masses to a pro-life position."
At a fundraising dinner in Ottawa May 27, organized by Action Life Ottawa, Neary said the abortion-to-live-birth ratio in Missouri has been reduced to half the national average through the TV commercials. In Colorado, the rate was cut by 57 per cent between 1997 and 2000 as a result of the ads, she said.
As well, "In 1995, Wisconsin started using Vitae Caring Foundation ads and have completely reversed public opinion in their target audience of women 18-34," said Neary.
The pro-life commercials have been so successful because they focus on the "right brain," said Neary. "In order to change behaviour, we have to affect the right brain. Women are very right-brained (which involves) the feelings and the emotions. The left-brain is the logic, thinking side of the brain."
Neary said four different polls in Wisconsin had shown that fetal development ads, such as "Abortion stops a beating heart," and "Unborn babies are people, too," were having "absolute opposite effect on public opinion" than hoped for.
Messages about saving unborn babies are fine for people who are already pro-life, said Neary. "But when we deal with saving unborn babies and we're talking to pro-choice women, they are going to turn us off immediately because their reaction is 'See that's all they care about. They only care about that baby. They don't care about me.'"
The advertisements are targeted at the "inconsistent middle" - adult women who are not strongly pro-life or pro-choice. "These are the people that we can most easily move on the issue of abortion," Neary said.
Baseline polling in Ontario in 2001 showed the province has a 51 per cent "inconsistent middle," said Neary. "It is the highest we have ever found in any market. So this is a very, very moveable market and you should have tremendous success with this campaign."
Archbishop Marcel Gervais is sold on the TV advertisements. He told the dinner crowd of 370, "For many, many years, I and many of you have been looking for something that could touch the heart of people who have hardened their hearts." The pro-life TV ads do just that, he suggested. "We could save a minimum of 15,000 infants in Ontario every year with a proper campaign."
But the advertisements do not appear to have the full support of Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a prominent Jewish author and broadcaster.
"Whatever ads you put in and however offensive a campaign you have to avoid in order to win the battle of the mind, it is important for us not to lose sight of the fact that we can't sugar-coat this," he said. "You can sugar coat this in advertising - and all the more power to you - but the message is a very clear one and it is that children gestating within the womb are human beings. There's no way getting around that."
Bulka also said, "It was a media distortion that escalated the whole issue of abortion into a women's rights issue and unfortunately we're fighting this battle on turf that we never wanted to step on." He added, however, "Thankfully we are now, hopefully, able to use the very media that got us into this mess to get us out of it."