Foetus image on charity 
billboard branded ‘insensitive’

A billboard campaign launched by a Lisburn-based charity to discourage pregnant women from consuming alcohol has been branded ‘insensitive’.

A woman, who contacted the Star, said the billboard’s image of a foetus submerged in beer was ‘deeply upsetting’ given she had suffered a recent miscarriage.

The advertisement, which is located at Smithfield, was erected by ASCERT (Action on Substances through Community Educated & Related Training) based in Bridge Street.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the potential risks caused to unborn babies due during pregnancy.

The woman revealed that she first witnessed the billboard three weeks after she miscarried. “It is really insensitive, really disturbing and it’s a disgrace. It’s a reminder of what happened to me.

“I’ve spoken to other people and they just can’t believe that something like that is on a billboard. It should be removed. There’s no need for it. I know that in day and age there is the perception that to get a message across you have to use graphic images, but I don’t believe you have to.”

She continued, “Hundreds of people drive past that billboard every day and I’m sure many women in my position, who have lost a baby, have felt the same way.

“Recently I was shopping in Lisburn and because of the one-way system in Lisburn we had to drive past it four times. For me, it’s horrific.”

In reponse, Gary McMichael, chief executive of ASCERT, said, “We are sorry if anyone has been distressed, as that is not our intention, but the campaign does underline the importance of thinking about a baby’s health and for mothers not to drink when they are pregnant.

“The campaign is not about pregnancy in general, it is about drinking alcohol when pregnant and I think it is important to get across the message that drinking alcohol does not just affect you, it is a risk to your baby.

“The imagery is not sensational, it depicts a healthy foetus and we have labelled some of the potential areas of damage that can occur to a baby if affected by FASD.”

The charity’s campaign message was elaborated by their education service manager, Alison Armstrong, who said, “Many women may not be aware of the risks to their unborn baby if they drink alcohol, and the guidance can be confusing. Alcohol can cause brain damage and physical harm to the baby.

“There is no proven safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy so the only way to be sure that alcohol will not affect a baby is to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy, when trying to conceive and when breastfeeding.”