A new report has found worrying evidence of anti-abortion groups providing schoolchildren with false information.
Education for Choice (EFC) commissioned a report, “Abortion education in the UK – failing our young people?”, into how the issue is taught in schools around the country. It found evidence of damaging misinformation about abortion being repeated by anti-choice activists.
For example, the three main anti-abortion groups invited into schools to talk to pupils have all claimed that abortion causes breast cancer – a link that has been repeatedly disproved (“At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer” – the American Cancer Society).
Apart from the issue of anti-abortion groups lying to pupils, which is serious enough in its own right, the report found widespread failings in how abortion is discussed in schools – when it is brought up in the classroom at all, that is. EFC found that nearly 30 percent of young people surveyed had not been taught anything at all about abortion.
In addition to examining the misinfomation disseminated by anti-choice educational groups, the report also looked at stigmatisation and equality issues. It found that some pupils reported being told by teachers or external speakers that abortion is sinful, “murder”, shameful, and so on. EFC noted: “This is upsetting for those who have had an abortion, and may cause unnecessary distress for those who go on to experience abortion (one in three women in England and Wales).”
The “equalities” section refers to the fact that groups like SPUC hold discriminatory views on issues such as equal marriage, and other LGBT issues. EFC pointed out: “[Some] anti-abortion groups invited into schools express views about sexuality and the family which are likely to be at odds with schools’ equality and diversity policies and may negatively impact on students’ wellbeing.”
Laura Hurley, senior project manager at EFC, commented: “Schools have a key role in ensuring that young people are provided with education about pregnancy options that is sensitive and relevant to their experiences, as well as medically accurate, and must take steps to prevent students feeling stigmatised, distressed or discriminated against by information or images used.
“The government has said that schools should provide accurate information and many are not. This report includes recommendations for teachers, school governors and head teachers on how to deliver good quality education that supports young people’s health and wellbeing.”
Abortion Rights hopes that both the government and school leaders pay attention to the EFC report, and that efforts are made to improve the quality of teaching about abortion in the UK. The situation at the moment must not be allowed to continue.