We regularly get requests from teachers across the country who are looking for a ‘pro-choice’ speaker to come in and balance out a talk on abortion from a ‘pro-life’ group. We’ve written before about EFC’s general concerns with this approach. Namely that a ‘debate’ around abortion can be confusing and stigmatising for young people, and rarely provides them with the factual information they need for living their lives (especially when we know that a third of women have an abortion). This blog gives specific examples of the issues involved when inviting the most well-known anti-abortion group, SPUC, to a school. The teachers I speak to are rarely aware that SPUC runs an outspoken campaign against same-sex marriage and that the information they use regarding contraception and abortion is very often at odds with the medical establishment. So here is the lowdown:
• Misinformation about abortion
SPUC’s educational materials make claims about abortion which are not supported by medical experts. For example, they link termination of pregnancy to ‘post-abortion trauma’, which is an invented medical condition, and claim in their student pack that 'the risk of ectopic pregnancy may increase up to 30% after a first abortion and 160% after two or more'. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (who tend to know about such things) state that there is no evidence for a link between abortion and subsequent ectopic pregnancy. A SPUC speaker also made misleading links between abortion and breast cancer at a Cambridgeshire school last year.
• Misinformation about contraception
SPUC’s booklet ‘Birth control methods which can cause abortion’ suggests that all forms of hormonal contraception can act as abortifacients. This is based on the belief that pregnancy begins at fertilisation, rather than implantation, which is unsupported by the law and established medical practice.
• Stigmatisation of abortion and use of distressing images
The SPUC speaker in Cambridge told students that 'rape is the ultimate unplanned pregnancy...for some people who’ve been raped and had the baby, even if they don’t keep it, something positive comes out of that whole rape experience'. SPUC's student pack claims that 'pregnancy as a result of rape is extremely rare...the extreme physical and psychological trauma of being raped makes it difficult for fertilisation or implantation to occur.' This is untrue and may be upsetting for those who have experienced rape. SPUC has a history of presenting information to young people in a way which can be distressing. As far as we know, SPUC continues to use graphic images in its school workshops, and images of aborted fetuses remain on the ‘education’ section of the website, likely to be used by young people for school projects.
• Stigmatisation of same-sex relationships and family units
SPUC currently runs a campaign against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which it claims would increase numbers of abortions. John Smeaton, the director of SPUC, states the following on his blog:
“The fundamental argument against gay marriage is that homosexuality is disordered, as it is radically at variance with the truth and meaning of human sexuality ... Catholics must proclaim loud and clear that it is impossible for any homosexual relationship to be a marriage because genuine personal, sexual and spiritual union between persons of the same-sex is impossible.” SPUC has also made statements against same-sex couples adopting, claiming that ‘lesbian parentage is not in the best interests of children’.
• Opposition to sex education
SPUC fronts the ‘Safe at School’ campaign which lobbies against so called ‘explicit’ sex education in schools. A recent blog claims that sex education lessons tackling pornography are ‘about dangling porn in front of young school pupils and encouraging them to embrace it in their lives.’ The group has expressed concern about sex education materials which ‘include explicit images of male and female sex organs, lessons on menstruation in mixed classes (boys and girls)’ and has labelled masturbation‘intrinsically unethical’.
SPUC are extremely well funded and do not charge for their schools work. They regularly contact schools with the offer of a free speaker on this tricky subject and it’s understandable that many teachers decide to run this lesson using an external organisation. However, we would advise all teachers to think carefully about how such an organisation might fit with their school’s SRE and equality and diversity policies, as well as their commitment to the well-being of their students, some of whom may already have experience of abortion, and many of whom will definitely go on to.
If SPUC has visited your school, we’d be interested in hearing what you thought about the lesson.
|SPUC leaflet opposing same-sex marriage|