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'Shock and horror' anti-abortion presentations spark row

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 26 November, 2010 | By: David Marley

Sexual health charity attacks pro-life group's 'propaganda'

A row has broken out over the "shock and horror" anti-abortion material that pro-life groups are increasingly presenting to children in schools.

The graphic images of foetal body parts and surgery being shown to pupils have been described as "bullying and intimidating" by the Family Planning Association (FPA).

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc), which uses a series of explicit photos in its presentations, has reported growing numbers of invitations to schools. The organisation said it makes these visits on an "almost daily basis".

Its presentations include photos of aborted foetuses and dismembered limbs - images that are too graphic to be printed in The TES.

They also show pupils what it claims are an aborted baby's feet in the hand of a doctor. The image is reproduced on badges that, according to the presentation slides, are available for pupils to buy.

Spuc's presentations also include claims that abortion is linked to breast cancer and infertility - assertions that medical experts deny.

Visits by Spuc and other pro-life groups to schools have prompted warnings from teaching groups and sexual health charities that pupils are being given biased information.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of FPA, said: "Presentations like these are used for indoctrination and propaganda.

"The whole tone is bullying and intimidating, and it's inaccurate. It is entirely about shocking young people, and is not based on scientific or medical facts."

Ms Bentley said that claimed links between abortion and breast cancer and infertility were "wrong", and added there was no evidence for "post-abortion trauma" - another claim made in Spuc's presentations.

Eileen Brydon, education officer at Spuc, said pupils were often "gobsmacked" by what they saw in the presentations, but added: "What we do is not about scaremongering - it's about good education.

"Of course the images are shocking - abortion should not happen. But it is sensitively handled."

According to Spuc, pupils are always warned in advance before graphic slides are shown, so they can look away if they choose.

John Lloyd, policy adviser to the PSHE Association, said: "There's a very strong argument that schools should give an alternative view on abortion, but there's a statutory requirement for schools not to promote bipartisan political views.

"I could certainly look at this and say it's a form of propaganda. We do not approve of shock and horror approaches."

Pro-choice charity Education for Choice has begun an audit of schools in England to establish more widely what material is being used.

James Gray, education campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association, said: "Presentations like this demonstrate the need for statutory sex and relationship education. The current arrangements make it all too easy for vocal groups, many with hard-line religious agendas, to supply misinformation."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "We trust heads to make decisions about who they allow into their schools to talk to pupils."

RC school's view

'Pupils grateful'

Spuc, according to the group, is invited into a mixture of faith and non-faith schools, with many booking it year after year.

St Peter's Catholic College, a secondary in Middlesbrough, has been hosting Spuc for a number of years. Amy Glanville, head of RE, said: "In society, abortion is shown as an easy option, but Spuc shows beautiful pictures of a baby developing in the womb.

"There are pictures of babies that have been aborted, and for a few seconds pupils see the consequences of abortion. They are shocked, but also grateful because nobody has told them before what actually happens."


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Comment (10)

  • Good for St Peter's College, and time for the truth.

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    11:07
    26 November, 2010

    left-footer

  • The truth? The truth is that having an unwanted or unplanned child could have chilling repercussions for the rest of a girl's life.

    But that's not easy to sum up in a scary image for a slideshow is it?

    This is shameful, unethical indoctrination of impressionable young kids by fascistic, empire-building extremists. Shame on the teachers who allow this to go on in their schools.

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    13:43
    26 November, 2010

    Famousdog

  • Of course the FPA and other organisations which provide abortions do not want the facts revealed. It might damage their cash cow, ie, the huge amounts of money they take from the public purse for performing abortions

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    19:35
    26 November, 2010

    billji

  • I am a SPUC presenter, but I now choose not to use the pictures showing the results of a surgical abortion. I find that a brief description is sufficient.

    However, your article implies that all "medical experts" reject the health risks of abortion. However, the NHS Direct website specifically mentions damage to the womb as one of the possible consequences of abortion. Further, "repeated abortions can cause damage to the neck of the womb (cervix), increasing the risk of late miscarriages." It also states that, "if your cervix is weakened, you may have an increased risk of future miscarriage". These are Government published medical facts which your reporter failed to take into account.

    I quote these facts and also mention the link to breast cancer, ensuring that I say that it is disputed. However, qualified medical practitioners and researchers have published studies that indicate a clear association between abortion and breast cancer - there are "experts" who have this view. Indeed, Assistant Professor Angela Lanfranchi is on record as saying that, "it amounts to child abuse to take a teenager in a crisis pregnancy for an abortion. At best, it will give her a 30% risk of breast cancer in her lifetime."

    If we are to promote "choice", I believe that young women have a right to know these facts. Further, I hope that all will have the opportunity for a successful pregnancy at the right time and that they will make choices before they become pregnant that will not open them up to such risks. Therefore I present them when given the opportunity.

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    10:38
    30 November, 2010

    madalien

  • Well said Famousdog, many of the people here are confusing simplistic moral opinions based on religious misogyny as somehow ''ethical''.

    Quote from billji: 'Of course the FPA and other organisations which provide abortions do not want the facts revealed.'

    The FACTS are that the vast majority of terminations are not 'graphic' and involve taking a pill under supervision. The graphic images do not represent the experience of 99% of women who have the procedure. The graphic images used represent only a tiny number of terminations performed each year, often undertaken for reasons which most of us will never encounter & in situations which are very very complex. Shame on you for offering easy answers to complex problems.

    Quote from left-footer: 'Good for St Peter's College, and time for the truth.'

    The truth is that St Peter's College is following an outdated religious ideology whose simplistic morality was formed dozens of centuries before the present day. Shame on you for offering easy answers to complex problems.

    Quote from madalien: 'However, the NHS Direct website specifically mentions damage to the womb as one of the possible consequences of abortion.'

    Any medical intervention has a risk. Consider this; what 'medical condition' kills more women in the world every day than any other? Answer pregnancy. The consequences of NOT being pregnant are far more benign than being pregnant.

    Quote: '.....qualified medical practitioners and researchers have published studies that indicate a clear association between abortion and breast cancer - there are "experts" who have this view....'

    When unqualified people mention ''experts'', non-specific evidence which are supposed to be ''studies'' and ''clear association'' which aren't actually ''clear'' I tend to say: 'you are making this up'.........And you are!

    FACT: There is NO clear association between termination and breast cancer. The main risks for breast cancer are family genetics, smoking, age and being overweight.............A termination makes no difference once these factors are removed.

    FACT: More women will die during pregnancy than from any associated risk factor of a termination.................How often do SPUC presenters mention this to school kids?

    Saying all these made up lies alongside things like "if your cervix is weakened, you may have an increased risk of future miscarriage" exposes the SPUC as a bunch of semi-educated, religious extremists with bigoted opinions. Shame on you all.

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    19:53
    1 December, 2010

    Brooke Bond

  • Not sure why showing images of aborted foetuses is 'bias' - they are just images of what is left after an abortion (A mangled unborn baby, bits of arms, feet and all) - is not nice but you can't get away from the fact that this is what abortion does. Those in favour of abortion don't want the images shown precisely because it shows the reality.

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    20:28
    1 December, 2010

    clive wright

  • clive wright,

    Quote: 'but you can't get away from the fact that this is what abortion does. Those in favour of abortion don't want the images shown precisely because it shows the reality.'

    This is all about distortion of 'reality'. Showing a 'mangled unborn baby, bits of arms, feet and all' is not representative of 99% of terminations in this country; if a teenage girl was pregnant and requested an early termination she would take a pill and effectively have a 'heavy period'. You are deliberately implying all terminations are of one kind, a kind which represents well under 1% of actual terminations. You are giving a biased view of pregnancy-termination to vulnerable teenagers. That isn't ''education'' that is ''indoctrination''.

    You say it ''is not nice'', I agree, but neither is carrying an unwanted foetus for 9 months, giving birth against your will, giving a baby up for adoption & all the associated rinks. How ''nice'' is all that if you've been raped or are a victim of incest or were very young and really didn't know what you were up to.

    If you want to show a BALANCED view you would show one ''graphic'' account and explain that this was associated with a young woman in a terrible predicament; possibly raped, possibly very young, possibly a victim of incest, possibly carrying a disabled child that has only just been identified etc. Then you can show this among 99 images of women taking a pill with a glass of water and explain that all 100 women are NORMAL people just like their mothers, sisters, friends etc and not one woman featured is an evil baby killer portrayed by the pro-life propaganda films. That would more reflect the 'reality' of the 21st century.

    You are a man Clive, like me. We, as men, have no right to restrict the CHOICE of any woman and what she does with HER BODY, either through direct banning of terminations or restrictive information. Shame on you for trying.

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    11:21
    2 December, 2010

    Brooke Bond

  • @J Clark. I am glad you are keen on facts. Department of Health statistics for 2009 show that 54% of abortions are still carried out by vacuum aspiration (which is what the picture shows results from), while for under 20s it is 59%. (Latter my calc from raw figs.)

    So where does you 99% with a pill and glass of water come from?

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    16:09
    2 December, 2010

    madalien

  • Quote: 'So where does you 99% with a pill and glass of water come from?'

    Do you see how easy it is to bias 'reality' with a SIMPLE statistic? A bit like presenting graphic images & saying they represent ALL terminations.

    So let's have a look at the statistics.........try these for 2008 http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsStatistics/DH_099285

    I'm happy to look at the REAL statistics because the report clearly states: ''Abortions where gestation has exceeded its twenty-fourth week account for less than 0.1% of the total. There were 124 such abortions in 2008....'' These are the 'graphic' terminations that you show to kids & tell them that ALL terminations are like that when in fact 99.9% aren't like that. That is called lying!

    Key statistic: 90% of abortions were carried out at below 13 weeks gestation; 73% were at below 10 weeks. (In 2008, about 73% were at below 10 weeks).

    NB At these times a termination carried out by vacuum aspiration will NOT result in a 'mangled unborn baby, bits of arms, feet and all' as Clive says above. (Vacuum aspiration is used for a number of conditions other than terminations and isn't as traumatic as you imply.)

    The whole termination issue is a very complex field. I cannot give it anything other than a few statistics which dismiss the SPUC presentations as cynical propaganda. By all means inform schoolchildren of the REAL facts, but make sure that the REAL facts reflect REAL life.

    I note you're not trying to argue that pregnancy is a benign state. That is, more women will die through pregnancy than through having a termination, or how the risks associated with terminations are tiny when compared to the risks of remaining pregnant. No argument there then!

    These SPUC presentations show the world through a very narrow, biased, religious view; kids need protecting from the SPUC not the facts of life.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    21:38
    2 December, 2010

    Brooke Bond

  • Have a read of: 'DVD challenges myths of pregnancy and abortion'

    http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6005704

    If you want to inform kids use information; if you want to indoctrinate kids carry on with the SPUC presentations!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    16:19
    3 December, 2010

    Brooke Bond

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