Thursday 28 October 2010

Minister's statement on teen pregnancy

This is the answer Sarah Teather MP gave in response to a question about government strategy on teenage pregnancy and sex and relationships education
Jeremy Lefroy MP for Stafford: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps he is taking to reduce the number of teenagers who become pregnant in England. [15616]
Sarah Teather: The reduction in the under-18 conception rate over the last decade-to the point where it is at its lowest level for over 20 years-is positive. But it does not mask the fact that England still has high teenage pregnancy rates compared with many other countries.
We want local areas to continue to prioritise reducing teenage pregnancy rates, using the international evidence and the lessons from areas where teenage pregnancy rates have fallen fastest, to accelerate progress. There are clear social and economic benefits from investing in actions to prevent teenage pregnancies and improve outcomes for teenage parents and their children. These will contribute to local strategies to: reduce child poverty and health inequalities; and improve public health.
We are currently reviewing the curriculum, including the place of sex and relationships education (SRE) within it. We will be announcing our plans later this year. But whatever the status of SRE in future, we are clear that it should focus more on relationships. We know that parents are concerned about the early sexualisation of children and the worrying levels of violence reported in teenage relationships and believe that high quality SRE can help children and young people to: cope with the pressures they face to have sex-from both their peers and the media; and to understand what is meant by sexual consent.
We are also considering how best to ensure that sufficient accessible, young people-friendly contraceptive and sexual health services are available in each local area, so that sexually active young people do not risk having unprotected sex, which can result in an unplanned pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. We will be publishing a Public Health White Paper later this year.

Monday 25 October 2010

They're having a laugh now

According to a report on the BBC website today looking at the issue of repeat teenage abortion the ‘Pro-life groups want better regulation of abortions and think schools need to teach children about relationships, not just the physical side of sex.’ If they are so keen to teach children about relationships how is it that it was their (and faith groups) lobbying of MPs that led to the downfall of the legislation that would have made sex and relationships (yes that’s right RELATIONSHIPS) education a statutory curriculum requirement?

Anti abortion groups don’t want a comprehensive curriculum of sex and relationships education which combines scientific, evidence-based information with exploration of relationships, feelings and values. They want an abstinence-only curriculum which teaches young people that sex is intrinsically wrong, that having sex will ruin your life and that pledges of virginity will keep you pure and bring you joy and happiness. Unfortunately we know from endless evidence that abstinence-only doesn’t work.

What the abstinence lobby don’t own up to knowing is that it is pretty commonplace amongst US youth who have taken the virginity pledge to religiously avoid penis in vagina penetration... but to merrily practice oral and anal sex like it’s going out of fashion. Well, you may say, that is some kind of creative response to the situation. But actually many of them are unaware of the STI risks that go along with these kinds of sex and are often having sex without protection. On top of the physical risks, many people have asked how much fun and pleasure the girls are getting out of this arrangement.

On top of everything we know not just that abstinence education doesn’t work, but that those who teach it have no compunction about lying to children and young people in an attempt to promote their belief system. Just look at this fascinating report on abstinence-only education from Henry Waxman a US politician who knows how to kick-ass with evidence! You've all heard about the microscopic holes in condoms. Well did you also know that in this country anti-abortion organisations routinely tell young people that abortion will leave them infertile when in reality the vast majority of women are fully fertile within just a week or two of abortion. We know from professionals we meet in training around the country that this myth leads young women to test their fertility following abortion and often find themselves pregnant again.

So, when the anti-abortion lobby are quoted on the BBC telling us all that better sex and relationships education is needed to reduce the scourge of repeat teenage abortion, excuse me if I choke on my tea.

The discussion about the problem of late abortion is for another day, but for anyone who cares. Two pieces of research you can read will tell you something interesting about the causes and possible solutions.

Reducing Repeat Teenage Conceptions

Repeat Abortion In London

Monday 18 October 2010

“Abortion is really expensive”

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

Most women in England and Wales don’t have to pay to have an abortion. In 2008, 94% of abortions in England and Wales were funded by the NHS. Many of these took place in NHS hospitals, but well over half (60%) occurred at private clinics that have contracts with the NHS to provide abortions for the population in a particular area. In other words, a woman accesses an abortion through NHS referral pathways, but the actual procedure takes place at Marie Stopes, bpas, or another private abortion provider.

The other 6% of abortions were privately funded. This may be because they wanted to access an abortion faster than the NHS in their area would allow, because they did not want to access an abortion at their local hospital where NHS abortions are performed (because they work there, for example), or because a private abortion was more convenient (some NHS-funded abortions require out-of-area travel).

The Department of Health provides statistics on all abortions carried out in England and Wales each year.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

'The A Word'

“You might be more successful with your fundraising applications if you stopped using ‘The A Word’”. This was the advice we received last week from the professional fundraiser we are working with. According to her, “it puts people off”. The 'A Word' she was referring to was abortion.

It’s precisely because the word ‘abortion’ puts people off that Education For Choice (EFC) needs to exist. Up to one in three women in the UK will experience abortion. It is a safe, common, legal medical procedure available on the NHS. So why are we so reticent to talk about it, to provide our young people with evidence-based information about it, even to name it? Education For Choice is launching a new campaign to make sure that all young people know the facts about abortion. Our new campaign, ‘The A Word’, aims to improve provision of education about pregnancy prevention, pregnancy decision-making and abortion.

When abortion is discussed in schools, too often it is done by those with a political agenda who are prepared to disseminate misinformation in order to support their argument. Anti-abortion organisations claim to reach tens of thousands of young people in schools across the country, invited by teachers unaware of the damage they may inflict. Instead of creating a safe environment for young people to consider this complex issue, they often use graphic images and misinformation to promote their anti-abortion agenda. Myths that EFC has been fighting for years, such as the idea that abortion causes infertility, gain strength and momentum as they are presented in the classroom environment.

This form of abortion education has set a dangerous precedent – that it is acceptable to deliberately misinform young people and to conflate facts and values in topics that have an ethical dimension. Parents and scientists worry about what topic will be next in which the opinions of teachers or visitors might trump the facts.

‘Surely issues like abortion should be addressed in a way that makes all the facts available rather than merely opinion, thus enabling the students to reach a conclusion by informed debate. When it comes to abortion it’s so important – it can affect the rest of their lives.’
Samantha Bracey, Parent.

At EFC we believe that young people should not be lied to. School should be a place where they can learn to recognise the difference between values and evidence and to avoid conflating opinion and fact, sermons and science.

Our ‘A Word’ campaign has one goal: to ensure that young people can receive accurate information and good quality education about abortion whoever they are and wherever they are. To achieve this we will:
1. Continue providing our pregnancy decision-making and abortion education workshops in schools so that we carry on meeting young people, providing them with information, finding out what they need to know, and training professionals to provide them with the best possible education and support.
2. Conduct an audit of what and how schools in England are teaching about abortion within Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and Religious Education to demonstrate the paucity of good quality abortion education.
3. Campaign for comprehensive SRE that includes evidence-based information and discussion about abortion – with no opt outs for schools or parents.

All our education work is currently unfunded. If you believe that young people have a right to accurate information and good quality education on abortion, please visit our Just Giving page and help us reach our goal of raising at least £50,000 by the end of December which will help EFC to carry out its education and advocacy work for the next year.

You can also support EFC and our work with young people and professionals by showing that you are not afraid of ‘The A Word’. We ask you to:
Sign our statement of support for The A Word campaign
Follow us on Twitter
‘Like’ our Facebook page
Tweet, blog and spread the word about our important campaign
Become a Champion For Choice and offer EFC some of your time to support this work.

Visit our website and read the rest of our blog to learn more about our work. To discuss other ways of supporting us, or to find out more about how we will use your donation,
email us: efc (at)

Tuesday 12 October 2010

'It's mostly teenagers who have abortions'

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

Actually, women of all ages have abortions. Women have abortions for a variety of reasons at different points in their lives. In fact, the largest number of abortions are requested by women aged 19-24. There are actually more abortions performed each year for women over 45 than there are for young women under 17. Every year the Department of Health publishes detailed information on abortions that take place in England and Wales.

Monday 4 October 2010

There’s a pill you can take to get rid of a pregnancy

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

Early medical abortion (EMA) is an abortion method available to women who are under 9 weeks pregnant. This method is also known as “the abortion pill”, but this is not a very accurate description, as it does not involve simply taking a pill. During an early medical abortion, two different drugs are used to cause an early miscarriage. The first pill works by blocking the action of the hormone that makes the lining of the uterus (womb) hold onto the fertilised egg. The other, given 24 - 48 hours later, causes the uterus to cramp. The lining of the uterus breaks down and the embryo is lost in the bleeding that follows, as happens with a miscarriage.

An EMA normally requires that the woman visit the clinic three times - once to arrange for the abortion, once to take the first medication and finally to take the second medication. She may also be asked to make a follow up visit.

Some women choose this method because it can be done as early as 5 weeks into pregnancy and is non-invasive, but others dislike that it is a more drawn out process than an early surgical abortion (or vacuum aspiration).

It is not helpful to call EMA the 'abortion pill' as it does not adequately describe the process involved and can lead to people confusing it with emergency hormonal contraception (a.k.a. the “morning-after pill”). There is more on abortion methods on the EFC website.