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News 27 Nov 13

Banned Anti-Abortion Ad Returns to Macedonian TV

A government-sponsored anti-abortion advert that was deemed unfit for broadcasting has reappeared on state television - in a slightly altered form.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian government building | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The Macedonian government has continued airing a controversial  anti-abortion video advertisement, blurring content that the national Broadcasting Council, SRD previously deemed inappropriate for broadcasting before midnight.

The original advertisement that appeared three months ago shows a hospital corridor where a medic ironically congratulates the male partner of a woman who has undergone a termination with the words: “I congratulate you. You have just killed a healthy baby”.

The SRD found these words unfit, for portraying all abortions as murder, and deemed the advert contrary to the Broadcasting Law.

The government, which ordered and paid for the video, was given the option of altering the disputed content in order to be able to air it without time restrictions.

In the altered version that reappeared this week on state television and on other private TV stations, the government has blurred and silenced the problematic section, adding an inscription over the footage: “Censored by the SRD”.

At the end of the new version are added quotations by the Nobel Prize-winning nun Mother Teresa who was born in Skopje and was well known for opposing abortion.

The first quotation says, “It is a pity if a baby needs to be gone in order for you to live your life as you want”. The second says that, “An abortion takes two victims – the child and the lost conscience”.

The government, led by the VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, earlier blamed the opposition parties for the ban.

 “We are discontented with the SRD’s decision and we think it was reached under the political influence of the [opposition Social Democrats] SDSM, and the pro-abortion civil associations, financed by Soros [financier George Soros's Open Society Foundation],” a government press release read.

However, the government pledged to respect the ban on airing the plug before midnight.

In line with its socially conservative outlook, the VMRO DPMNE-led government in June adopted new abortion legislation that critics said curbs women's rights.

The changes were adopted amid protests by activists and in the absence from parliament of opposition parties.

The old law, dating from 1976, left key decisions on terminations to the women concerned and to doctors.

Under the changes, women have to file requests for abortions and have to confirm that they attended counselling, have informed their “spouse” of their intention to abort, and have met a gynaecologist.

Some see the move as a step towards a full ban on terminations.

Despite government insistence that the change will not limit women’s right to choose, research published in November by two NGOs, the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women in Macedonia, ESA, and the Health Education and Research Association, HERA, showed three-quarters of surveyed gynaecologists said that the change would make access to abortion harder for women.

Some 91 Macedonian human rights groups are currently contesting the recent changes to the abortion law before the Constitutional Court. They seek a halt to the government-sponsored anti-abortion campaign that they say stigmatizes women seeking terminations and limits their freedom to choose.

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