May 5, 2011, 4:41 PM CET

By Veronika Gulyas

Nemzeti Erőforrás Minisztérium. The advertisement says: “(I understand if you aren’t ready for me) …but rather put me up for adoption, LET ME LIVE!”

The Hungarian government will start an ad campaign against abortion, hoping to reduce the numbers of legal abortions through persuasion rather than a ban.

The Hungarian ad campaign, partly financed by the EU, will run for two months and show a picture of a fetus with the words, “I understand it if you aren’t ready for me, but rather put me up for adoption, let me live!”

Hungary’s new constitution, adopted in April and reflecting Christian-conservative values, says that “life is protected from conception.” A similar provision, along with an explanatory bill, limits legal abortions in Poland to only a few medical and criminal situations.

The ruling party has repeatedly said that a ban on abortion in Hungary wasn’t an option. But nongovernmental organizations, like the Hungarian Civil Liberties’ Union, said the new constitution opens the way to a future change of the law.

“The Hungarian society isn’t ready for what, say, the Polish is — namely that abortion be banned in the country,” said Miklos Soltesz, the state secretary responsible for social and family policy within the National Resources Ministry.

The number of abortions has been on the decline since 2009. It dropped to 43,181 in 2009, according to latest available data by Hungary’s central statistics office, from 44,089 in 2008. It was at 65,981 in 1999. The number of teenage abortions has decreased the most.

The government’s ad campaign plan isn’t without critics.

“[The campaign] is absolutely outrageous,” said Julia Spronz, a lawyer and member of the nongovernmental umbrella organization Hungarian Women’s Lobby. “This is clearly a move backward to medieval times. The money spent on this campaign could rather be spent on subsidizing contraceptives.”

“[The campaign] indicates the government’s double-talk on the issue: They said they had no intention to amend the current legislation because the society isn’t ready to ban abortion; but they nevertheless explain that this is murder,” Ms. Spronz said.

The World Health Organization and Guttmacher Institute said in a February study that overall abortion rates around the world are similar regardless of whether abortion is legal in a given jurisdiction. Countries with strict anti-abortion laws have developed black markets for abortion. The abortion rate — the number of abortions per 100 childbirths — is 29 in Africa, where abortion is illegal in most countries, and 28 in Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds. The lowest rates in the world are in western and northern Europe, where abortion is accessible with few restrictions, the study said.