Written by Student Rights on 2 August 2012 at 1pm

Abortion education survey highlights influence of religion in schools

A recent article by the organisation ‘Education for Choice’ which published the results of a survey carried out into pupils experiences of abortion education in schools has highlighted some worrying examples of religious pressure being put on students.

In many cases respondents claimed that abortion education had taken place in religious studies lessons, in some cases being given by priests.

Compounding this are claims that in some cases outside organisations had come into schools and given presentations which promoted an overtly religious stance on the matter.

One former student from Surrey told the survey that “The women who came in showed us pictures and videos of late stage abortions...All the experiences seemed designed to put students off abortion or make those who had already had an abortion feel guilty or like murderers”. 

Another pupil claimed that “(I was taught that abortion) was immoral, murder etc, every child has the right to life sort of thing and that the mother would go straight to hell for it...we had no facts or balanced arguments”.

In one case it is alleged that a girl who had had an abortion was singled out in class, a 14 year old from Wales saying that the teacher “called on a girl who had had an abortion and asked for her opinion on the matter. No one else was encouraged to discuss what they thought and I left the lesson feeling as though abortion was something to be ashamed of”.

In March 2012 it was also revealed that Christian anti-abortion campaigners had been visiting schools across the UK and in some cases had been making extremely controversial statements, including that abortions could increase the risk of breast cancer.

Student Rights have recently spoken to Higher Education students about this issue and were told that in April 2011 an organisation called ‘Life’ had attempted to set up a ‘Care Centre’ on campus at Lancaster University.

‘Life’ have been accused of claiming that abortion leads to increased suicide rates among women as well as repeating the unfounded claim that women who have an abortion have a greater chance of developing breast cancer.

In a Freedom of Information request seen by Student Rights it seems that after protests by students the Dean of Student Services at the university suggested that Lancaster should not be “associated with this group, ask them not to flyer and preclude [the] use of premises”.

He was joined in this by the Head of Colleges at the university who agreed, saying that Life’s promotional material was “giving a false message” and that they were “not transparent about their stance in the information which is going to students”.

This is very encouraging and Lancaster University should be commended for standing up for their student’s pastoral care in this way. However, the fact that they were able to work their way onto campus in the first place is something that we should be concerned about.

Student Rights are continuing to look into the suggestion that evangelical Christian groups may be beginning to use university facilities to spread misinformation and to intimidate students when they are at their most vulnerable.

If you have any information about such activities taking place on your campus please feel free to contact us as we rely on students to help us challenge such behaviour.