'Shock and horror' anti-abortion presentations spark row

26th November 2010 at 00:00
Sexual health charity attacks pro-life group's 'propaganda'

A row has broken out over the "shock and horror" anti-abortion material that pro-life groups are increasingly presenting to children in schools.

The graphic images of foetal body parts and surgery being shown to pupils have been described as "bullying and intimidating" by the Family Planning Association (FPA).

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc), which uses a series of explicit photos in its presentations, has reported growing numbers of invitations to schools. The organisation said it makes these visits on an "almost daily basis".

Its presentations include photos of aborted foetuses and dismembered limbs - images that are too graphic to be printed in The TES.

They also show pupils what it claims are an aborted baby's feet in the hand of a doctor. The image is reproduced on badges that, according to the presentation slides, are available for pupils to buy.

Spuc's presentations also include claims that abortion is linked to breast cancer and infertility - assertions that medical experts deny.

Visits by Spuc and other pro-life groups to schools have prompted warnings from teaching groups and sexual health charities that pupils are being given biased information.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of FPA, said: "Presentations like these are used for indoctrination and propaganda.

"The whole tone is bullying and intimidating, and it's inaccurate. It is entirely about shocking young people, and is not based on scientific or medical facts."

Ms Bentley said that claimed links between abortion and breast cancer and infertility were "wrong", and added there was no evidence for "post-abortion trauma" - another claim made in Spuc's presentations.

Eileen Brydon, education officer at Spuc, said pupils were often "gobsmacked" by what they saw in the presentations, but added: "What we do is not about scaremongering - it's about good education.

"Of course the images are shocking - abortion should not happen. But it is sensitively handled."

According to Spuc, pupils are always warned in advance before graphic slides are shown, so they can look away if they choose.

John Lloyd, policy adviser to the PSHE Association, said: "There's a very strong argument that schools should give an alternative view on abortion, but there's a statutory requirement for schools not to promote bipartisan political views.

"I could certainly look at this and say it's a form of propaganda. We do not approve of shock and horror approaches."

Pro-choice charity Education for Choice has begun an audit of schools in England to establish more widely what material is being used.

James Gray, education campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association, said: "Presentations like this demonstrate the need for statutory sex and relationship education. The current arrangements make it all too easy for vocal groups, many with hard-line religious agendas, to supply misinformation."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "We trust heads to make decisions about who they allow into their schools to talk to pupils."

RC school's view

'Pupils grateful'

Spuc, according to the group, is invited into a mixture of faith and non-faith schools, with many booking it year after year.

St Peter's Catholic College, a secondary in Middlesbrough, has been hosting Spuc for a number of years. Amy Glanville, head of RE, said: "In society, abortion is shown as an easy option, but Spuc shows beautiful pictures of a baby developing in the womb.

"There are pictures of babies that have been aborted, and for a few seconds pupils see the consequences of abortion. They are shocked, but also grateful because nobody has told them before what actually happens."

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