On a cold and windy London Friday morning, hundreds of protesters gathered outside parliament. They were there to voice their opposition to Nadine Dorries MP’s sex education bill, which would have mandated that teenage girls (and not boys – only girls) be taught about sexual abstinence.
Dorries’ bill was widely denounced by feminist groups, pro-choice groups, and sex educators, who see in it worrying parallels to the rise of abstinence-only sex education in the United States.
Studies on the efficacy of abstinence-only education have shown it to be at best useless and at worst harmful, and Dorries’ critics are concerned by her continuing efforts to ape the tactics of US anti-comprehensive sex education groups.
The protest was energetic and colourful, despite the less than balmy temperature. Speakers included Kate Smurthwaite, comedian and vice-chair of Abortion Rights, Lisa Hallgarten from Education for Choice, and Richy Thompson, campaigns officer for schools and education at the British Humanist Association.
The protest – whose Facebook page had nearly1,000 confirmed attendees – was a heartening reminder that there is a broad alliance in the UK against Dorries’ anti-choice and anti-woman agenda.
In the end, Dorries withdrew her bill before it could be heard, although there was confusion from her own office as to why – or indeed if – she had done this. As number 8 on the Commons order of business for the day, it was unlikely that the bill would have been heard and voted on in any case, making its mysterious disappearance even more puzzling.
Thanks to all Abortion Rights supporters who attended, and to those who supported the protest in spirit.