Anti-choicers in a school near you

// 26 November 2008

Anti-choice groups such as the ‘Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child’ are being invited to give presentations at secondary schools:

Rawnie Chapman-Kitchin, 15, was aghast when her teacher compared abortion to Nazism, saying that in time history would view both with the same revulsion. “I’d been expecting a regular RE class, but a different teacher was called in to do a talk called Abortion is Murder,” she says. “He showed horrifying pictures of dead foetuses, but there was no opportunity to opt out. It was very much a case of ‘this is the way you need to think’.

The Guardian reported on a glut of anti-choice propoganda making its way into the school system earlier this week. From the feature it doesn’t sound like schools are providing a counterbalance by asking groups such as Abortion Rights to give presentations from the other perspective:

Samantha Bracey, Rawnie’s mother, is amazed that more parents, and schools, are not taking a stand. “I was really concerned when my daughter told me about the disturbing images she was shown, and even more so when I discovered she’d been told abortions were carried out via caesarean section [called hysterotomy abortions], which isn’t true. The teacher consistently referred to the embryo or foetus – medically recognised terms – as a baby, and claimed that pro-abortionists did not use the term ‘baby’ as it was too emotive.”

When Bracey approached the school – Chapel-en-le-Frith high school in Derbyshire – she was assured that, in future, pro-choice opinions would be explored within the class. “But the teacher who gave the talk still said his intention would be to win his argument, which seems to me to be missing the purpose of education,” she says. “Surely issues like abortion should be addressed in a way that makes all the facts available, rather than merely opinion, thus enabling the students to reach a conclusion by informed debate. When it comes to abortion, it’s so important – it can affect the rest of their lives.”

Meanwhile, the FPA has today launched a DVD for use in schools called Why Abortion? From their press release:

Why Abortion? can be used with any young person aged 14 and above by teachers, youth and community workers, social services and health professionals. It is also suitable for work with adults, particularly women’s groups.

The DVD uses short drama pieces to portray different situations that women face in relation to an unplanned pregnancy. There are nine scenarios in total and each is followed by a discussion among a group of young people.

Why Abortion? raises issues around abortion for both women and men. One scenario explores the feelings of a woman’s partner as he tries to come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy. The DVD is accompanied by a manual to help guide professionals working through some of these complex issues. The DVD can be used by schools within Personal, Social and Health Education or Religious Education classes.

Julie Bentley, Chief Executive, fpa said: “Behind every abortion statistic is a woman making a difficult decision about her life. Why Abortion? will provide an excellent starting point for a discussion around abortion issues and will give people the chance to explore the many reasons why women may choose to have an abortion.

“One in five pregnancies (1) ends in abortion and one in two men knows a woman who has had an abortion (2)”, continued Julie. “Abortion is a fact of life that affects both women and men. Therefore, it is important that young people’s education includes the opportunity to discuss important issues such as this in a safe and supportive environment.”

Comments From You

Cara // Posted 26 November 2008 at 12:06 pm




is giving talks that

a. present untrue information – i.e. supposed caesarian section abortions – and

b. using emotive terms like ‘baby’ and ‘abortion is murder’


Is there some kind of professional body for teachers we can complain to?

Seriously. That is not on. These are still kids at an impressionable age and they may take whatever a teacher says as true.

Also as you say, Jess, the job of teachers is not to present one-sided opinions but to educate. If it had been a *debate* with *both sides* of the argument shown, fair enough, but it isn’t.

This is disgusting.

Laura Woodhouse // Posted 26 November 2008 at 12:20 pm

These people make me so incredibly angry. Fine, take a look at the arguments against abortion in RE/Ethics classes, but don’t allow anti-abortionists to present half truths and outright lies as genuine facts or arguments.

I went to a SPUC meeting once, and I have never seen so much crap spouted in my entire life. The vast majority of arguments they put forward for abortion to be banned were actually examples of why access to abortion and support for women thinking about having an abortion should be improved (look, this woman had to bleed into her toilet at home, so traumatic, ban abortion – no, make sure that women are properly cared for before, during and after the procedure, etc). The rest was lies about the non-existant post-abortion syndrome and how contraception is murder.

That kind of rubbish should not be fed to kids and young people.

Cath Elliott // Posted 26 November 2008 at 2:32 pm

A couple of years ago my daughter’s school had someone in from Life to talk to the lower 6th students.

They were told that abortion was wrong in all circumstances, even if there were foetal abnormalities, and even after rape. They were also told that abortion would lead to fertility problems later on in life and so on.

When I found out about the visit and about the crap these kids had been told, I wrote to the head of 6th form and complained.

He didn’t reply to me, in fact he avoids me like the plague even now (I can’t think why) but he told my daughter to pass on the message that in future he will ensure that there are speakers from both sides of the debate.


Kat // Posted 26 November 2008 at 3:46 pm

Way back when I was still at school, my (Catholic) school had a “special assembly” when I was 16. It was a 2 hour long anti-abortion tirade, complete with video footage of purported abortions. We were given no warning that we would be viewing horribly graphic images (the lovely speakers described some of the scenes as, I quote “murdered babies thrown into buckets”), and neither did we have a choice not to attend the assembly. Despite our entire year petitioning for a pro-choice perspective, we were denied it on the basis that it wasn’t inline with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Martyn // Posted 26 November 2008 at 4:21 pm

I read that article – scary stuff. It just beggars belief that any school is knowingly letting these people in – it makes you wonder what else is slipping under the radar.

Aideen // Posted 26 November 2008 at 6:54 pm

Really weird. I went to a Catholic grammar school (in Northern Ireland, no less) but they would have never tried to pull this shit on us. We did discuss the issue in RE/ethics class but my teacher, though clearly pro-life, did a really good job of providing an unbiased opinion and playing devils advocate with both the pro-choice and pro-life among us.

Jesseka // Posted 26 November 2008 at 7:55 pm

I can remember having anti-abortionists come to talk to us in class when I was in year 10. Though I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the organisation.

I went to a secular comprehensive. It was not a balanced lesson. We did not discuss that this was but one point of view. I remember it really affected me at the time.

Looking back on it now it makes me angry. I can’t believe that people are getting away with this.

Anna // Posted 26 November 2008 at 8:55 pm

You and me both, Kat – then again my school currently has it’s tagline is ‘boys and girls are as different from the neck up as they are from the neck down’. but yes.. we had an RE teacher who distributed badges with tiny hand and footprints on them. ‘this is how big the baby’s hands and feet are at 4 weeks’.

Mobot // Posted 26 November 2008 at 11:21 pm

Holy shit… I’m all for freedom of speech and people’s right to their views (even if they involve disgusting, misogynistic rubbish in my opinion) but this is nothing short of old-school indoctrination. I can’t believe these people are allowed to give compulsory rants, sorry – *talks* – to young people! I remember a similar situation occurring when scientologists got into our schools to spout their ultra conservative anti-drugs tirade… only this is even worse.

Nina // Posted 27 November 2008 at 12:33 am

Frankly if my child experienced this I would be at the school the next day to see the head teacher, I would ask to review all of the sex education material in advance and if they didn’t discipline the teacher in question I would pull my kid out of the school. Misinformation in an educational environment is completely unacceptable and the school should be regarded as a failure. No child should have to see images like that unless they choose to.

Sarah // Posted 27 November 2008 at 8:40 am

Ugh! I recently sat with my friend throughout 27 hours of her 40 hour labour. In my opinion, the idea that a woman is not entitled to a choice of whether or not to go through that, is just plain barbaric.

Sarah // Posted 27 November 2008 at 8:45 am

Sorry to spam. I can’t believe this is going on in schools!!! It’s bad enough that the Brook have to deal with any young girl who is worried about being pregnant. My GP told me I was careless, refused to do anything about it, including giving me a test, and sent me to ‘the brook’ (I had no idea what this was), saying he didn’t know where it was as he didn’t ‘live around here’. The brook were brilliant and the whole thing was relatively untraumatic. The female doctor there also found out that the debilitating migraines I’d been having were down to the contraceptive pill I’d been on since I was 11 (for acne) – an apparently well-known contraindication. The previous doctors I’d seen had dismissed them completely.

Anne Onnew // Posted 27 November 2008 at 12:57 pm

Good Grief. Teachers like that should be sacked. I’m not kidding. It would not be acceptable to tell your pupil you think they will go to hell for being a different religion, it should not be acceptable for teachers to push their private (usually) religion-based beliefs on their pupils.

someone should show that teacher horrifying pictures of women who have died in labour or through having an unsafa abortion. Now THAT’s murder.

The twit is right, though. We DON’T use the term baby as it IS too emotive. It’s too emotive because a foetus is NOT a baby, and hoping that several months later it will be one doesn’t make it one now.

At least the ‘Why Abortion?’ DVD sounds like it might be good.

But it’s very, very underhand to allow anti-choice propaganda, and not have anyone there to counter the argument.

So many women choose to have an abortion, it’s such an important choice to be allowed to have, I hate how only the pro-life side gets an airing. Evne in soaps or on TV, it’s always the ‘she had an unexpected baby but she bravely decided to keep it’ schick. I get that some women are raped/lave a partner etc and decide it’s right for them to keep it, but without the counterbalance of society showing it’s OK to abort, all this focus on keeping the foetus no matter what causes a culture where women are pressured into carrying to term because it’s what everyone else is doing.

I want more talk about abortion. More decent storylines featuring abortion where women are not shamed for their choices and don’t regret it. I want kids to be taught the facts. Why do we still need this?

Esther // Posted 29 November 2008 at 12:27 am

“The rest was lies about the non-existant post-abortion syndrome and how contraception is murder.”

Post-Abortion Syndrome does exist. I speak as a woman who suffers from it. I was originally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I think that PAS describes my symptoms much better. I don’t want to shy away from what caused my problems.

I believe that abortion should be kept legal, and I believe that multiple sides of any argument should be discussed freely in schools, but after what happened to me I don’t think I can comfortably describe myself as pro-choice any more. I’ve met a lot of women in my situation who feel the same. Don’t try to write off our experiences by saying that the syndrome is ‘non-existent’. This thing that gives me nightmares and makes me wake up in a panic is as real as the procedure itself – and, dare I say it, as real as I know the child to have been.

As pro-choice activists keep saying, abortion is a ‘difficult decision’. It can have a difficult aftermath too.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 November 2008 at 12:17 pm

Esther: I can only talk for myself, but the reason why I’m wary of the Right’s arguments about PAD are different to the beliefs I hold about women who did find their abortions traumatic. Individual people react differently in different situations, and as feminists we don’t aim to argue that women will never regret a termination, or be affected by it, because everyone is different, and not everybody makes the right decision for them. That’s part of life in that we can all make really big mistakes, or do something we later regret. It’s important women who have had problems with their abortions (whether during or after, physical or psychological) have support and aren’t judged for not having a perfect, easy abortion. I hope you’re getting the support you deserve, and your experience is as real as anyone else’s.

The reason it needs to be legal is because it affects everyone differently. For some women abortion isn’t a difficult decision, and for some it is. Some have no regrets and some do. But it’s always the ‘women who have regrets’ who get trotted out by anti-choicers, it’s only the women who choose to keep their baby against the odds who get publicised, not the women who go through with it and have a normal life. One side of the story, the side which probably most women who have abortions fall on, is being ignored.

Also, there are many decisions in life we may regret or be traumatised badly, but nobody’s advocating people’s rights to be removed in these areas. Joining the army is likely to cause someone death, serious injury and mental stress. Also, it involves killing, of probably as many innocent civilians (including children!) as soldiers. Yet none of the Right wing are suggesting we take away men’s rights to be soldiers, no matter how harmful it may be to them. They do grouse about women being in the army, though. Because although men can agree to the above risks, women are just too weak to cope and too airheaded to make the choice for themselves.

Also, cosmetic surgery. Normally completely elective (ie not medically necessary). It’s normally far more extensive than an abortion (time taken, physical after effects), and every surgery carries a risk. You could die on the operating table during a surgery you didn’t need. And there’s a chance that the results won’t please you and you’d be very disappointed or horrified. However, the Right aren’t advocating banning cosmetic surgery, despite the risks and chances of being traumatised.

Even if there are chances that someone will regret a decision, we can’t ban them from having that decision, and it’s not up to us to pressure someone into it. They deserve all the facts, but they should be just that. Not scientifically false information, not gory pictures of (who else is forced to see pictures of surgery gone wrong?)’babies’ that were probably stillbirths. The Pro-lifers normally have absolutely apalling knowledge of embryology and what a foetus looks like at different stages, and consistently present older, more ‘human’- looking foetuses as being younger, because if people could see what a foetus looks like at x weeks, they would be less likely to believe people are ready-made at conception.

However, the Right don’t actually have women’s interests in heart. For a start, they don’t advocate better care and support for women before or after abortions, despite supposedly believing that abortions are very likely to harm women.

For feminists, it’s more complicated, since many women have outstanding circumstances around their pregnancy that are likely to affect the woman’s mood after termination. Yes, some women do suffer trauma or grief as a result of a termination, many women who face depression or problems after a termination are facing these due to other factors in their life. It could well be that women in these situations are more likely to deem that they need an abortion, so more likely to then say after it that they are depressed.

Either way, we’re the ones arguing for support of women before and after, for the chance to make the choice, but the education and support to hopefully make the best choice, and for support in dealing with the result of that choice, whether it be a baby or a termination.

Kim // Posted 30 November 2008 at 2:45 pm

I guess I was lucky to have had three RE teachers (one male, two female) who all allowed dissenting opinions. They were all Christian, but they didn’t disapprove if someone questioned the existence of God or disagreed with any of their beliefs. In fact, I don’t know much about what their views on abortion were – and that’s the way it should be, because I ended up deciding my own view, not just repeating theirs! If they had repeatedly told me how evil abortion was, I don’t think I’d have the same view now. Information can be taught, but beliefs can’t – that’s called brainwashing.

Shea // Posted 30 November 2008 at 6:08 pm

Good post Anne- I agree with all of it. Esther, could it be that the circumstances surrounding your abortion were traumatic and that this was the cause of PAS? There is also the question of how late the pregnancy was and whether this was the beginning of post natal depression.

Esther // Posted 30 November 2008 at 9:29 pm

I don’t believe that abortion should be made illegal, so you and I are on the same page there.

However, I do take issue with several other parts of your post. There is one sentence that I find very triggering:

“Not scientifically false information, not gory pictures of (who else is forced to see pictures of surgery gone wrong?)’babies’ that were probably stillbirths.”

Some of those pictures are pretty representative of what I saw. (It was an accident – I shouldn’t have seen it.) I don’t want to say any more on this.

I’m also concerned by the way that you associate the pro-life standpoint with the right of the political spectrum. For example, you talk about people’s right to join the army, and then say that you don’t hear the Right grumbling about that – as if that somehow has a bearing on the abortion debate. I know a lot of people who consider themselves to be pro-life and who are also pacifist. It doesn’t make sense. It is possible to be antiwar and pro-life. It is equally possible to be left-wing and pro-life, just as it is possible to be right-wing and pro-choice. People arrive at their opinions for many different reasons, and they can’t always be neatly categorised or lumped together.

It’s only recently that I’ve started to think about all this seriously. After the abortion I was too ill to manage it, and before that I was quite comfortable with calling myself pro-choice. Right now, I don’t consider myself to be either pro-life or pro-choice. I don’t feel able to define my views so clearly any more, and I’ve decided that trying to fit myself into a particular category would do me more harm than good at this stage in my recovery.

I also feel betrayed by both pro-choicers and pro-lifers. Too many pro-lifers would like to make me a poster girl for their viewpoint rather than seeing me as an actual person. Too many pro-choicers go on the defensive and start giving me reasons why abortion should remain legal/telling me about women who weren’t traumatised at all by their abortions/expressing scepticism about my experiences, as if I’ve just launched an attack on their principles rather than sharing my personal pain.

Northern Jess // Posted 2 December 2008 at 5:17 pm

When I had my abortion last year I did not have a bad experiance, the staff were lovely , and my friend who came with me was amazing throughout. I can’t remember the actually operation as was completly out of it and my mind has probably chosen to delete the memory, as it has for other traumatic experiences I have gone through.

For the first few months all was great, well, apart from the usual. I was ‘getting on with my life’- and in a strange way having an abortion made me realise that I was in no situation to support a child on my own and this was my fault, it pushed me into getting a better job and starting some qualifications so that, were I to become pregnant again I could keep it.

The last few months, however, I have felt increasingly awful. I lost my mum a few years ago and am experiencing feelings akin to the grief I felt six-eight months after that. I started revisiting my councellor (sp, sorry!) I went to after my mum and she suggested that my body was actively grieving for the death of my baby. I didn’t quite know how to take this as I am staunchly pro-life and feminist and belive that women should have the choice and the education to make that choice properly. If I was not such a proud fem I would have probably been agreeing with the pro-lifers about the ‘abortion causes mental health problems’. Because I have the education, I understand that grief if NOT a mental health problem, depression caused by grief is. Grief for the loss of what might have been is in my opinion completly natural, and should not be exploited by pro-lifers to stop women thinking they have a choice, or that they will have serious mental health difficulties if they do make that choice to terminate. Abortion should be discussed by young people as part of women’s history, not RE, what has it got to do with RE? Not enough attention is given to the deaths caused by illegal abortions, or to women’s suffering at the hands of laws made by men.

I am so lucky that I got the chance to turn my life around for the better, so that, if and when I CHOOSE to make a mini-jess, for real, I know I will be the best mother i can be.

Anne Onne // Posted 3 December 2008 at 12:30 am

Esther, I’m sorry to have written something triggering. My intention was to state that a lot of the propaganda of the anti-abortion activists involves trying to pass off pictures of older foetuses (which look more recogniseably human) as younger ones. I will admit that the results of abortion are not pleasant. However, the ‘grossness’ factor is something inherent to any operation, and not a reaon to ban it.

I drew the inference between the Right side of the political spectrum and the pro-life/anti-abortion advocates, because most pro-life advocates are right-wing, and many people that consider themselves right-wing are anti-abortion. Being anti-abortion is an integral part of the Republican political strategy, and also that of the Conservatives here. The push to reduce the time limit here only a few months ago was masterminded by Conservative politicians. I don’t mean to suggest that all people who are anti-abortion consider themselves right-wing or vice versa, the fact that a lot of right wing policies are anti-women and generally anti-equality on many levels means that it’s still an important inference to draw.

As for being both pro-life and pacifist: it is very possible to be both. However, (this is more of a problem in the US than the UK, and my view is probably US-centric because most of the feminist sites I frequent are) many people who consider themselves pro-life are not pacifist, nor are they anti-death penalty. These are the policies of the Republican party, so whilst it’s possible to be different, I would argue that anti-abortion sentiment is central to much of what makes the right wing what it is. It’s certainly not 100% representative, nor is it confined to the right wing and people who consider themselves such, but there is a strong overall connection.

I don’t wish to presume on your own political views, or that of other people who transcend the most common political affiliations but point out that one side of the political spectrum as a whole tries to ban abortion.

I hope you’re able to find people with whom you can just share your experiences and feelings for what they are, no pressure.

Northern Jess: I hope you’ll find a happier path than the past.

Although I’m a bit confused by your counsellor: iI wouldn’t have thought a body can grieve: a mind can, a body has no consciousness, even though I’m sure the body must have faced many changes, which must have been difficult to cope with. I’m sure loss and resuting grief or depression can be a natural reaction, and one that everyone reacts to differently.

Thank you, both of you, for sharing your stories. In the patchwork that is women’s experiences with abortions, there is no uniform reaction, and there is no better way to demonstrate that it must be each of our choices than by women sharing their stories. With so much at stake, education and choices are doubly important

Trish // Posted 31 January 2009 at 1:34 am

I cannot begin to explain how reading your blogs have made me feel.I had almost given up!! so thank you. So finally I have found other intelligent women who have had the same experience that I have had . Every site until now that I have read, was utter religious drivel.

When I was a clueless 14yr old in a cathlolic convent school in ireland, they didn’t think twice about showing us photos of alleged abortions, They wouldn’t even think of asking our parents if they could, amd those bloody stupid badges of tiny babies feet and hands, how easy it was for them with the sycophantic irish parents.

It was their god given right, complete abuse of power. oh how I hate everything the church stands for because of this arrogant attitude . I remember in my twenties these “pro-life” people would turn up in our high street with large photos of “aborted babies” and set up stands in the main street.They were never challenged ?!

After reading one or two websites you learn to read the signs…. at the bottom of the more emotive blogs, always the same, some christian site. they dont even bother with fact . Instead horrific graphic descriptions that aren’t even factually correct.

Why cant somebody please just tell it like it is?. As for horror stories, I always used contraception, explained to my doctor that I was using condoms as contraception, one split, so he told me the pill he gave me was the morning after pill, later Il earned that you need one then another later. a loving father of 4 daughters, how dare he decide my future for me.yes my doctor gave me a placebo.When it didn’t work, I had to find a clinic in Enland (despite advertising blackout in Irleand )

Yes it is a truly difficlt decision that stays with you always but if it is thought through , you cannot forever look back at what might have been, you must respect the decision you made, by living the rest of your life to the best of your abillity,otherwise it was all for nothing.And I have been there, and I came out the other side, and when the time is right, I will have chidlren or not as I decide,and no pathetic religion will tell me otherwise ..But I wish there was some proper support for peope like me, due to the lack of it, I have suffered, and tried to cope in my own way.

Aimee // Posted 31 January 2009 at 11:36 am

This… can’t be in England? Surely?! Surely there is absolutely no way that schools can be allowed to do this?!

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