Britain will screen its first TV advert for abortion services next week, a sexual health company said Thursday, sparking a furious response from pro-life groups.
Marie Stopes International, which runs clinics across the country, said the ads for advice on unplanned pregnancy and abortion would provide much-needed information on where to turn for help.
The campaign, which airs for the first time Monday on Channel 4 television and runs until the end of June, asks viewers "Are you late?" in reference to a woman who has missed her period.
It directs those facing an unplanned pregnancy to Marie Stopes International's telephone helpline.
"Last year alone we received 350,000 calls to our 24-hour helpline," said company chief executive Dana Hovig.
"Clearly there are hundreds of thousands of women who want and need sexual health information and advice and access to services."
The plans drew sharp criticism from pro-life groups.
"I can only express utter disbelief that this is being allowed," said Michaela Aston, a spokeswoman for charity Life.
"To allow abortion providers to advertise on TV, as though they were no different from car companies or detergent manufacturers, is grotesque."
But Darinka Aleksic, campaign coordinator for Abortion Rights, told the Guardian newspaper the ads were an "important breakthrough in the support services on offer to women."
In 2008, more than 195,000 abortions were performed on women in England and Wales and 91 percent were paid for by the state-funded National Health Service.