Pupils need schools to “give them the facts” about their options for terminating pregnancies in order to counter “inaccurate” information from pro-life campaigns, according to a motion passed at a teachers’ conference.
Speaking at the National Education Union’s (ATL section) annual conference, teacher Helen Porter said pupils do not necessarily benefit from “a balanced and considered debate about abortion”, stating that “what they do need is teachers … who can give them the facts about what is legal and what is available” in terms of termination provision, reports the Times Educational Supplement.
Discussing a resolution which claimed girls “still face unacceptable delays, threats of violence and intimidation, inaccurate and misleading information and unequal access to abortion services”, Jennifer Marchant, from the union’s Derby and Derbyshire branch, said educators “need to make sure students have got the best, accurate information possible”.
“Many students come from backgrounds where either it is not discussed at home or discussed incorrectly when many students are at home whether through a lack of parental knowledge or whether through a cultural bias,” she told the conference in Liverpool.
“This is about pro-choice – not about pro-life, not about pro-abortion,” she said, adding: “And many people here know that. They know the information that is out there. But many students do not.”
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Asserting that falling pregnant is “traumatic” for young teenagers, Michelle McWaters from Somerset said it is vital schools act as a ‘safe’ space where they feel supported and “are not going to get attacked for having made a certain choice”.
Vincent Conyngham, from the North Yorkshire and York branch, spoke against the motion, stating: “Let’s be clear here, this motion is an alignment with a particular liberal ideology that states that abortion should be available on demand, no questions asked.”
Trevor Cope, a delegate from Devon, said his belief that teachers should keep quiet about political issues in the classroom meant there were parts of the resolution he felt unable to support, such as the call to “adopt a pro-choice position on abortion rights”.
“I need to stay neutral. I need to teach the facts. I do not need a policy dictating what my opinions are,” he said, adding: “I would not have a problem with teaching that abortion is allowed or permitted in this country, but not in that one.”
On Wednesday, a west London council became the first in Britain to ban pro-life campaigners from handing out information about alternatives to termination outside an abortion clinic.
Pro-life activists prayed outside the council building on Tuesday night to protest the move, including a woman who changed her mind about having an abortion after campaigners handed her a leaflet with information about some of the help available for new mothers.
She told Sky News: “There are so many women who have an abortion who can’t live with it. We have to think about them. No one presented them with another option.”