Wednesday 29 September 2010

Book Review - It's All One Curriculum

It's All One Curriculum

Sunday 26 September 2010

All pregnancy advice centres will support you whether you want to continue or end your pregnancy

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

In your area, you may have seen pregnancy advice centres, or crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) that offer free pregnancy testing and pregnancy advice. You should know that not all CPCs support all pregnancy options equally. Some CPCs are anti-abortion and will not provide information or assistance in accessing abortion. Some CPCs go so far as to provide misleading or inaccurate information, for example that abortion is a physically or mentally high risk procedure (though it is actually very safe). If you or your friends need pregnancy testing and/or advice, it’s best to go to an NHS-led or supported service or to a family planning service (if you’re under 25, check out Brook, as they will be able to provide you with accurate information and a referral if you want an abortion.

EFC has more information on pregnancy advice centres on the website and in the Pregnancy Decision-Making Best Practice toolkit which is free to download

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Consent - YES PLEASE!

In the lead up to the election, and since, there has been discussion about the role of consent in teenage sexual behaviour and sexual health outcomes. A recent research report was published suggesting a strong association between sexual coercion and teenage pregnancy. Meanwhile the Government seems committed to addressing consent issues:

'To help stop sexual violence before it occurs, we will ensure that the school curriculum includes teaching young people about sexual consent' – Conservative party election manifesto 2010

'...working with schools to teach young people about sexual consent and respect in relationships' – Theresa May at Womens Aid conference in 2010.

I welcome any educational initiatives that reinforce mutual respect and consent as the basis of sexual relationships. However, in case anyone thinks it is an opportunity to promote conservative messages about adolescent sexuality I would sound a cautionary note. Convenient as it would be to believe that sex amongst teenagers was just happening because of peer pressure, coercion and at worst violence, the fact is it isn’t. Sex is happening because it’s natural, it feels good physically and emotionally, because it is fun, because it is exciting and adventurous, because young people fall in love and for a whole load of other positive reasons as well as all the scary negative stuff. It is important that we acknowledge that as our starting point.

It is also vital that we consider what consent means in its broadest sense and once we have defined consent, what the implications of that are for educators and service providers.

We can probably take it for granted that everyone agrees both parties should ‘consent’ to sex, but I bet we’d find a very wide range of views of what constitutes consent amongst both policy makers, lawyers and sexually active people of all ages.

I think that these two things are essential pre-requisites of consent:

i) An absence of coercion: the real possibility of saying no if you want to, or saying yes to some things/activities and no to others, or yes now and no later...

ii) The capacity, education and skills to make an informed choice: to understand the risks (physical, emotional) that you are taking, to be able to predict a range of positive and negative outcomes and to be able to balance these and make a choice

Here are just some of the things that need to be in place in order to meet those pre-requisites so that consent is the norm in sexual relations amongst people of all ages:

An understanding that coercion is a spectrum of behaviour from persuasion to persistence, to incentives to insistence, to threats, to force and even more shades of behaviour in between and that true informed consent is not possible in any of these scenarios
An opportunity to explore the association between gender, age, wealth, power and sexual coercion
An ability to recognise and decipher information presented on the internet and in the mainstream media in order to understand and critically evaluate messages, conventions and representations of sexual relationships
An opportunity to consider the role of pornography in influencing people’s expectations of their own and their sexual partners desire, physique and performance
A full understanding of all the possible consequences of having sex including the risks of contracting STIs with all the immediate and long-term health implications
A full understanding of the risk of pregnancy, a consideration of all the decisions that can lead to and result from an unintended pregnancy and an understanding of all pregnancy options
A full understanding of the positive reasons that people have sex, including the emotional and physical pleasure it can bring
A full understanding of the range of sexualities and sexual preferences that exist and understanding that people of different sexualities have the same right to personal safety and bodily integrity
An understanding that the onus is on the coercer to listen to and hear their partner and not just on the coercee to be assertive and confident enough to keep saying no

There’s a lot more, but this would be a start. Even with this brief list it looks pretty much like a comprehensive sex and relationships curriculum!

I am glad the Government is looking at consent issues. I hope they’ve learned the lessons of the past and they know that it’s not enough to teach us ‘just say no’.

Monday 20 September 2010

Myth-busting Monday 'Emergency contraception is the same as abortion'

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

Emergency hormonal contraception (EHC), also known as the “morning-after pill”, can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to help prevent pregnancy (though there is also a new pill called EllaOne that can be taken up to 5 days later- ask your pharmacist!).

The key word here is “prevent”- EHC does not cause an abortion. Some people believe that pregnancy begins when the sperm and egg meet, but this is not medically or legally considered to be the case. In fact the High Court has confirmed that pregnancy legally begins when a fertilised egg implants in the lining of a woman’s uterus (womb). EHC works by keeping your ovaries from releasing eggs, keeping the sperm and egg from meeting, or keeping the fertilised egg from implanting, depending on when you take it. If you are already pregnant, taking EHC does not harm the pregnancy.

People who oppose the provision of a comprehensive range of contraception for women would like EHC to be governed by the same laws as abortion (i.e. needing the consent of two doctors). This would cause delays that would prevent women being able to take it on time.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

New film about EFC up on You Tube today

Watch what our patrons, our young volunteers and professionals say about our work

“EFC is a small organisation that packs a huge punch. . . With scant resources they do a fantastic job ensuring that young people are provided with essential information and support to help them make informed choices about pregnancy and abortion. I’m happy to support EFC as without them no-one would be making a stand for young people and their right to the facts.”Polly Toynbee, Guardian journalist and EFC patron

'The way that they work... young people feel empowered' - Tamera Howard, Sexual Health Worker

'I think that Education For Choice cares what young people think' - Florence, Young EFC volunteer, Newham

Tuesday 14 September 2010

. “Myth-busting Monday: 'You can have an abortion up to 18/20/22 weeks'

E1 Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

The abortion time limit in the UK is actually 24 weeks, but in practice 90% of abortions take place within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and only 1.5% take place after 20 weeks.

There is no time limit on abortion where two doctors agree that a woman’s health or life is gravely threatened by continuing with the pregnancy or that the fetus is likely to be born with severe physical or mental abnormalities.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Let the pope know you love your contraception as well as your church

How might Catholic advocates for reproductive choice respond to the Pope's visit?

The Pope is clearly no fan of sexual health and reproductive rights. The Vatican fights the distribution of condoms in the worlds HIV hotspots by disseminating the myth that condoms contain holes that facilitate the passing of the HIV virus. The Vatican's prohibition on abortion has not mellowed or modified with time, even though evidence is stark that introducing legalised abortion dramatically reduces maternal mortality (South Africa is a great case study for this). Not only has the Catholic Church not modified its position, but in Latin America it seems to be more active than ever in pressuring national legislatures and health departments to drop plans to liberalise abortion law and provision. Many of us stood aghast when a Brazilian Archbishop announced the excommunication of the mother of a pregnant 9 year old girl and the medical team who had provided an abortion for her following her rape by her step father. The girl was pregnant with twins and the doctors said that the abortion was necessary to save her life. The stepfather was not excommunicated from the church. The message is clear – abortion is a greater crime than the rape of a child and the child's life is trivial. In Nicaragua, under pressure from the Church, the Government passed legislation which makes abortion a crime even when it is carried out to save a woman’s life. Many women have died from preventable pregnancy-related conditions. The message is clear – a woman’s life is worth less than that of the tiniest fetus.

In the UK many people turning out in the streets to greet Pope Benedict will be free to do so because they are not tied down by a family of eight children, or worn out by serial pregnancy thanks to the wonders of modern contraception. In the UK practising Catholics have the luxury of choosing whether or not to follow the doctrine of the church on contraception and many don’t. Even some Catholic priests do not support the official teaching of the church. I recently heard of a woman who was maintaining celibacy up until marriage and told her Priest how anxious she was that she would become pregnant too soon and miss out on the pleasure of just being a married couple for a while. ‘use contraception until you’re ready for kids’ was the Priest’s response. If not most Priests, then certainly most Catholics in the UK are pragmatic. Not only do many use contraception, but they opt for abortion too in the event that contraception fails. For many this does not compromise their identity as Catholics one iota.

I celebrate the opportunity Catholic women have in Britain, Spain, Italy, the United States, and much of the economically developed world (there are several exceptions including Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Poland), to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health. However, I believe that their silence is harming their sisters in Latin America and other Catholic regions and countries of the world. The choices women make about their faith and their bodies are a matter of personal conscience, but it is unconscionable that some women around the world die while others, who have and exercise freedom of choice, remain silent. The Pope needs to know that millions of men and women in his community refuse to practice his teachings on contraception and abortion because they are repressive, regressive and dangerous. Maybe next week Catholic men and women here could lead the way in letting him know.

Several organisations including the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Societyare organising a range of events to mark, and protest about, the Pope’s visit to the UK. Veteran human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, has made a documentary to be screened on Channel Four on Monday 13th September and a large protest demonstration is scheduled for Saturday 18th in Central London.

Monday 6 September 2010

Myth-Busting Monday: Are young people anti-abortion?

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

Despite the fact that over 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience abortion during their lives, abortion is still talked about in hushed tones, if at all. When it is discussed in the media, it is either part of a dramatic soap opera story line or sensationalist headlines. As a result, many young people are not aware that it is a common, safe, or legal procedure. They are often surprised to hear that the myths they are familiar with are just that – myths (hence us bustin’ myths every Monday!).  Working with young people in classrooms since 1992, our experience is that once young people have an opportunity to consider the different circumstances women are in when facing a decision about abortion, they tend to be extremely empathetic. Most young people EFC works with are outraged at the idea that someone else would want to stop them making their own mind up about the issue or stop them making their own decision about their pregnancy. Even young people who say they would never choose abortion themselves or recommend it for their partner often agree that it should be the individual woman’s choice and no one else’s.