Christian groups in Ireland celebrate dismissal of complaint against pro-life ad

(Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)Demonstrators take part in a protest to urge the Irish Government to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution, which enforces strict limitations on abortion, in Dublin, Ireland September 24, 2016.

Christian groups are celebrating the dismissal of several complaints against a pro-life advertisement that claims Northern Ireland's abortion laws had saved 100,000 lives.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has dismissed complaints against a billboard campaign by the pro-life group Both Lives Matter that says 100,000 people are alive today because of Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws.

According to Catholic Herald, the complaints were filed by 14 people who argued that the statistic could not be substantiated.

On Wednesday, ASA issued its ruling saying the poster was not misleading and there was "reasonable probability" it was accurate.

"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," the ASA stated.

"Because we considered that readers would understand the figure to represent an estimate, we concluded that the claim was unlikely to materially mislead readers," it continued.

Both Lives Matter, which is a coalition of groups including Christian Action Research Education (CARE) and the Evangelical Alliance, hailed the watchdog organization's decision.

"We are delighted with this result. Our opponents said we could not substantiate the claim despite us producing a robust report. The ASA have examined our calculations and backed our figure," said Both Lives Matter spokeswoman Dawn McAvoy, according to Premier.

Nola Leach, the chief executive of CARE, stated that ASA's decision should give cause for a "massive rethink" when it comes to policy in Britain.

"If 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not be if the 1967 Act had applied in the province, what would the figures look like across England, Scotland and Wales?" she asked.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. where abortion remains banned after the 1967 Abortion Act was passed.

In January, Both Lives Matter published a report that suggested that over 100,000 people are alive today because the 1967 Abortion Act was not implemented in Northern Ireland.

The group explained that it found the figure by comparing the rates of abortion in Scotland, which has the lowest abortion rates in the U.K and is culturally most similar to Northern Ireland. The group then estimated the number of abortions performed for Northern Irish women in England and Wales, based on figures from U.K. Department of Health. The number of people who were spared from abortion is arrived at by calculating the difference between the two figures.

The ASA's ruling drew criticism from pro-choice campaigners including Clare Bailey of the South Belfast Green Party who said that the 100,000 figure failed to represent the full picture in Northern Ireland.

She said that she has not seen the report published by Both Lives Matter, but she questioned whether the study has taken into account the number of women who used online abortion pill providers.

McAvoy noted that Both Lives Matter knew that pro-choice groups would not be happy about the claim in the advertisement because of the commonly used argument that the law does not stop abortions. "And we have now shown that law does stop abortions," she said.

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