Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, told the media today:
“The previous government spent £300 million on promoting contraception and school-based sex ed under the teenage pregnancy strategy. It is now widely accepted that that strategy was a massive failure. Yet the group claims absurdly that the rise in teenage abortions is a proof that such a strategy has worked.In addition, SPUC also believes that the government needs to take the following action:
“The group should be bowing out with an apology for accelerating teenage abortions and rising sexually transmitted infections, with all the associated misery. Instead the group has issued a final hurrah designed to dress up its failure with statistical tricks and distortions. To cap the failure, the group calls for more of the same after they have gone.
“Teenage pregnancy may actually be more frequent now than twenty years ago. The statistics are obscured by the techniques used. The group’s claim that teenage conceptions are the lowest for 20 years excludes an unknown number of babies aborted early in pregnancy by hormonal birth control like the morning after pill, which, according to its makers, may fail to prevent conception and cause an early abortion instead. The promotion of the morning after pill may have masked many conceptions in recent years.
“Gill Frances’ claim that public funding for contraceptives saves the NHS money is based on a false assumption: that giving teenagers easy access to contraception without parents knowing cuts conception and abortion rates. It doesn't.
“The Coalition government needs to review the whole approach. It should insist on an independent review of evidence for preventing teenage pregnancy and abortion."
1) Take a hard look at the evidence for the current strategy of promoting contraception and abortion for adolescents.
Campaigns promoting contraception are counter-productive. Contraception has a very high failure among teenagers. To give them condoms or other forms of contraception is simply to play Russian roulette with pregnancy and infection. Most of the young woman who have an unintended pregnancy and then consider abortion had actually been using contraception at or around the time they became pregnant.
2) Re-engage with parents in teaching children about responsible sexual behaviour.
The most effective approach to improving the prospects for teenagers is to support them via their parents. International human rights law says that parents are the first and foremost educators of their children, so it is the parents of teenagers, not schools or the government, who have the right and responsibility to educate their children on sexual matters. Schools, government and charities often pay lip-service to supporting the parents. This needs to be made real. Engaging with parents does not mean replacing them with sex ed teachers or peer educators or school nurses.
3) Ban obscene classroom sex-education.
The current trend to ever more lurid sex education programmes - dubbed "kiddie-porn" by concerned parents - must be stopped. Sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools has become an avenue for sexualising the culture in which children have to live. SRE is now a main vehicle for teaching teenagers how to access abortion and contraception without their parents’ knowing. The medical, social and psychological after effects are suffered by young people, women especially. The wider burdens (such as single parents, treating STIs, subsequent infertility, etc) fall on the taxpayer too. The forthcoming curriculum review will be an opportunity for the government to reassess the damage that current classroom-SRE is doing, and consider alternative approaches.
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