Friday 19 August 2011

It’s only words

Today’s blog was inspired by an accusation levelled at EFC claiming that although we present ourselves as being a ‘pro-choice’ organisation we are in fact ‘pro-abortion’. I wanted to unpick this claim and look at the language that we, and others use to frame our position on sexual and reproductive health.

Abortion is an emotive subject. The strong feelings people have about it are often reflected in the language they use. Recent debate in the U.S has seen ambiguous terms like ‘pro-family’ or ‘pro-life’ being used to describe those presidential candidates who are opposed to unrestricted access to abortion. ‘The other side’, that is to say, those who support abortion rights, are labelled ‘pro-choice’, ‘pro-abortion’ and when the heat’s really on, ‘pro-death’ and ‘baby-killers’. (Actually, those last two are from recent UK blogs describing EFC). The complexities of getting this language right are evidenced in this long-winded blog by U.S National Public Radio.

Most abortion rights supporters choose not to use the term ‘pro-life’ to describe those who oppose abortion, largely because they resent being positioned as the ‘opposite’ to this, as being somehow ‘anti-life’. In fact, many of those who support a woman’s right to choose would consider themselves to be ‘pro-life’ and even ‘pro-family’ in terms of respecting people’s right to make decisions about their own family, having children when they are in a position to care for them and so on. Some make the point that in fact those declaring themselves to be ‘pro-life’ with respect to the abortion debate do not always adhere to the label when it comes to discussing the death penalty.

One commonly used alternative to ‘pro-life’ is ‘anti-choice’. It acknowledges that what is generally proposed by an individual who is ‘against abortion’ is a desire to restrict legal or practical access to abortion. Therefore somebody who wouldn’t choose to end a pregnancy themselves, or who has religious or moral objections to the procedure but would nevertheless support another’s right to choose would not be contained within this category. One sexual health professional suggested to me recently that he feels the term ‘anti-choice’ is too vague. That when describing groups such as SPUC or Life we should make clear that they are ‘organisations opposed to abortion in every situation’. To make evident the extreme position this entails – that whether a woman becomes pregnant through incest or rape, whether the pregnancy endangers her health, these organisations would not support her legal right to choose abortion in any circumstance.

Coming back to EFC and our self-positioning as ‘pro-choice’, we stand by this. By ‘pro-choice’ we mean simply that we support a woman’s right to choose whichever pregnancy option she feels is best for her. Our work focuses on abortion as this is the option many people have the least information about, or where political agendas can cloud real life issues. Approximately half of young women who become pregnant will make this choice and we believe that they are entitled to factual information about their health and wellbeing should they do so. Yes we believe abortion is a valid option for someone facing a pregnancy they can’t or don’t want to continue. But this is not the same as being ‘pro-abortion’. You would be very hard pushed to find an organisation which believes abortion is always the right option for everyone who becomes pregnant!  A great portion of our work is about motivating young people to use contraception consistently or delay sex in order to avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place. But we acknowledge the reality that abortion does happen and that young people need the facts so that they can make their own informed decisions about it.

Monday 15 August 2011

Myth Busting Monday: 8 Myths Busted!

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

A lazy Myth-Busting Monday today. We found this great take-down of anti-choice myths by the fabulous Abortion Gang and thought we'd share it on the EFC blog. Let us know if you've heard any myths you'd like busted for future blogs!

Monday 8 August 2011

Myth Busting Monday – 'I’m not pro-choice but...'

We’ve all heard the classic line ‘I’m not a feminist but...’ followed by a pretty clear defence of gender equality. Often those reluctant to use the label ‘feminist’ to describe themselves are happy to engage with its central tenet of social and political equality for men and women. Arguably the term ‘pro-choice’ could be said to suffer from similar ‘PR’ problems. Although the majority of the public do support a woman’s right to choose a smaller number of those surveyed would likely identify themselves using the label ‘pro-choice’ through reluctance to be associated with a term which is often construed as being overly political or radical.

So what does being pro-choice actually entail?

The US website RH Reality Check has an interesting take on what ‘pro-choice’ represents politically but defines the term more generally as being ‘short-hand for a group or individual who believes a woman should be able to choose an abortion if and when she desires to terminate a pregnancy that is either unintended and untenable, or simply untenable.’

So even if you can’t imagine a situation in which you yourself would choose to terminate a pregnancy, or would want your partner to, but you would not wish to take this right away from someone else, you are pro-choice. If you believe abortion is a valid option for a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy, you are pro-choice. If you believe women’s legal right to access abortion should be protected you are pro-choice.

Joyce Arthur on why 'pro-choice' isn't the opposite to 'anti-abortion' here

Monday 1 August 2011

Myth-Busting Monday: ‘Rates of teenage pregnancy are rising’

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

You’d be forgiven for thinking the conception rate for young women has been consistently on the rise for the past 5, 10 or 20 years. Common wisdom (including some newspapers, media personalities and people at bus stops) presents ‘teenage pregnancy’ as a growing concern, with more and more women under 18 experiencing unintended pregnancy.

In fact, the latest statistics show that the under-18 conception rate for 2009 is estimated to be the lowest rate since the early 1980s. This reduction is a result of the last government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy launched in 1998 in an attempt to reduce levels of unwanted pregnancy amongst young women. Although the strategy did make steady progress this was not the case in all areas of the country and overall the target to reduce teenage pregnancy by 50% was not reached.

The ‘Teenage Pregnancy Next Steps’ document gives an overview of the strategy’s aims and achievements. It notes that what worked was 'provision of YP focused contraception/sexual health services, trusted by teenagers and well known by professionals working with them' and 'Strong delivery of SRE/PSHE by schools'. Government cuts to youth and sexual health services could threaten these positive steps forward. See this recent article in CYP Now for further comment.