A national abortion rights group on Thursday criticized Philadelphia Media Network for refusing to publish a prominent digital ad on Philly.com.
The National Partnership for Women and Families wanted to publicize its "Lies into Laws" campaign against restrictive state abortion laws with a one-day, $17,600 "home-page takeover" ad that would wrap around the top and both rails of Philly.com's landing page.
The partnership declined the company's offer of an ad that would be randomly placed in a less prominent spot on the website, saying such an ad would have "reduced impact and visibility."
"We need to be talking about these attacks on women's health, not pushing the issue into the shadows and letting it go unchecked," partnership president Debra Ness said in a statement. "That is why we are so disappointed by the Philadelphia Inquirer publisher's decision not to run our spots."
Terrance C.Z. Egger, publisher and CEO of Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com, said company executives recently discussed how to handle prominent "advocacy ads."
"In the past two weeks, we have had two requests for either political or advocacy ads as either a 'home-page takeover ad' on Philly.com, or wrapping the front page of the Inquirer," Eggers said in a statement. "The publisher and PMN senior leadership determined that going forward, we would not accept this type of advertising in those specific positions. We may accept such ads in other positions both in print and online."
The partnership said it had had no trouble placing home-page takeover ads with seven other media outlets, including the Washington Post, Politico, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
The ad - which also appeared Thursday on the Allentown Morning Call's home page - links to the campaign website and says, in part, "What happens when anti-abortion becomes anti-science? Abortion opponents turn lies into laws."
Founded in 1971 as the Women's Legal Defense Fund, the National Partnership for Women and Families is a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes affordable health care and reproductive rights.
Its campaign comes as state legislatures are passing ever more abortion restrictions. In just the first quarter of 2016, lawmakers in 45 states introduced 411 abortion bills, and enacted 21, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research center that supports abortion rights.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to meet the standards of outpatient surgical centers and abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. It is considered the most important abortion case before the court since 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The court ruled then that states can restrict abortion as long as the regulations don't place an "undue burden" on a woman seeking the procedure.
In Pennsylvania, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a politically charged bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current 24 weeks. The bill will now go to the Senate, where its odds of passage are unclear. Gov. Wolf has said he would veto it. Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster), a co-sponsor, said in a recent news release that such a law was needed to reflect "the fact that a baby can viably survive when born at 20 weeks." There is no medical record of survival at that gestational age; physicians consider viability to be around 24 weeks.