The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has withdrawn from an awards ceremony at the annual Public Affairs Awards in London last week after a pro-life group won the award for the "best campaign in Northern Ireland."
Both Lives Matter won the won the Northern Ireland Public Affairs Campaign of the Year for its "100,000" billboard campaign, which contended that 100,000 lives have been saved because the 1967 Abortion Act was not implemented in the region.
BPAS, which bills itself as the leading abortion care service in the U.K., had raised objections about including Both Lives Matter in the awards, arguing that the association was "providing an endorsement for the denial of healthcare and human rights" by recognizing the pro-life group's campaign.
The abortion provider, which was also nominated for its campaign to reduce the price of the morning-after pill, had issued a statement denouncing the decision and boycotted the ceremony.
In an open letter to the event's judges, BPAS said that it "no longer wants recognition from an organisation which is also happy to celebrate the systematic suppression of the rights of women and girls to basic healthcare," adding, "Please accept this letter as notice of the withdrawal of our entry."
The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), which hosted the ceremony held on Dec. 14, wrote back to BPAS to refute the assertions that it was endorsing the pro-life group's campaign.
The Director General of the PRCA, Francis Ingham, insisted that the campaign work that had been showcased by the award-giving body had covered "numerous viewpoints on often controversial issues."
Ingham said that the allegation made by BPAS was "absurd" as it would make it appear that the PCRA was endorsing multiple pieces of work with competing viewpoints, given that BPAS itself was shortlisted along with Both Lives Matter at the same awards event.
He further contended that Both Lives Matter operates in accordance with the laws of Northern Ireland so it cannot be excluded from an award.
Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter, said that her organization is "stunned and delighted" to have won the award but it was disappointed by the letter from BPAS.
"We are surprised and disappointed by the reaction of BPAS and others who have essentially put pressure on the organisers to have us excluded from the awards. By withdrawing in protest, they have attempted to make the awards about them rather than a celebration of the great work by all the nominees," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
She revealed that her group has written a letter to the organizers of the awards ceremony to express their gratitude for the "professional way they have dealt with this matter."