NHS slammed for ‘sexist’ advert for emergency contraception

The NHS has been slammed over a ‘sexist’ advert asking women if they would swap heels and lipstick for a baby.

The ‘misguided’ poster, for emergency contraception, was spotted on a National Express bus in Birmingham.

Kirstie Jones, 29, was stunned when she got on the National Express West Midlands service at 6.30pm on Tuesday and saw the eye-catching poster advertising the sexual health clinic’s services.

The social media manager was aghast when she spotted the poster emblazoned with the phrase ‘would you give up this?’ next to a pair of skyscraper heels and a red lipstick followed by ‘for this?’ next to a pink dummy.

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust apologised that the ad had raised concerns, but highlighted how the campaign has played an important role in tackling teenage pregnancy and poor sexual health.

Kirstie, from Stourbridge, West Midlands, said: “I was gobsmacked when I saw the ad, I had to look at it again to make sure I’d read it correctly.

“It suggests that if you accidentally become pregnant you have to leave the lipsticks and heels behind. I couldn’t believe it, it’s so irresponsible.

“It’s sexist because it doesn’t understand women, it implies if you are a mother you have to give up certain things.

“My sister has a small child so I’m fully aware of the sacrifices that mums do need to make when they have a baby.

“This poster implies they have to give that up those things in order to have a child.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like, what lipstick or shoes you wear when you have a baby. It’s irresponsible.”

Married Kirstie was making her usual 75-minute commute home from Birmingham city centre to Stourbridge when she spotted the poster on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.

The poster by NHS resource Walsall Integrated Sexual Health Services, (WiSH) and branded with the Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust logo, advertises that patients can get free emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex.

Initially thinking she must have misread it, Kirstie looked at it again as she got off the bus and took a quick snap on her phone.

Kirstie said: “As I got onto the bus it caught my eye as it was the prominent poster at the bottom of the stairs.

“I thought ‘hang on a minute, what did I just see?’ As I got off I took a picture.

“I couldn’t believe it, I thought ‘what am I looking at here?’ It suggests women have to give up heels and lipstick if you become a mum.

“There’s no clear definition of what a mother should be or wear.

“They’ve gone about it in a completely misguided way, it’s an outdated point of view, and it goes against the important message it’s trying to send out – awareness of the free service.

“I think that’s why I was so shocked, it’s the wrong way to talk to the audience it was trying to reach.”

Kirstie said she was stunned that the poster had made it to the final stage without someone flagging the ‘misguided’ content.

Kirstie said: “They had the opportunity to put some humour into this campaign and speak to their audience that way – perhaps with a picture representing an ex or a one-night stand – instead they risk causing offence.

“The fact that it went through so many people before being displayed is another thing that made me so mad.

“The person who designed it, signed it off, printed it and distributed it. Did nobody stop and think ‘are we really going ahead with this?’

Divisional Director of Midwifery, Gynaecology and Sexual Health for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Nicola Wenlock, said: “In creating this particular advertising campaign Walsall Integrated Sexual Health worked hard to understand the teenage pregnancy audience to make sure that the communication was relevant, effective and focused.

“We apologise if this particular advertisement has raised a concern, the intent was to raise awareness of emergency contraception and advice available for those in this age group who wish to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

“The campaign has played an important role in tackling teenage pregnancy and poor sexual health in our local area which has been reducing steadily year on year.

“We will continue to work closely with all audiences to ensure we offer the best possible services for them and will continue to review all materials closely for future campaigns.”

National Express have been approached for comment.

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