Today’s blog looks at what some of the groups seeking to influence current SRE policy or delivering SRE in schools have to say about contraception and fertility. This is the third in our #SREisSAFE series of blogs.
Contraception and abortion are fairly obviously linked. Whenever EFC delivers a presentation or workshop in a school we make sure we address how unplanned pregnancy can occur and give a brief overview of the contraceptive methods, including those which can be used after unprotected sex. We make clear that although some methods have extremely high effectiveness rates, no form of contraception is 100% reliable. We also stress that condoms are the only method which can also help to prevent STI transmission – the operable word here being ‘help’ as again, due to imperfect use and the existence of STIs which are passed from skin to skin they won’t protect everyone every time.
At EFC we see abortion education as a matter of sexual health and think it’s important that young people understand fertility, how contraception works and where they can find out more information should they need it. We are concerned that some speakers visiting schools may not be giving accurate information about contraception to young people.
Myth 1: Contraception = Abortion
Two of the main anti-abortion organisations which deliver presentations in schools have made the false claim that certain forms of contraception are the same as abortion – working to end rather than prevent a pregnancy. Although some people believe that pregnancy begins when the sperm and egg meet (fertilisation), legally pregnancy begins when this fertilised egg is implanted in the womb. Which means that emergency contraception (aka the ‘morning after pill’) works to prevent pregnancy occurring and is not medically considered to be an abortion.
A blog on the LIFE website (downloaded by EFC 22/06/2011 but now removed) claimed that Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) is an abortifacient. In SPUC’s school presentation* EHC is described as ‘another threat to early human life in the womb’ which ‘ends the life of the tiny baby, it is abortifacient i.e. causes an early abortion.’ SPUC goes one step further in its booklet ‘Birth Control Methods Which Cause Abortion’ claiming that all hormonal contraceptive methods - the combined and mini contraceptive pill, implant, injection, IUD, and IUS - can cause ‘abortion’.
This belief, that pregnancy begins at fertilisation rather than, as legally defined, at implantation, is not acknowledged as a belief but rather presented as fact. SPUC are being invited into schools to deliver misinformation which may have direct impact on young women’s health, and may confuse and upset those who have taken emergency contraception or may need to take it in the future.
Myth 2: Abortion results in infertility
Recent research on repeat abortion indicates that the belief that abortion results in infertility reduces young women’s motivation to use contraception after abortion and may be contributing to the incidence of repeat abortion. This misinformation is promoted to a greater or lesser extent by several of the anti-abortion/ pro-abstinence groups. In its presentation on abortion Lovewise says one of the ‘long term physical consequences of abortion’ is ‘infertility’. A newsletter published by humanlife.org, and given out by 40 Days For Life at their ‘vigils’ outside UK abortion clinics, claims that ‘women who abort are more likely to experience...infertility’. Care Confidential refer on their website to the risk of ‘relative infertility’ following abortion. SPUC, in its school presentation* also claims infertility as one of the ‘long-term risks of abortion.’ In fact most women are fully fertile within two weeks of abortion and it is recommended that they choose and begin to use an effective contraceptive method at the time of abortion to prevent subsequent unintended pregnancy.
SPUC is currently leading a campaign against comprehensive SRE called ‘Safe at School’. We ask: Is a young person ‘safe at school’ if they are deterred from using contraception for fear they may be causing abortion? Is a young woman who is told using contraception won’t be necessary following abortion ‘safe at school’?
If you want to help EFC campaign against misinformation in schools please text EDFC22 followed by the amount you wish to donate (e.g. EDFC22 £10) to 70070 or visit our Just Giving page to make a regular donation.
*EFC has a copy of a SPUC presentation from 2008 from which this quote is taken. We cannot be sure that this wording is used in their current presentation.