Anti-Abortion Billboard To Be Removed From NSW Highway After Backlash

An anti-abortion ad will be removed immediately from a roadside billboard, a month after the same ad was ordered to be pulled down from buses in the state. 

The billboard ad features the words “a heart beats at four weeks”, advertising pro-life group ‘Emily’s Voice’ as part of its ‘notbornyet’ campaign.

On its website, the group said it “exists to help Australians fall in love with the unborn and encourage and support women facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy”.

The advertisement was run on a billboard owned by oOh!media and sits on private property on the Pacific Highway at Belmont North, a suburb in the NSW city of Lake Macquarie.

The ad was placed on a billboard at Belmont North in Lake Macquarie. Photo:

A spokesperson for oOh!media told 10 daily the advert was reviewed and found to not be in breach of advertising codes earlier this year.

But it has since been made aware of "concerns raised with the media placements of this advert by other media outlets", and said a review found it did not meet the company's guidelines.

"Respecting the fact that it could cause offence to a significant section of the community, the advert was put under the microscope of our review panel which deemed that the advert should be removed as it did not meet with our own guidelines," the oOH! spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"The advertiser has been advised of our decision and been refunded its costs and the advertising is being removed immediately.”

10 daily has contacted Emily's Voice for a response to oOH!'s decision and statement.

Last month, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance ordered the same ad be “removed immediately” from being advertised on buses in Newcastle. Constance said he was “appalled” after receiving a complaint.

“I’ll be looking into how this was allowed to happen,” he wrote, in a comment on Facebook.

Paul O’Rourke, CEO of Emily’s Voice, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by Constance’s decision to remove the ads “promoting motherhood family and informed choice”.

“Our ads seek to give hope and encouragement to women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy with reliable, timely information and personal stories about other women and families facing an unplanned pregnancy,” he said.

“We don’t believe our aims or methods are in any way “appalling” or disrespectful.”

The decision to remove the billboard comes four days after a petition was set up, asking to have the ad taken down. At time of writing, the petition has 327 signatures.

“Some people may remember the same advertisement being removed from Newcastle Transport buses,” the petition said.

“So, it’s safe to say, why has Lake Macquarie been targeted as the new condemnation?”

10 daily has contacted the petition's founder for comment.

The same ad has stirred controversy in Hobart after it was placed on the roof of the Republic Bar & Cafe earlier this month.

The owners of the pub responded by putting their own message on social media.

“We do not control the billboard above our building … this venue is pro-choice,” the notice read.

On that occasion, O'Rourke called the billboard a “promotion of the beauty, dignity and value of life, motherhood and family” and “not condemning of women who may have chosen abortion”.

“Like the venue, we don’t want to “control women’s bodies”, and believe in choice; informed choice,” he said.

In 2017, the Australian Communications and Media Authority found an ad made by the group, broadcast on Network 10, did not clearly label its political nature.

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