PHILADELPHIA -- An anti-abortion advertising campaign sponsored by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops has started in Philadelphia, and is already drawing criticism from abortion rights advocates.
The $500,000 campaign, targeted at this city and southern New Jersey, began Tuesday and includes two radio ads, plus 500 posters that will go up in commuter trains and buses.
"We're trying to speak to people who consider themselves pro-choice but who would be willing to think again about their views," said Cathy Cleaver, spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "What the campaign is doing is bringing these facts to people who have been misinformed."
But critics say the opposite is true. They claim "The Second Look Project" is inaccurate and attempts to influence future U.S. Supreme Court appointments.
Cory Richards, senior vice president of the Allan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive-health research center that endorses abortion rights, said the ads are "subtly misleading."
Each of the radio spots use a female narrator. One begins with the sound of a fetal heartbeat and asks, "Hear that?"
The announcer then says that it's the heartbeat of a "child in the womb at six months."
She goes on to say his chances of survival are better than 50 percent, but the mother could decide to have an abortion. The ad also says that "13,000 babies" are aborted legally each year in the fifth month of pregnancy because "the Supreme Court says you can choose to have an abortion for any reason at any time right up through the ninth month."
The heart stops, and the announcer then says, "We simply ask the question: Have we gone too far?"
Abortion rights advocates said the ads exaggerate the frequency of second- and third-trimester abortions, and ignore that the Supreme Court has allowed states to ban abortion after a fetus can survive outside the womb, except when the abortion is necessary to save the woman's life or health.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, a reproductive health care research organization that supports abortion rights, 1 percent of legal abortions occur at 21 weeks or later, while 88 percent are performed in the first 12 weeks.
Richards suspects the bishops will watch to see how the campaign resonates, then take it to the national level in an attempt to influence future Supreme Court appointments.
"The implication is that if you want to change things, change the Supreme Court," he said.
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