Sunday, November 08, 2009

Won't Somebody Think Of The Children?! Or, media coverage of new sex education guidelines

I only just got around to looking at it, but I wasn't surprised to find a lot of moral indignation in the press coverage of Ed Balls' new sex education guidelines.  I'd cite specific examples but you might as well just randomly open any article and the chances are it will be against the new proposals.

The worrying thing is that the focus is almost entirely on the right of parents to withdraw children from the age of 15 and upwards from sex education classes.  The current rule is that parents are able to withdraw 19 year olds from such classes.

Nineteen, you say?  But that's a fully grown adult.  Surely they can make their own decisions?

Well, yes, quite.

What all these outraged journalists seem to be upset about is the withdrawal of the rights of parents to choose how their children are education.  But whose rights are more important here?

The parents'?  Or the child's, who deserves to be given balanced information to make an informed decision?  If they want to then still follow their parents' religious practices, that's up to them to decide.  If they decide not to, however, at least they'll have the necessary knowledge to stay safe.

Those upset by the proposals should have some hope, however.  They won't come into force until 2011, by which time the Tories will almost certainly be in power.  Don't be surprised if they reverse the decision, which affects a whacking 0.04% of schoolchildren.

Meanwhile, some of us are more worried about the actual content, which will affect 100% of school children. 

But remember what the UK Youth Parliament said about the current arrangements?
A report published in 2007 by the UK Youth Parliament, based on questionnaire responses from over 20,000 young people, says that 40 per cent of young people described the Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) they had received as either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ with a further 33 per cent describing it as only average. Other key findings from the survey were that:
• 43 per cent of respondents reported not having been taught anything about relationships;
• 55 per cent of the 12-15 year olds and 57 per cent of the 16-17 year old females reported not having been taught how to use a condom;
• Just over half of respondents had not been told where their local sexual health service was located.

Sadly, I can't actually find much detail about the content of the new curriculum anywhere.  All I could find through the DCSF website were details of a poll, which told me that 81% of parents think that all children should attend sex education classes, and that 30% think that parents should be able to withdraw their children from such classes.

Which means at least 11% think it's okay to ignore a child's rights.

[Edit: Okay, I'll give a linky to one smug git called Justin Thacker, just so you can marvel at his smugness, and complete ignorance of what atheism is, and hence the possibility that not all atheists agree with each other.]

22 comments:

  1. See, I was wondering what on earth you were on about with that guy being smug, till the last quite disgusting paragraph...

    But then I properly laughed out loud about the bit where atheists will lose "believers" over the next few years because of the vacuity of our arguments...

    Are we trying to rally support for our atheist cause? I forget what happened at the last atheist gathering, do you have the minutes??

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  2. I can't remember, but we were definitely all told to think in exactly the same way, and not question anything.

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  3. I'm sleepy and my stats brain isn't working. Where did 11% come from?

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  4. The overlap. Assuming there were 70% who think that all children should attend, and don't think parent should be able to withdraw their children at any age, then there's another 11% who think that all children should go, but that it's fine for parents to withdraw their children.

    Even out of the 70% though, there are 33% who think that parents should be able to withdraw their children up to the age of 11, 9% up to the age of 14, and 7% up to the age of 16.

    In total, only 37% of the parents asked disagree with the Government, and think that they should be able to withdraw their children past the age of 14.

    Only 46% think they should be able to withdraw their children past the age of 11.

    (Out of the parents asked, of course, not *all* parents).

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  5. Evilflea

    I wonder if you think parents should be allowed to withdraw their children from a class on creationism?

    I also wonder who decides what is 'balanced' information?

    This comes down to who gets final say on a child's education, the parents or the state. Why does the state presume to have any claim at all over a child? The sex ed thing is a slight red herring, this is about removing parental authority. Setting parents' rights against children's rights is classic divide and rule, but if you read the UN Declaration of Human Rights it establishes the rights of families very clearly.

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  6. Put it this way, Ronan. Do you think parents should be allowed to withdraw their children from a class on mathematics?

    It's not about state control at all. The state will not be teaching pupils that they must have sex with a condom. It will be teaching that if they choose to have sex, a condom is 99% effective against sperm and STIs.

    It will be teaching what the issues around abortion are. It will be teaching about the changes that will happen in the children's bodies, hopefully before they happen.

    It will teach about genderqueer issues, and how people who are doing no harm to other people have nothing to be ashamed of. It will teach, with any luck, about the representation of sexuality in the media.

    It will be teaching an astounding number of facts and debate that you cannot possibly expect parents to know in their entirety and pass on to their own children.

    The method of the right-wing media is to present sex education as something that teaches children to have sex and to have abortions and to be gay. This is not how it is at all.

    Good sexuality education should equip young people to make their own choices, and to make them safely. To be fair to the children, you give them access to knowledge so that they can do that.

    No right of the parent to tell their own child what they believe is being removed here. No parent is being stripped of their right to talk about sex with their offspring.

    It is the right-wing media that are pitting the rights of the parents against the rights of the child. They are arguing that the parents' rights trump all.

    I'm not doing that. I'm arguing that the child deserves a balanced education. I'm not suggesting for one moment that parents should not be a part of that.

    And in answer to your question, no, I don't think that any parent should ordinarily be allowed to remove their child from any class, as long as the child is not being told what to believe.

    As with sexuality education, children can be taught about creationism in purely factual terms, ie, this is what the Book of Genesis says, there is no credible scientific evidence to support a literal reading of the creation story. This is evolution, there are tons and tons of evidence to support this theory, which is demonstrated through the fossil record and modern day observable examples of natural selection.

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  7. "As with sexuality education, children can be taught about creationism in purely factual terms, ie, this is what the Book of Genesis says, there is no credible scientific evidence to support a literal reading of the creation story. This is evolution, there are tons and tons of evidence to support this theory, which is demonstrated through the fossil record and modern day observable examples of natural selection. "

    I'd further that... that's what happens now. Or at least, that is the education I received.

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  8. Yeah, that's pretty much what I got, at a Catholic school as well. The vast majority of educated Christians subscribe to the view that Genesis is a parable to explain that God made the Universe. I think Genesis is actually three different common creation stories lumped together (I can't remember the source and evidence for this though).

    I think all children should be taught about the different religions as well, in a non-denominational setting - which is something I didn't get at a Catholic school.

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  9. Phil

    Yes, of course parents should be allowed to withdraw children from classes on maths, particularly if they are being taught bad maths or in a confusing manner which does more harm than good to the child's understanding of the subject.

    If it isn't about state control, then why is the state trespassing on the parents' rights and responsibilities toward their children? Again, I'll refer you to the UN's Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the Rights of the Child.

    As I say, the sex ed thing is a red herring, with concern for childrens' knowledge of their bodies being used as leverage for the state to impose its power on families. Are you unaware of what is going on at the moment with home educators and the Badman report? Your manifesto of sexual libertinism is all very interesting (in a ho hum, heard it all before sort of a way) but what would you do if the state began to teach children things you don't agree with? Of course, you do not have children, which is perhaps why you feel you need the state to push your agenda onto mine.

    It is pure arrogance to assert you know best when it comes to sex ed, yet parents don't. Are you serious?? Intelligent people, engaged enough in their children's education to remove them from class when necessary, won't know how to find and use relevant educational materials on their own initiative?

    I'm not really interested in your paranoia about the Right Wing Media (boo hiss). I'll be ensuring my kids are as well equipped to deal with their brand of BS as yours. You cannot deny, however, that sex ed *is* used as a way of getting abortion 'services' into schools.

    This sentence of yours is just bonkers:

    //I don't think that any parent should ordinarily be allowed to remove their child from any class, as long as the child is not being told what to believe.//

    The whole point of education is to teach a child what to believe! Again I realise you don't have children, but hypothetically would you allow a homeopath to teach your children? An Imam who believes in beating disobedientwomen? An AIDs denialist? You sidestepped the question of Creationism by saying it could be taught 'in purely factual terms', assuming that there is someone there willing and able to do so. What do you do if the teacher himself is a rabid fundie nutjob?

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  10. "You cannot deny, however, that sex ed *is* used as a way of getting abortion 'services' into schools."

    Yes I can. Because it's not.

    "The whole point of education is to teach a child what to believe!"

    Again, no it's not. The whole point of education is to teach a child how to think.

    That is what good education does, it is what good sexuality education does. You're throwing scenarios at me which are not examples of good education, so of course I would be against them.

    If you want to tell me that sexuality education teaches children to be immoral then you need to go away and actually do some research. [I refer you to page 12 ("The evidence base for sexuality education") of UNESCO's recent Draft Guidelines on Sexuality Education]

    Come back and present me with examples of bad sex education in the UK and I will listen to you. If it's good, I'll even write a blog post on it. Just save me the rhetoric.

    From the Declaration of Human Rights:

    "The child shall be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men."

    Ooh look, I can use the UNDHR to support my argument too. What about a parent who indoctrinates their child to be intolerant to people who are genderqueer? Does the state not have a responsibility to not sit back and allow an environment which fosters discrimination?

    If all you really want to do is to argue that the state are being oppressive and removing parents' rights then it's not really a debate worth having.

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  11. I'm not interested in arguing over your rather pedestrian views on sex as that is a major distraction from the true matter at hand, which is the stripping of parental rights and responsibilities when it comes to education. All I will say on the matter is that it is a lie to state that schools do not provide access to abortion 'services', and advertise this fact via sex ed classes. What more evidence do I need than the sex ed classes I attended at a Roman Catholic Comprehensive? I'm a bit confused as to why you ask for 'evidence' of this when in our previous conversation on the Cruella blog you made it clear you approve of promoting abortion in the African schools you volunteer for. Your dishonesty here hardly surprises me, given you ran away from that conversation as soon as I pointed out the bias in the 'research' you presented.

    Not sure how you think that quote from the UNDHR undermines my argument. Of course any sane human being will subscribe to that passage. Why don't you quote the following bits instead?:

    Article 26
    (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.


    and

    Article 16
    (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.


    Get that? The state is meant to PROTECT the family, not interfere with and undermine it.

    Also, from the preamble to the rights of the child, a quote which is ever so awkward to someone with your ideological convictions:

    "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth"

    Your final remarks, about bad parenting, parallel the current debates going on in government at the moment regarding Home Education. Like the state, you presume parents are guilty until proven innocent. There are already laws in place to safeguard children from abusive parents, and often the state fails to use those laws effectively (e.g. Baby P). Meanwhile the same laws are used to tear families apart using secretive courts, on the dubious grounds that the family is fat, or a parent has learning difficulties. That you think 'it's not really a debate worth having' just confirms my suspicions that you are more concerned with the promotion of a particular agenda than with the well being of children.

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  12. I do not, and have not ever, promoted abortion in schools. Promoted discussion on abortion in schools and the community, yes. Promoted legalisation of and access to abortion in the community, yes. It is not my place or anyone else's to tell anyone to have an abortion - that should be their decision alone.

    I fail to understand how you think I am "ideological". I am pro-access to information. I want young people to be able to make good decisions. My only agenda is education.

    If you want to force your pro-life views on others who don't share your beliefs, and insist that your religion somehow has the right to impose its ideology on other people by virtue of its longevity, then that's your problem.

    Just don't come on here spouting rhetoric and offering no intelligent and tolerant debate.

    I got bored of our last conversation, and now I'm bored of this one.

    End of discussion.

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  13. I originally closed comments on this post, but then Ronan emailed me, and we had a much more civil conversation about it.

    We agreed to post these emails on. Here's Ronan's first (in italics), then mine:

    Phil

    You've disabled comments on the sex ed thread, hence this email.

    I've gone back and had a look at the Cruella thread, and perhaps I have assumed too much about your position on abortion, in which case I apologise. You seemed to be indicating abortion was the preferable option for the pregnant African schoolgirl whose case you raised. If that wasn't what you were saying then perhaps you need to clarify what you did mean. I called you 'dishonest' which I think was unfair, and can understand why this would cause you to close down the discussion.

    As for being 'intolerant' and 'forcing my pro-life views on others', I thought I was just typing into the internet the same as anyone. I worry about whether you are so dismissive of those in Africa, or in your school in the UK, who disagree with you. I'll grant I am an argumentative twat at times, and am sorry to have upset you over an online discussion. I'd like to think that if we were to talk face-to-face things would be a fair bit more amicable. To a certain extent I am treating you as fair game for criticism as you have made yourself publicly available for it with your blog - something I greatly admire, but which also requires taking the rough with the smooth. You are, after all, a teacher and aid worker and, furthermore, a public supporter of abortion 'rights'. It should not surprise you that there are parents out there who distrust school policy on this issue, and making out that it is all a conspiracy of the right wing media (therefore implying concerned parents are media-illiterates) does not help matters.

    I would also like to point out that you are the one who brought my religion into this with your last comment; I expect no special favours based on my religion. Conversely, I also expect my children and I not to be discriminated against because of our faith. A lot of debate surrounding this sex ed topic seems to be predicated on the assumption that those of us with religious convictions are too stupid or evil to take responsibility for our own kids. I appreciate you've been upset by my words on this topic, but the reason I feel compelled to discuss it myself is that I find a lot of the debate offensive and one-sided.

    I would appreciate it if you could reply to let me know that you've read this, even if it is to tell me where to go. I'm sorry to have offended you, and my only defense is that I was feeling a bit grotty over the weekend, and so I have mixed in some valid points with over-aggressive snarkiness. The last of my comments was written in a particularly grumpy mood and would have come out differently had I been feeling well. I'll be happy to remove it it if you so wish - I am actually pretty uncomfortable with having publicly accused a teacher of promoting abortion based on what may be a misreading of a previous conversation. I did not want to remove it without your say-so, though, as I know such moves can have all sorts of significance read into them.

    Regards,
    Ronan

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  14. Ronan

    Thanks for the more reasonable email - it really is appreciated. I certainly don't mind people coming onto my blog to disagree with me, but I felt you have been confrontational and offered little in the way of give and take, making arguments without any backup - eg the "your source of statistics are biased" without any alternative given, and "abortion is promoted in schools" which is absolutely not true - I hate the use of the word "promote" when it comes to education because the literal meaning of that is that schoolchildren are told "abortion is good", which would of course be abhorrent. Discussion and tolerance should be promoted - not any one particular belief. There was the similar problem of the "promotion of homosexuality" in schools, which was never ever promotion (ie you should be gay), but in the best cases would have been open debate (ie some people are gay, yeah, so what).

    The statistics do show that legality has very little impact on the number of abortions performed in any country (mostly likely it actually correlates with lower abortion rates, because education will tend to be better in those same countries and contraception is probably more widely available), but legality has its biggest impact in that young women have access to safe abortion where they are not putting their lives at risk. I'm really pleased that our student in Tanzania did not have an abortion - I certainly don't think she should have, and I think that where possible abortion should be avoided - it's a horrible horrible thing to have to do. Sometimes, however, women and girls are left in a position where they feel they have no choice, and the reasons for that need to be understood sympathetically. Making it illegal and not talking about it is not an option - that's what gives rise to the worst possible result, which is two girls out of three in a rural Tanzanian school getting an unsafe abortion in someone's hut.

    The statistics from the Guttmacher Institute are pretty sound - there will of course be some inherent bias in any organisation, but that does not mean you can dismiss them because of this. The statistics will have mostly been taken from national statistics, measured in a standard way (except in the case of unsafe abortions, which is rather more problematic, for obvious reasons). I've already discussed them in the post below, with comparison to UK statistics, and reference to the misuse of statistics to suit the media's "story" - ie the UK's "runaway" teenage pregnancy and abortion problems, which *are* real problems, and *are* concerning, but are by no means yet beyond the pale:

    Clicky

    I'm not ideological about this at all. I'm pragmatic and want to find solutions that work, not raise the roof over issues of morality and rights. And that is very much the right-wing media's agenda - to scream "scandal!" and sell more papers. All the media do this, but the likes of the Mail, Express and Telegraph excel when it comes to this particular sector, and they will compare like-for-unlike details to suit the story - I don't have such an agenda and I am not paranoid about it - I'm just extremely skeptical. Take this HPV vaccine rubbish, again from the Daily Mail:

    Clicky

    So, 1 in 7 say it may make them more promiscuous. So that means that 6 in 7 say it will have no effect or make them more careful. This is a newspaper that will constant focus on body-image issues (eg see the long-term bullying of Natalie Cassidy), and rail against the sexual lifestyles of young women, whilst constantly publishing images of female celebrities in bikinis, because it sells.

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  15. I'm sorry if I appear to be the one to have brought up religion (I think it was between the two of us, as it was the point of the discussion from Kate's blog). I don't advocate any kind of discrimination in this, and that is why I don't think parents should be able to withdraw their children. The parents are not being denied any right to contribute to their own children's education, and schools should not be telling children what to believe (in fact, telling children that they should believe one argument over all others is against the teacher's code of conduct - note that's not the same as a teacher expressing their own opinion, which until fairly recently was also, unrealistically, not allowed).

    It is society's collective responsibility to provide good citizenship/PSHE education to the next generation (no matter how Mickey Mouse some think those subjects may be), and issues and different viewpoints should be discussed openly. That allows young people to make their own lifestyle choices safely - if they are only presented with their parents' opinion, and they rebel against that, they probably don't then have the necessary toolkit to make sure they are safe. It also prevents people from being exposed to others' opinons and encourages segregation and intolerance. A 'balanced' education, as you asked in the comments, allows children to hear as many different viewpoints as possible, and judge them critically. If children of religious parents feel that some things such as contraception or abortion are not available options to them, that's fine and they will have all the information to make their own suitable choice, but it's not against their religion to discuss them and the reasons why other people use them - it's not a reason to withdraw a child from class.

    Parents cannot know everything and they cannot convey the entire debate to their children - I would never be arrogant enough to suggest that I know better than the parents. Of course in examples of misuse of school power and indoctrination, parents should withdraw their children from school, but there is nothing extreme about sexuality education in the UK - mediocrity yes, but no indoctrination.

    And that's where I think the Government have made a mistake with this. They've announced that it will be compulsory, but are yet to announce *what* will be compulsory - syllabus details are very sketchy at the moment. So I disagree when you say that the content is the red herring - I think it is the withdrawal age limit that is the red herring - it affects very few and the majority of parents seem to be in favour. The content is key - sex education so far in the UK has been rubbish, and it's difficult to argue that it should now be compulsory without actually detailing how it's going to be improved. The hints sound promising, and it sounds like they read and paid attention to UNESCO's guidelines (paying attention to independent recommendations on education isn't the Labour Government's strong point, let's face it). If they include discussion on the portrayal of sexuality in the media, for example, I'll be especially pleased, as I think this is arguably the biggest factor in adolescents' sexual adventurism, and any open challenge to and debate about this has got to be welcomed.

    I always think one word is pretty fatal to anyone's argument that sex education encourages promiscuity: Holland.

    Also, just in case you were thinking I argue from any other position - the starting point for any education about the act of sex (which is only a small part of sex education) should always be: "The best way not to get STIs or pregnant, is not to have sex." It's probably something I don't say that often in debate, because it is a given.

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  16. I'm sorry if I was snarky as well - I'll admit that I was annoyed about you referring to a different discussion, partly because at the beginning of that thread (before you joined in) I was a bit incoherent and muddled in my arguments myself - I know how easy it is to do. Apologies for calling you intolerant,

    If you want me to, I'll open up the comments again and we can post these emails in. If you want to delete any previous comments or just leave it be, I'll add a comment on to note that we've discussed this on email rather more happily.

    Cheers again for your email
    Phil

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  17. Thanks for posting these emails Phil. Interesting discussion

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  18. Hi Phil

    Sorry it has taken so long for me to reply again to this thread. It isn't a topic I enjoy writing about and wanted to make sure I had enough time to sit down and write something properly. The original post has dropped off your front page, but I'm assuming you'll get an email when I hit the submit button.

    Regarding what you say about looking sympathetically on girls who have been given no choice but abortion, I agree entirely. I do not think the way to express that sympathy is to argue for even easier access to clinical infanticide. Of course young people need to be aware of what abortion is, but I hear too many voices coming out with facile arguments that the fetus is not really a child, it's not really killing, etc, which amount to nothing more than excuses for the practice. This is certainly where Cruella was coming from in our earlier discussion, and I didn't hear you jumping in to disagree with her! I don't believe this debate can move forward as long as one side insists on dehumanising the unborn. Can you see where I'm coming from when I don't see why my children should be exposed to this? Children shouldn't need to provide the witness on this to their teachers and classmates, but that is what they are forced to do if they don't go along with the mainstream consensus (That or they have to just keep their mouths shut).

    On the Guttmacher thing, we will have to agree to disagree. I won't spend my time going through the stats produced by the very industry I would see outlawed (actually, i probably will at some point when I know I have the time). They profiteer off abortion mills, and of course an organisation which stands to gain state and UN funding for its activities will say it is better for those activities to be legal. They don't just produce research and statistics, but actively campaign for the promotion of abortion as a human right, as is evident from the way they frame the whole discussion. To be honest, I find it staggering that anyone can argue there has been a REDUCTION in abortions post-legalisation! There are massive numbers of children killed every year through this procedure, and we're living in a country that is even talking about advertising it as a commercial service on television, before the watershed no less! If you want a different take on Guttmacher then you could check out SPUC, who vociferously condemned the report when it came out.

    Besides all of which, the argument is kind of missing the point. All abortion is wrong, whether it's done legally or illegally.

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  19. Ronan: I find you response very interesting and I would be inclined in a sense to agree when you say that all abortion is wrong - legal or not - the solution is, as Phil has said, not to have sex in the first place. But I acknowledge that pregnancy in all manner of societies can create severe problems and my idealism may not be shared.

    You say:

    "I do not think the way to express that sympathy is to argue for even easier access to clinical infanticide."

    I wonder what you would propose the solution would be for those who are pregnant and who, for social and health reasons, cannot or should not (depending on their opinion and circumstances) keep the child? For example, if giving birth would mean no access to education, healthcare or, hypothetically, would mean complete ostracization from society or family?

    I may not agree with abortion, but I much prefer that the girl/woman survives over the other options of: her dying by illegal backstreet abortion or her being declined of vital services because of giving birth, thus condeming herself and her child. I hope there are other options, but I can't think of any. Making legal abortion difficult to access surely condemns her to these options?

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  20. Ronan: two main points, as briefly as possible before bed.

    1. I understand and support your position in so far as abortion is a horrible procedure, and is terminating a potential life.

    I mean life in the sense of being a part of society, and having connections and relationships other than that of unborn mother to child - I'm not going to get into whether this is more or equally important a life as the life of the unborn child (as I don't think 'important' is the right word and it leads to entrenched arguments rather than meaningful debate), but I don't think it's unreasonable to recognise that in general the loss of someone who has already been born is going to impact directly on more people than the loss of someone who is unborn, which is going to impact on the mother primarily, and arguably exclusively. Primarily (and possibly with a very small number of close relatives and/or the father) it is the mother who makes the decision to terminate.

    Now, I just want to outline that I don't think the term infanticide is either helpful or fair. You are entitled to decide that you think abortion and infanticide are of equal moral status, but they are not the same thing - they are not the same process, and they do not affect people in the same way.

    What happens when you use emotive terms like that is that people become entrenched and will not find any common ground. It's also totally lacking in empathy if you begin entirely from a "killing is wrong" starting point.

    People take the decision to terminate a pregnancy very seriously indeed. It's a hugely complicated decision, and in most cases a decision either way is going to result in pain and suffering of either a physical or psychological kind.

    Outlawing abortion will only stop a small number of women from considering this option. It will not stop women from getting pregnant in the first place, and it will put thousands of women at extra risk, as many will make a decision to have an unsafe abortion.

    Open understanding and discussion of the reasons for this can only be a good thing.

    It is not for teachers to make any kind of judgment and to make pupils agree with either side - but they should promote understanding of why millions of women around the world take a very difficult decision. The "killing is wrong, end of" argument doesn't allow this understanding to happen.

    I really think you underestimate the professionalism of teachers. And again, the new programme *should* (the Government need shooting if this is not implemented) be delivered by qualified properly trained specialist PSHE teachers.

    I don't agree with the "it's not really killing" argument, I understand and kind of partially agree with the "it's not really a child" argument, but for the same reason as above, I don't think it's the right starting point.

    It should be "why?" and "what effect does this have?" first and foremost before making any moral judgments. If you make the moral judgment first that only hinders empathy and understanding.

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  21. 2. Guttmacher: I understand where you are coming from. The Guttmacher figures would at first seem to indicate that the correlation is between legality of abortion and number of abortions.

    This would be a wrong assumption to make from the figures, and that is not what either Guttmacher or I are claiming (well, I've not seen any quote from Guttmacher that has made that mistake) - Clicky.

    There has been a significant reduction in abortions over the period given, on average, in countries where safe abortions are accessible. There has been a very small reduction, on average, in countries where safe abortions are not accessible.

    The biggest drops have been in Eastern Europe, where there have been successful contraception campaigns.

    The relationship that the data truly demonstrates, is a link between good access to SRH knowledge and low rates of unwanted pregnancies.

    In the UK, however, we continue to see a worrying, but by no means runaway (yet), trend of increasing numbers of abortions.

    This is partly because access to SRH knowledge is not very good - it's okay, and better than most of the world, but by some of our neighbouring countries' standards, it's pretty crap.

    Holland have a similar Sex Ed programme to what the Government seem to be proposing (I really wish they would actually publish their plans properly), and have an astonishingly low teen pregnancy rate. That's what I'd like to see repeated in the UK.

    ***

    I don't know about you, but I'm kinda hoping to reach an agree-to-disagree plateau soon.

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  22. Simon

    It depends what you mean by 'social' or 'health' reasons. If society demands that the child must die, then society must go the way of Carthage. As for health reasons, one can distinguish between an act intended to save the mother's life resulting indirectly in the child's death, and an act which is specifically designed to kill the child. That is the line taken by medical professionals in Ireland. I often hear the abortion laws justified on the grounds of rape or health risks. If abortion were limited to those few cases then this would be considered a massive victory for the pro-life movement, as the numbers would plummet. In fact these kinds of arguments are a fig-leaf for a culture which treats children as disposable.

    Are you serious that you can think of no other options for a girl than aborting her child? The solution is to create a more child friendly society, which does not sexualise children at such a young age, but also provides support for them when pregnancy does occur. Support is NOT telling schoolgirls that Mam and Dad will lether them when (if) they find out, and that they'll be thrown out of school when the bump starts showing. That is called coercion. We can offer better than this, and I'm sure if you tried really, really hard you *could* think of ways to support young mothers.

    Phil

    I will not engage in the point and counterpoint regarding your bizarre redefinition of human life. It is an argument i have been having since receiving sex ed myself, and i do not want to be a sounding board for arguments that deny the humanity of the unborn. Answering those points only lends them more credibility than they deserve and, yes, i believe you will become more entrenched as you convince yourself that you can change physical and biological realities with clever manipulation of language. I do not wish to encourage you in doing so.

    As for compassion, it is false compassion to tell a mother to kill her child, and it is false compassion to lie to women post-abortion by telling them their child was neither human nor alive. As long as a woman believes that then she cannot begin the healing process required to come to terms with what has been done to her and her child. I think it is unfair of you to automatically assume responsibility for abortion lies with the mother. I'm sure in all cases the mother signed the consent forms so that everything is nice and legal, but given that the industry relies on the discourse you are peddling, it can hardly be called an informed choice. Then there's all the social pressures which instill fear at a time when a mother needs encouragement and support. Parents, teachers and partners who pressure mothers to abort whilst parroting lies about 'it' not 'really' being human all have a share in culpability. Most culpable of all are the 'doctors' who perform and profit from the procedure, and who can hardly plead ignorance of the biological facts.

    At the end of the day, you have confirmed my reluctance to allow my children to be taught by those with your beliefs, because it sounds like they will be told they are judgemental and will be barred from speaking the truth about the unborn. Agree to disagree if you like, but I'll reserve the right to pull my child out of such a discriminatory environment, regardless of what the law says.

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