Keeping the Faith

Fatherhood Billboard Replaced With Beer Ad. Guess Which Received a Complaint for Being Inappropriate?

Surprise baby?  Surprising joy.

The four words on a billboard in Hobart that was taken down after a complaint that it was within the 150m-exclusion zone around an abortion clinic, as stipulated by the new Reproductive Health Act.

The billboard on Victoria Street in Hobart’s CBD was defined by a photograph of a young father and his son, an ultrasound image and those four ‘offensive’ words.

Surprise baby?  Surprising joy.


Advertising company Claude Outdoor promptly removed the billboard after that single complaint.  The ad had remained beyond the contract period of client Emily’s Voice, and uncertainty around the interpretation of the law put them in an awkward position.

Emily’s Voice CEO Paul O’Rourke explained the situation in an article on the charity’s website.

“We didn’t purposefully seek to flout the law, although we don’t consider our media campaigns a “protest” but a promotion of life, love and liberty. The billboard in question promotes fatherhood, family and commitment. It’s pro-life, pro-women and pro-family, not anti-abortion. There’s a huge difference.”

It’s probable that he is right – the ad likely does not contravene the law.  We have watched pro-life activist Graham Preston deliberately defy the new law, attempting to test its legitimacy; his subsequent arrest, the court hearing, all charges dropped, and then his continued protests without further police action.

When interviewed about the case, Police Commissioner Darren Hine said a review was underway as to whether there was an issue with the legislation.

Clearly there is.  After all, Mr Preston was simply wielding a sign citing Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: “Everyone has the right to life”.

I keep going back to those four words on the billboard.

Surprise baby?  Surprising joy.

After all, isn’t that the reality of this crazy world we live in?  Nothing is certain and we’re all confronted with ‘surprises’ of varying descriptions.  Surprise job loss.  Surprise relationship breakdown.  Surprise death.  Surprise injury.

They are hard times, yet they bolster our strength of character and I have met many people who, at the other end of hardship, have said, “I’m glad for it” and “I’m a better person for it”.  I’ve yet to meet a parent who regrets the life of their child.

Out of the ashes of difficulty springs beauty.  Surprising joy.

And like the term of a pregnancy, we are enlarged in the process – enlarged in capacity, in love and in empathy (I’m reminded of Romans 8).

I remember being afraid of motherhood.  The unknown is a faceless monster and until we arrive, we can only be guided by the experiences of others – like that dad on the billboard.  These days I’m absolutely enchanted by motherhood. It’s a wonderful, wonderful gift.

What a sad indictment it is on our society when a message that affirms values of love, family and commitment is potentially illegal in a place where it is most needed.  A word of warning – don’t read this article within 150m of an abortion clinic!  Perhaps pregnant women and mothers with babies should also avoid these exclusion zones.

When the billboard of the young dad delighting in his son was taken down, it was replaced with a beer ad.

No complaints reported.

Business as usual.

Which is more detrimental to society, I ask: alcohol or the love of a father?

First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday September 22, 2014.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve never understood how abortion has become such an epidemic, how society fights so viciously to protect those who want to murder babies. I’ve not understood from a worldly perspective, anyway. To look at our world from a faith perspective, all becomes sadly clear: the devil has done a fabulous job in our society. This is surely one of the most damaging aspects of it, so to see it spread like wildfire is a massive win for the devil – and a challenge for every Christian!

Comments are closed.