An anti-abortion group is criticizing three college newspapers that refused to run its advertisement that warns students going on spring break about using emergency contraceptives that the ad says can have “deadly” consequences.
Newspapers at 10 other campuses accepted the ad, said Virginia Zignego, a spokeswoman for Brookfield-based Pro-Life Wisconsin, which contends any artificial action that destroys a fertilized egg is akin to abortion.
The Badger Herald on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus ran the ad, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, but the editor of the university’s other student newspaper, the Daily Cardinal, told the State Journal that she was unaware of the ad until she saw it in the Herald.
Zignego said Monday her group was angry, frustrated and confused by the different decisions on the quarter-page ad. Some newspapers felt the ad “wasn’t appropriate,” she said.
“It was surprising a newspaper would stay away from controversial subjects,” she said.
She said the decision seemed to be based on personal beliefs.
But Lisa Boyce, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in Madison, called the ad “absolutely incorrect” and said it was the obligation of newspapers to check the accuracy of facts in their advertisements.
“This ad does a disservice to populations at risk of experiencing an unintended pregnancy by spreading misinformation that is absolutely counter to medical science,” she said.
Student newspapers at UW-La Crosse, UW-Stout and Marquette University in Milwaukee refused to run the ad, the group said.
Student newspapers at UW campuses in Madison, Superior, Platteville and Milwaukee were among those that accepted the ad, which was part of a $2,000 media campaign, Zignego said.
Mike Gendall, Badger Herald editor-in-chief, told the State Journal that the ad was “relatively noncontroversial” and that no one from their advertising department singled it out for extra scrutiny.
The ad shows a college-age male and female staring at the reader and urges students to make smart choices on spring break.
“That way you won’t have any emergencies to deal with the morning after!” the ad says. “Emergency contraception is a powerful, high dose of steroids that tricks your body into thinking it is pregnant. Those steroids can cause chemical abortions and deadly blood clots.”
But Boyce noted that the pill is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is sold over the counter to adults.
The pill is sometimes known by its brand name Plan B. Taken in the first 72 hours after unprotected sex, it can reduce the chances of getting pregnant. Plan B works like a regular birth control pill by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. It may also prevent fertilization and prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.
Andrea Wilson, editor of the Racquet at UW-La Crosse, said there was much discussion before the editorial staff and its advisory group decided to reject the ad. “We just don’t feel it is appropriate for the paper,” she said, declining to elaborate.
Wilson said the newspaper gave Pro-Life Wisconsin a copy of its advertising policy that allows to paper “to deny any ad, any time.”
William Thorn, chairman of the Marquette University board that sets policy for its student newspaper, the Tribune, said the newspaper asked Pro-Life Wisconsin to change the ad because there was no medical source for the claim about deadly blood clots.
The group refused and there was no time to work out the differences before last week’s edition was published, he said. “They wanted an in-your-face ad and I understand that,” he said.
The irony is the Jesuit school has consistently opposed abortion, he said.
UW-Stout was on spring break Monday. Messages left at the Stoutonia’s offices and with faculty adviser Dave Tank were not immediately returned.
Newspapers have the right to refuse any ad deemed inappropriate, said Peter Fox, executive director of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
The decision often boils down to if the ad is factual, if it creates a false impression or presents someone in a false light, Fox said.
Fox, an editor at various papers for 24 years, said if he were publisher, he would have contacted a reliable medical source to check the accuracy of the ad’s claims about emergency contraception.