Monday 31 January 2011

Myth Busting Monday: 'Taking the morning after pill is the same as having an abortion'

So we’ve blogged about this myth before but since I carried out a small focus group last week and found that the majority of the young people (and their teacher!) believed that ‘the morning after pill is a form of early abortion’ I thought it was important to readdress.

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.  The key word here is “prevent”- EHC does not cause an abortion.  Medically, pregnancy 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 believe that conception begins when the sperm and egg meet, though this is not medically considered to be the case, sometimes oppose EHC on those grounds.  Medically speaking, however, EHC does not cause an abortion.

Scarleteen gives some more info on the myths around Emergency Contraception here.

Monday 24 January 2011

Myth Busting Monday: Abortion in films is always presented as a traumatic experience

Today’s blog is a response to mangmangmang’s question on Twitter: ‘Can you find a media portrayal of voluntarily chosen abortion without serious traumatic consequences?’ This week the focus is on film but we'll also cover books and TV in future posts...

The film which first comes to mind is Greenberg. Released last year, from the director of the fabulous The Squid and the Whale this is another tale of mid-life ennui - starring Ben Stiller as the disaffected lead Roger Greenberg. It’s a nice sprawling ‘indie’ film with some sharp lines and well-developed characters but what struck me most was the non-sensational depiction of abortion. Although interestingly the ‘A word’ isn’t used in the film, lead character Florence explains that she’s going for a ‘D and C’ (dilatation and curettage) and the film takes time to establish the procedure within the plot. Crucially Florence doesn’t go crazy or grow horns following the procedure. She does question what she’s doing with her life, but as RH Reality Check points out, the ‘abortion is treated not as a punishment but as a part of a character arc that teaches her to change course and to actually protect herself more’.

After a spate of mainstream films where abortion seems to be have been side-stepped (Juno and Knocked Up for example) or is absent completely, it was refreshing to see this very common medical procedure approached with subtlety and even humour (yes, humour !).

Which got us to thinking here at EFC about how abortion is portrayed in film more generally. Which films do you think present the subject realistically, sympathetically or just downright badly? Is the woman shown to suffer serious mental/physical health problems following abortion? Is abortion presented as a valid option even if it isn’t eventually chosen?

Here are a few films to check out if you haven’t already– please add your comments and suggestions to this post or email with suggestions of books and TV shows featuring abortion storylines for our future blogs.

Vera Drake
Mike Leigh’s account of Vera, a woman who voluntarily performs abortions on women pre-1967 provides an emotional reminder of the lengths women go to when (or where) abortion is illegal or severely restricted. This can be a great resource for teaching young people about abortion law.

Dirty Dancing
Another film set in a time before abortion was made legal in which a main character suffers from a botched ‘backstreet’ abortion. Writer Eleanor Bergstein claims she fought for this scene to be retained as, at the time it was written, there were threats to women’s right to legal abortion and she wanted the film to function as a reminder of what criminalising abortion would mean for women.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This film set in Romania again focuses on illegal abortion, under the communist regime of the late 1980s.

Obvious Child
By no means a Hollywood blockbuster, this short, upbeat indie film looks at one woman’s decision to end her pregnancy. Another rare example of a film in which abortion is not a traumatic experience for those involved. You can watch it online here.

Friday 21 January 2011

Blog For Choice

As we approach the anniversary of the Roe V Wade ruling in the States, US pro-choice organisation Naral has deemed today ‘blog for choice day’. Here’s our take on the question ‘Are you concerned about choice in 2011?’

The short answer, yes. Even though here in the UK we have legal access to abortion there are limitations which affect women and their partners and families. As anyone who saw the recent BBC documentary Abortion Wars will know, abortion in Northern Ireland is still heavily restricted – with anti-choice campaigners there seeking to further erode a woman’s right to end her unwanted pregnancy, even where her life is in danger. In England, Scotland and Wales women may be able to access safe, legal abortion but in some rural areas delays can mean their choices are limited and some women may need to travel long distances at their own expense to access the procedure they need.

Perhaps most worryingly, the kind of anti-choice behaviours witnessed in Abortion Wars, influenced by US scare tactics, seem to be spreading to the rest of the UK. The placards bearing inaccurately labelled gory images, vigils outside abortion clinics and misinformation being given to children in schools. These things are all happening right now and right here in the UK. The US influence is clearly evident in the presence of religious anti-choice movement 40 Days For Life. Previously a US based campaign, it now plans to hold prayer vigils outside London abortion clinics in March-April this year.

With some high profile politicians publicly supporting a restriction on the abortion time limit those who believe in choice in the UK should not be too complacent. The pro-choice movement needs to come together to make sure reproductive rights remain on the agenda. Right now the ‘Abortion Wars’ here may look tame in comparison to the States, but that doesn’t mean we can take our position for granted.

Thursday 20 January 2011


Education For Choice is calling on supporters and friends old and new to help support our young people’s work. We need to raise £20,000 urgently to ensure our education work continues past February.

Why support Education For Choice?
Because we are the only UK charity dedicated solely to ensuring young people have accurate information and education on abortion.

What does Education For Choice want?
We call for:
All young people to have accurate information about abortion and impartial support with pregnancy decision-making whoever they are and wherever they are
An end to the lies and misinformation young people are given about abortion

What does Education For Choice do?
Runs abortion education workshops in schools and youth groups
Provides accurate, evidence-based resources for young people and professionals about pregnancy decision-making and abortion
Trains nurses, teachers, youth workers and social workers to inform young people about abortion and to give them impartial support with pregnancy decision-making
Campaigns for young people to get the education and support they need and want

How do you know it is needed?
1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime
40,000 teenagers get pregnant each year and 20,000 of them have abortions
A survey of 20,000 young people carried out by the Youth Parliament in 2008 found that many had received little or no information about pregnancy in school
3 different pieces of research carried out in the UK in the past 6 years include recommendations for young people to have access to more evidence-based discussion of pregnancy decision-making and abortion (1) (2) (3)
No other organisation provides teachers with an alternative to anti abortion speakers in schools who often give misinformation, using bad science and emotive or gory images to make their point

Who should care?
Anyone who thinks young people have a right to learn about their bodies and health
Anyone who cares about giving accurate, evidence-based and scientific information to young people

What can you do?
Make a donation to EFC and pass on this blog to someone else you think will care

Monday 17 January 2011

Myth-Busting Monday: ‘The camera never lies’

In response to our recent call-out for abortion myths and misinformation this week’s blog takes a look at the use of visual images in the abortion debate, specifically the now infamous ‘hand of hope’ photograph.

Back in March 2008 Conservative MP Nadine Dorries posted on her blog a photo known commonly as ‘the hand of hope’. This image of a 21-week old fetus being operated on in utero for spina bifida has been exploited by many anti-choice organisations to support arguments for tightening abortion laws despite the fact that it does not feature an abortion procedure.

Alongside the image, Dorries claimed that, ‘When the operation was over, baby Samuel, at 21 weeks gestation, put his hand through the incision in the uterus and grabbed hold of the surgeon’s finger, a gesture which was apparently met with a huge amount of emotion in the operating theatre’. Using the picture as ‘evidence’, Dorries attempts to support her arguments against legal abortion post 20-weeks gestation: ‘In the UK we are aborting babies just like this and older every single day.’

Following criticism from Dr Ben Goldacre (amongst others), Dorries wrote a second blog refuting claims that the photo was a hoax stating: ‘Don’t listen to me, don’t listen to the pro-abortionists (sic). Trust your own eyes, believe what you see.’ Here, for Dorries, seeing is believing. She stands by her claim that the fetus reached out from the womb despite evidence to the contrary (including a statement from the surgeon himself).

This is just one example of a fetal image being used to support an anti-choice stance. Any Google search of ‘abortion’ will bring up an array of websites offering pages of images claimed to represent the process of abortion. We are also aware of at least one anti-choice organisation which shows fetal images to young people during school workshops. Although many of these stock images have been ‘debunked’ – shown to be fakes or misrepresentations, they clearly still have a presence, particularly online but also, alarmingly, when being presented by ‘experts’ in an educational setting.

Here at EFC we have no truck with the use of fetal images to educate young people about abortion. Young people need accurate information and pictures often don’t illuminate the facts. For example, they can tell us nothing about viability, sentience, pain, and most importantly, nothing about the woman, her life and the process she has gone through to make her decision. Generally images like this are used to stigmatise the choice of abortion by emphasising the ‘yuck factor’ which arguably has little function in discussions of morality, reality and choice.

For the EFC visual presentation of abortion facts click on our Flickr slideshow to the right of this blog.

With thanks to sinaedwithafada on Twitter for requesting a rundown of the ‘hand of hope’ hoax. If you have any suggestions for future blogs please Tweet or email us.

Monday 10 January 2011

Myth Busting Monday: Give us your myths!

Since we started our myth-busting campaign in May last year we’ve managed to cover most of the big abortion myths which we hear from young people in classrooms or see in the media. We’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, but we’re not hanging up our Ms Myth Buster hats just yet. We want you to tell us if there are any myths about abortion you’ve heard – direct from young people, in an episode of Hollyoaks or from friends or colleagues that you want busting. Send them to us (in a tweet or by emailing and we’ll give a full explanation of the facts on this here blog. Alternatively if you have any questions about abortion send them in and we’ll give them the EFC once over too. It’s over to you...

Thursday 6 January 2011

Dollars and Sense

Today, for the first time, we’re approaching US donors for funding. ‘Why?’ I hear you cry! With US reproductive rights advocates and abortion providers under constant legislative and, sometimes, literal physical attack from well-funded anti-abortion campaigners, why would any American with money to spend on reproductive rights give to a small UK organisation?

Well here’s our thinking...
1. Americans get reproductive rights in a way that Brits just don’t. In the US those who have watched the war of attrition against women’s rights to abortion know what is really at stake. In the UK, most people support abortion rights and are opposed to legislation proposals which seek to limit those rights, but are pretty complacent about it and see it as a non-issue most of the time.

2. Abortion is not a non-issue in the UK. As well as imminent threats to abortion legislation in Parliament, young people are daily exposed to misinformation about abortion in their sex education and RE lessons; and independent pregnancy advice centres aimed at deterring women from accessing abortion are popping up all over the country. US organisations such as 40 Days for Life have set up in the UK and aggressive campaigning outside abortion clinics is increasing.

3. What happens in the UK affects the rest of the world. Not only does the UK (excluding NI) provide abortions for women who cannot access services in their own countries. We also provide a model of law and practice that is emulated by many developing countries – especially in the British Commonwealth. It is essential that we protect, promote and extend the rights we have here now.

4. The U.S has a well established culture of charitable giving. Americans give approximately double that of Brits. Philanthropy has a more prominent role, with high-earners like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet setting the precedent for generous donations to good causes.

EFC is the UK’s only organisation dedicated to young people’s reproductive rights. We are small, cheap and effective. With just three staff we reach an impressive number of professionals and young people. We change the culture of talking about abortion. We give people the skills, confidence and knowledge to provide good quality information and we empower young people every day to make informed decisions about their own health and wellbeing.

I am not looking forward to the day that abortion is as polarised and polarising an issue here as it is in the US. Maybe then UK donors will come forward to support good quality education and support work around abortion. But maybe by then it will be too late...

Make a quick donation to Education For Choice
Email us if you want to make a larger tax-efficient donation from the US lisa(at)