Monday 30 August 2010

Myth-Busting Monday: Do women from minority ethnic communities have abortions?

Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

Women from all communities around the world and in the UK have abortions regardless of religion, ethnicity, age, belief or any other factor. Several years ago the Department of Health started to gather statistics on take up of abortion by ethnic group and found that all minority ethnic groups in the UK are using abortion services. In fact, women from these groups are having more abortions than women in the general population.  Reasons for this are unclear, but it may have to do with access and support around contraception.

Monday 23 August 2010

Myth-Busting Monday: Do over-35s have abortions?

Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

This year the Fpa launched a campaign called ‘Conceivable’ to address this myth. Because the media is so filled with stories about women’s decreasing fertility after the age of 35, some older women may not actively plan and follow through with contraceptive use. There are more abortions to over-40s each year than there are to under-16s.  Many marketing and health promotion campaigns about pregnancy and STIs are aimed at younger women and teenagers, and it may be that older women are not getting the message that they too are at risk of pregnancy and STIs if they don’t protect themselves.

Monday 16 August 2010

Myth-Busting Monday: Do religious people have abortions?

Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

Women from every community around the world have abortions. About 4 million abortions are carried out in Latin America each year, despite the fact that the vast majority of the region is Roman Catholic. A woman’s faith, the legality of abortion and her community’s beliefs about abortion may feed into the decision-making process. However, women may also need to weigh up their own feelings, consider their material circumstances and the impact continuing this pregnancy would have on their lives and the lives of those around them. Sometimes these practical considerations outweigh religious ones and women choose abortion in spite of their religion.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Mr. Scrooge says goodbye

Today is my last day as an employee of Education For Choice. In my three years as a reproductive rights advocate and educator here at EFC, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible people. The 3,000+ teenagers I’ve worked with in sexual health workshops, and the 3-400 nurses, teachers, youth workers, and other professionals I’ve trained, have taught me an immeasurable amount about the world and myself. I hope some of you are reading this so that I can thank you.

And having learned so very much from you incredible people, I would never be so pretentious as to offer you any advice. But please indulge me as I reflect upon my time here and consider some of the lessons that have meant the most.

1) If they call you Mr. Scrooge, don’t take it personally.
Forget Fodor’s. Want to know the real deal about budget hotels in England? Ask an EFC staff member. We’ve stayed in every town from Weymouth to Wakefield, keeping costs down for training commissioners by staying in affordable places. Natalie’s an expert on water pressure, while Lisa feels passionately about bed firmness. In Somerset, one of my favourite training areas (the people are just so dang friendly!), I once arrived late at night to a village hotel with rooms named after Dickens characters. Was I placed in Mr. Pickwick? Oliver Twist? No. I was Mr. Scrooge. I may have arrived with a London frown, but I left with a West Country grin, as always! On a more serious note . . .

2) The kids are alright.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: despite minimum support and maximum scrutiny, the teenagers I’ve met in inner London schools are doing wonderfully. Not only are UK teens ten times more likely to volunteer than to commit a crime, but so many of them are working hard to protect and promote their own sexual health and wellbeing. Sure, I’ve had some rowdy classes- but I have never had a student in a workshop or presentation about pregnancy say “I don’t care about this.” As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the evidence backs me up.

3) The kids are not alright:
Young people are up against a lot. Despite a lot of brilliant service provision out there, many barriers remain to young people accessing sexual health services- stigma, inconvenience, and lack of support can make protecting yourself hard. And while some teachers are providing excellent sex education, many young people still go without.

But what really gets my goat? Anti-choice organisations reach tens of thousands of young people in schools each year. In implicitly school-supported presentations, they lie to teens, claiming that abortion causes infertility, breast cancer, insanity, or worse. In all types of schools across the country, they show graphic pictures depicting what they claim are abortion procedures. They deliberately confuse and upset their students. They make me very angry. It’s not okay to lie to anyone, but it’s especially not okay to lie to kids, in schools, about real-life health questions.

But there is so much to be excited about and grateful for (pardon the prepositions), and for me, topping that list are Barbara, Jennifer, Laura, Lisa, and Natalie, the EFC staff dream team. Really, they are my heroes. A big thanks also to Andy, Becca, Geetha, Juliet, and Sarah, our amazing trustee board.

One last thing. As our brilliant patron Polly Toynbee recently said, “EFC is a small organisation that packs a huge punch”. How do we do it? For one thing, we eat a lot of biscuits. For another, everyone works too hard. But finally, we rely on the support of people that understand the importance of this work. Believe in reproductive rights? Care about young people? Want to support small charities? Give to EFC. A little to you each month is a lot to EFC.

Thank you to EFC for one of the most incredible learning opportunities I’ve ever had, and thank you to the brilliant young people and professionals I’ve worked with- keep up the amazing work!

Monday 9 August 2010

Myth-Busting Monday: Do all religions oppose abortion?

Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

Only the Catholic Church and some evangelical Christian churches oppose abortion in all circumstances. Most religions allow for some circumstances under which an abortion might be acceptable, for example to save a woman’s life.  Many religions, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and the Church of England, arguably allow for abortion under some circumstances – some stricter than others. Many other religions and ethical systems, for example humanism, believe that the women herself is the only person who can weigh up her beliefs and circumstances to come to the right decision.  Despite religious doctrines, religious individuals also vary widely in their beliefs.  For example, Catholics for Choice is an organisation for Roman Catholics who are pro-contraception and pro-choice, despite the teachings of the Church.  For more on religion and abortion, visit the EFC website.

Friday 6 August 2010

Truth behind the headlines: 11-year-olds and contraception

Earlier this week, I was disappointed but not surprised to see the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and other media outlets report a "huge rise" (Telegraph) in 11-year-olds on "the pill", or the combined oral contraceptive pill. Their conclusion? That pre-teens on the pill were the victims of "sexualisation".

So what's the real story behind the headlines? Yes, some 11- and 12-year-olds take the pill. Does this mean they're sexually active? No. One of the benefits of the pill is that it can help regulate the menstrual cycle, decreasing cramping and heavy periods. For many women, taking the pill saves them from agony and discomfort. I could write up a storm on this, but there's no need when Dr. Petra Boynton has already written an amazing post over at her blog. She explains how the story happened, what the statistics really mean, and what we, as sexual health and reproductive rights advocates, can be doing to put a stop to media hype around these issues.

Monday 2 August 2010

Myth-Busting Monday: Can rape result in pregnancy?

Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

A particularly appalling myth, propagated by some anti-abortion groups, claims that women who are raped cannot get pregnant.  This myth relies on the fiction that the trauma of rape creates conditions in which conception is less likely. Not only is it simply untrue, as thousands of women from around the world can testify, but it is a particularly damaging myth which may leave women who are pregnant following rape feeling even more stigmatised and judged because it is assumed that they have either experienced a ‘trauma-free rape’ or not been raped at all.  For more information about support following sexual assault, visit Rape Crisis.