Tuesday 29 November 2011

Responding to the vigil-antis

How to respond to aggressive and intimidating anti-abortion activity outside clinics.

For 40 days last month anti-choicers ‘40 Days for Life’ stood outside MSI and bpas abortion clinics in London. Many people found the sight of these vigil-antis standing in judgment over women entering abortion clinics repellent and there was some discussion about setting up counter-protests. However, staff didn’t really want even more people out on the streets in front of their clinics. In the event ‘40 Days of Treats’ emerged, delivering daily treats by way of a non-confrontational 'peculiarly British' counter-protest.

Today, members of Abort 67* stand outside bpas in Brighton. Abort 67 could have been air-lifted out of Texas and dumped from the sky given how incongruous this kind of protest is in the UK. Vast billboards of dismembered fetuses are displayed along the road and some women and their partners have been shouted at on their way in to the clinic. It is understandable that this perceived ramping up of aggression and intimidation tactics has led some people to feel that it is no longer good enough to turn a blind eye. Twitter has been abuzz with call outs for people to join a counter-protest.

So, is it time to get out on the streets and show solidarity for women and clinic staff by protesting against these vigil-antis? Our concerns are:

anything which increases the volume (of noise or people) around clinics may increase the discomfort of women seeking abortion (and the other sexual health services provided)

counter-protests will give additional attention to anti-abortion campaigns

we still live in hope that we can find more constructive ways to conduct debate about abortion in this country – ones which recognise most people in the UK think abortion should be an option for women. We don’t want to do anything that accelerates our progress towards a US style ‘abortion-war’. 

these people are fanatics. You won’t change their mind by reasoning with them or confronting them

That’s why we are calling on all those who want an outlet for their anger to help think of creative responses that:

  • are supportive of women seeking abortion and clinic staff
  • don’t give excessive attention to intimidating vigil-antis
  • draw the attention of the local authorities to the distress this is causing women 
  • ask the question about whether this kind of protest is compassionate, caring or ethical
  • ensure that the communities and congregations that are supporting this kind of protest are called out on this intimidating behaviour
  • can be used to mobilise for positive support of abortion provision and rights

Answers on a postcard please...(or via twitter or comments of course)

*I am not linking to Abort 67 because a gory video opens up within seconds of clicking on the site and I wouldn’t want anyone to come across it unprepared. If you want to visit the site, Google it.

Monday 28 November 2011

Myth-Busting Monday – Teaching children about sex and relationships is child abuse

We really shouldn’t have to be busting this one. Would anyone think that giving young people factual, age-appropriate information about their bodies, relationships with others and sexuality is akin to paedophilia? Unfortunately, it seems the answer is yes. At least if they’re a Daily Mail journalist, ‘family values’ campaigner or member of the BNP.

The Daily Mail published this rambling article about SRE last week, implying that materials being shown as part of primary school education were being used to sexualise children and destroy their childhoods.

The BNP latched onto this and started an attack on a primary school in Sheffield claiming that 'Sex education for 6-year-olds is mental paedophilia’. They wrote to the school, 'We believe that your evil plans to introduce these children to sex at such a young age borders on paedophilia and that it is not acceptable.'

And you may remember us covering the charming views of Lynette Burrows on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live last month. She made the bold statement that: ‘this sort of education (SRE) is so unhelpfully obsessed with destroying childhood innocence, in a way that's reminiscent of paedophilia. To me, anyone who wants to talk dirty to little children is a danger to them.'

A worrying trend seems to be appearing. The notion that anyone who talks to young people about sex and relationships in an educational setting is necessarily ‘a paedophile’ interested only in sexualising young children and encouraging them into early sexual activity. Alice Hoyle (the sex educator who was pitted against Lynette Burrows on the BBC) has written about this vile accusation on her blog Sexedukation. But we thought it might be useful to outline not just the case against SRE being ‘psychological paedophilia’ (as the BNP would have it), but also the importance it has in helping children make informed choices as well as to recognise and report sexual abuse.

The Department for Education acknowledges that ‘young people who have good sex and relationship education at home and at school, start sex later and are less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy or to get a sexually transmitted infection’. In terms of sexual abuse, research actually suggests that having information about sex and relationships may help young people negotiate inappropriate sexual behaviour. This quote from the Australian Institute of Family Studies makes the case clearly:

‘It is important for young children to learn about body parts, healthy relationships and consensual adult expressions of intimacy. Age-appropriate education involves teaching children the correct names for and functions of their body parts and teaching them to care for, respect, and protect their bodies. It means talking with them about “healthy” touch. It does not involve talking about “monsters”, “bad people”,“down there” and “those bits”. Age-appropriate education is clear, accurate, positive and protective. Education and access to resources on self-protection and sexuality can reduce the risk of sexual assault. Research shows that positive messages about sexuality and participation in a comprehensive self-protection program (that is reinforced at home) may protect children from experiencing sexual assault’

The majority of parents and health professionals support SRE being taught in schools, so we think it’s time for that majority to stand up and be heard. Those of us who support accurate, comprehensive SRE need to assert our belief in the importance of giving young people the facts, and also how vital this information can be for their own health and well-being.

  • Let your child's school know you support the teaching of age-appropriate SRE

Sunday 27 November 2011

EFC Charity ART sale

This year we're incredibly fortunate that two brilliant artists have offered to support Education For Choice with money from their Christmas art sales.

Lottie Davies
Award winning photographer Lottie Davies, has a range of prints she is selling to fund a new art project of her own, but has generously agreed to donate 25% of Sales to Education For Choice for any sales that come via our blog or twitter @edforchoice


  1. Click on Lottie's website it's packed with large images so be patient while it loads. 
  2. Click in the centre of the Print Sale screen to see the gallery of photos available as prints.
  3. Choose your print from here and then click on Buy Christmas Prints
  4. When you order remember to tell Lottie you'd like her to donate to Education For Choice
Leading British painter Blaise has a range of canvasses of various sizes and has generously agreed to donate 25% of all sales to Education For Choice

  1. Click on Blaise's flickr gallery
  2. Choose the painting you'd like to buy
  3. Email lisa (at) efc.org.uk to arrange payment and delivery
  4. Published costs do NOT include p+p

A message to Grenoside primary school

This is a message to the senior management and all the staff, parents and children of Grenoside to express our disgust at the totally irrational and unjustified targeting of the school by the British National Party. Our organisation works primarily in secondary schools delivering SRE, and we totally support the development of age-appropriate SRE for primary pupils. We all know that good quality SRE is designed to protect children against abuse and paedophilia and - as students move into adulthood - unwanted or risky sexual experience. We totally reject the accusation that your desire to provide your pupils with good SRE is in any way abusive or unethical and we condemn, unreservedly, the intimidation you are experiencing.

Thursday 24 November 2011

EFC Youth Advisory Group - Round Two!

Calling all young people aged 16-21 and living in London! EFC is launching the second version of its Youth Advisory Group from January 2012.

To find out more about the success of this year's project (the group created a short film giving the facts about abortion which is now being viewed on a number of educational sites) read this blog.

And for details of next year's group just click here. We ask that everyone who wants to apply fills out the short application form but this opportunity is open to all regardless of experience.

If you've got any questions about the group just email laura {at} efc.org.uk

Monday 21 November 2011

Myth Busting Monday: ‘Where abortion is legal, all women will be able to access safe, legal abortions'

This week The Guardian has published some interesting short articles on unsafe abortion in Zambia, written by Alice Klein, a young mother who has recently had an abortion herself.

Klein writes about the places women in Zambia can access illegal abortions for varying sums of money: an unhygienic Chinese clinic, drug stores selling misoprostol illegally, and ‘witch doctors’ offering herbal ‘medications’. There are also horrifying stories of women attempting to end pregnancies themselves; ‘inserting knitting needles and turkey basters into their vaginas, [to] drinking laundry bleach and jumping off stairs on to their stomachs’.

You’d be forgiven for taking from this that abortion is outlawed in Zambia, but another article reveals that this is not the case. In fact, Zambian ‘abortion law is one of the most liberal in sub-Saharan Africa and allows the procedure if the pregnancy risks the mother's physical or mental wellbeing’. However access to legal abortion is affected by a number of barriers: ‘it requires three doctors' signatures, almost impossible in a country with one doctor per 8,333 people (compared with one doctor per 435 people in the UK)’; also, in a country with an 80% poverty rate, costs of safe, clinical procedures can be prohibitive. The article also highlights the widespread stigma and religious objection to abortion in Zambia, which again, contributes to misinformation about available services, further reducing accessibility. One ‘healer’ offering illegal, herbal abortions advises the researcher to ‘avoid hospital abortions, saying metal clamps are used to open the vagina and scratchy cotton wool used to clean the womb. She repeated common myths, such as clinical abortions leave women infertile and unclean.’

Clearly, in Zambia, although abortion is effectively legal, this doesn’t mean it is accessible to all women who want to end their pregnancies. As a result, women undergoing illegal, unsafe abortions are risking their health, and in some cases, lives.

Of course, this is one example – there are many areas of the world where, although abortion is technically legal it is difficult (and generally for poorer, or younger women, virtually impossible) to access. Abortion has been legal in the U.S since 1973 but 88% of all U.S counties have no abortion provider (this rises to 97% in rural areas).

For more information on abortion worldwide, including the gaps between legality and accessibility, visit the Guttmacher Institute website.

Monday 14 November 2011

Myth Busting Monday – ‘Abortion makes you infertile’

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

We’ve talked about this before but we think it’s worth repeating: legal abortion doesn’t cause infertility. Young people and professionals often come to us with concerns that someone who has an abortion will not be able to have children in the future. In fact, as the RCOG point out:

“There are no proven associations between induced abortion and subsequent ectopic pregnancy, placenta praevia or infertility”

In fact, “ovulation occurs within a month of first-trimester abortion in over 90% of women” which means that those wishing to prevent future pregnancies should get information about contraception following abortion. Some contraceptive methods can be fitted or initiated at the time of abortion while a woman's motivation is likely to be high.

This myth may relate to times and places where abortion is illegal and thus unsafe. However, some organisations in the UK are still making this claim about legal abortion: Care Confidential talk about ‘relative infertility’ as a risk of abortion and a centre in their network recently gave out literature stating that ‘sub-fertility or infertility’ is a longer term effect of abortion.

Monday 7 November 2011

Myth-Busting Monday - 'Abortion is legal in all parts of the UK'

Every Monday EFC busts myths and take names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts. Today’s myth-bust relates to the fpa’s current abortion campaign Time For Change.

Although abortion is legal and accessible (though not available ‘on demand’) in England, Scotland and Wales, it is allowed in Northern Ireland only under exceptional circumstances. The 1967 Abortion Act, which governs abortion provision in Britain, only applies in England, Scotland and Wales. When the Act was debated and passed by Parliament in 1967 it was not extended to Northern Ireland.

Last year, over a thousand women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to obtain a legal abortion. Although women in Northern Ireland pay UK taxes they are not entitled to an abortion free on the NHS so would need to raise funds for the procedure itself (as well as travel and possibly accommodation). Abortion is also restricted in the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands so a number of women from these places travel to England and Wales to have abortions (see the 2010 abortion statistics for exact numbers).

There are no recorded statistics on the amount of illegal abortions taking place in Northern Ireland, but there have been reports of women ordering abortion medication online via services like Women on Web. The Abortion Support Network has been set up to provide financial assistance to those women travelling from Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. 

For more information on abortion in Northern Ireland check out the fpa’s Time For Change campaign.