Friday 11 March 2011

Guest Blog: EFC Youth Advisor Ruth's take on 'Bieber-gate'

Thanks to my cousins I know that Justin Bieber’s favourite colour is purple; his favourite food is spaghetti; and his favourite TV show is Smallville. Thanks to Rolling Stone, I now know that he doesn’t believe in abortion.

In an interview with the magazine the teen sensation was asked to share his views on everything from health care to premarital sex. When pressed on the issue of abortion, Bieber said: “I really don’t believe in abortion. I think [an embryo] is a human. It’s like killing a baby.” When asked whether he believed this even where a woman is pregnant as the result of rape he answered: “I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position so I wouldn’t be able to judge.” Rolling Stone has since corrected the quote, admitting that they had edited it incorrectly. Despite this, the quote still stands in the print version currently circulating on newsstands and has been reproduced in thousands of publications and online forums all across the world.

The resulting furore has many strands to it. Some have questioned why he was even asked for his opinion on this matter in the first place. Bieber is a self-professed Christian, raised by a born-again mother and is somewhat of a poster boy for the abstinence movement. It looks as though Rolling Stone were seeking to court controversy – something they are no stranger to - and manipulated him to this end. It’s easy to feel sympathetic towards the young singer as it seems as though he was a mere pawn in the hands of Rolling Stone. In an interview with a teen singer, we so have to wonder why they felt these questions needed to be asked, and why he was in a position to comment on them.

Some have gone further and questioned why he, a sixteen-year-old boy, has expressed a view on this, suggesting that his gender should have precluded him even having an opinion on the issue. There is something of a societal expectation that abortion is an issue for women, and women alone. To continue to reinforce this view alienates half the population, many of whom will experience an unplanned pregnancy with their partner. Men need to be able to hold an opinion on the matter, as it affects them too. Often the only time men’s voices are heard in the abortion discourse are from politicians and activists seeking to impose their own religious and ethical views on women. To exclude young men from the abortion debate can only lead to these types of views being held and lacking any real underlying facts and principles.

More concerning than all of this is just how much influence he actually yields. I don’t wish to be condescending about how easily influenced young girls are, but I only have to look at my cousins obsessively filing away Justin Bieber facts to feel even slightly worried. For many of his young fans this might be the first time they’ve even heard the word “abortion” before. Their teen hero has just told them it’s wrong. And what do they have to rebut it with? Young people are not being provided with the information about unplanned pregnancy and abortion they need to be able to make an informed choice about their beliefs and opinions.

This is exactly why Education For Choice is so important. My cousins and all the other young girls out there hanging on his every word should be able to make an informed choice about their sexual and reproductive freedoms. They should know that Bieber’s view is only one way to think. They should be able to separate the myths about abortion from the truth. They should be able to talk about it freely in a non-judgmental atmosphere. They should know their rights. EFC is the only UK charity dedicated to ensuring all young people can make and act on their own, informed choices about pregnancy and abortion, and this is exactly why I volunteer with them.

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