Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.
The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.
Above all, girls need life-planning advice. Too often, sex education defines pregnancy as a pathology, for which the cure is abortion. Adolescent girls must think deeply about their ultimate…
Taken from this week’s Catholic Universe – 14 July 2013
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, is currently under pressure from MPs such as Diane Abbot and Caroline Lucas to introduce compulsory Sex and Relationship education into the curriculum reforms that are currently being formulated. One of the factors behind such calls is the claim that compulsory sex education would have an impact upon Britain’s level of teenage pregnancy which is amongst the highest in Western Europe.
There is no evidence to suggest that policy interventions, including compulsory sex education are having any effect whatsoever upon the rate of teenage pregnancy. In 1999, Tony Blair pumped £280 million into the creation of the Teenage Pregnancy Unit which aimed to reduce the number of teen pregnancies by an eventual 50%, five years later, instead of the hoped-for reduction, there was instead a rise of 0.6%, leading the then Chancellor, Ed Balls, to pledge an additional £20 million to the project.
Professor David Paton, chair of Industrial Economics at Nottingham University pointed out in August 2012 that researchers have been unable to find a correlation between Local Authorities judged to have best Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) policies and those with the biggest decreases in the teen pregnancy rate, which has remained static, give or take the odd blip, over the past forty years, which has only decreased by a small amount over the past few years. Whilst the decrease is welcome, it should be noted that there has been an explosion in the teen STD rate over the same period, indicating that while fewer teens may be falling pregnant, many more of them are contracting diseases which could lead to future infertility. This is due to the large uptake of long-acting-reversible contraceptives such as the hormonal implant which will protect against pregnancy but not against diseases. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that despite being armed with the knowledge on how to protect themselves against pregnancy, teenagers are still indulging in as much if not more risky sex, as ever before.
What is required is behaviour change, which conventional wisdom tries to advocate is neither achievable nor necessarily desirable, but countries which boast the lowest rates of teen pregnancies are those whose teenagers become sexually active at a much later age and have fewer partners.
Teenage pregnancy is for the most part undesirable because in the majority of cases it is unplanned, leads to abortion and presents significant barriers to human flourishing, in a society that is neither mentally, socially or economically equipped to deal with young unmarried mothers. Nonetheless we have to ask ourselves tough questions as Catholics as to whether or not we need to re-think some of our attitudes and stop demonising young pregnant teenagers as a measure of all that’s wrong with the world, if we want to re-build a culture of life.
What the teenage pregnancy statistics demonstrate is that young people are being duped into believing that there is such a concept of safe sex devoid of all consequences. According to statistics the contraceptive pill is the method of choice for teenage girls, which has a typical use failure rate of around 9%, a rate that is often higher in inexperienced or unreliable users who are not aware of the contraindications or the importance of taking it at precisely the same time every day. There is a staggering 18-21% failure rate per year when condoms are used as the main method to avoid pregnancy according to the CDC – the American public health agency.
We therefore have to accept that a certain proportion of teenage girls will always fall pregnant in a society that promotes teenage sex as inevitable and morally neutral and whilst not encouraging teen pregnancy as being a status to which one should aspire, we should do whatever is in our power to nurture, support and protect those young girls who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, while at the same time, working to change behavioural assumptions and expectations.
Obsessing over teen pregnancy statistics or the stigma of teen pregnancy does nothing to stem the tide of young girls knocking on the doors of the abortion clinic. To decide to continue with an unplanned pregnancy without a partner or spouse, without a reliable stable income and before one has finished one’s education is not reckless or irresponsible, but a brave act of heroism, of putting another’s life before yours in a culture that advocates abortion as being the only moral and acceptable solution for young girls. Being pregnant can be a terrifying and scary experience even when it is planned and is even more so for the fifteen or sixteen year old as she watches her life and her body spiral out of control.
Campaigns that aim to shame or stereotype young mothers such as the revolting ‘No Teen Pregnancy’ fronted by assorted teen American celebrities should have no place in any Christian institution or organisation. A child born to a young teenage mother is nothing more than a visible proof of a past sexual sin – something of which many of us are guilty of, only perhaps we have not been caught. I have been privileged to get to know many teen mums in the course of my life, all of whom have been an inspiration, not only in terms of how they have parented their child, the strong bond of mutual love has been a joy to witness, but who also went on to later success in terms of career and family lives. We should be supporting, thanking and asking what we can do to help these young women fulfill their potential as mothers, instead of pursing lips and writing them off.
Lest we forget, the mother of the greatest King of us all, was herself according to tradition, a young teenaged unmarried woman.
If Diane Abbot is correct in her observations that there is a crisis of masculinity in the UK, and indeed the western world, nothing exemplifies this better than two very different campaigns, both predominantly aimed at women and motherhood.
The first is an American campaign called ‘No Teen Pregnancy’ which aims to stigmatise teenage mothers. The campaign is, as Prymface notes, virulently anti-mother, with posters such as these.
The inference is clear, motherhood is unsatisfactory and unfulfilling, no great achievement and only a valid choice later on in life when you may have fulfilled greater, more important goals. Motherhood is, according to the geniuses behind this campaign, a chore, only something to be embraced when you are otherwise tired of life in the fast lane and possess plenty of cash to lavish upon one’s beloved offspring. What does ‘changing the world’ consist of when you are a teenager, in any event? Going out, getting hopelessly drunk, having numerous sexual relationships and emerging battle-scarred, world weary and wiser? Going to University? Why can’t you go to University and be a mother at the same time? Why does motherhood ‘suck’.
Whilst the adverts seek to speak to those teenagers on their level, they are offensive in as much as they seek to appeal to the basest instincts of materialism, consumerism and selfishness.
Admittedly splashing out on consumer goods for your precious little bundle is fun and pleasurable pursuit when pregnant, the idea that the baby needs luxury or designer goods is one dreamt up and promoted by the retail industry. Whilst the latest designer pram or gadget might be fun, the baby knows absolutely no different – so long as they are safe, dry, warm, fed and held, they couldn’t care less whether or not they have co-ordinating crib sheets in a shade of pink or blue, and as a point of safety, the cot in the photo above looks ideal. Drapes, fripperies, pillows, quilts or even soft toys are superfluous in a cot with a newborn baby and all pose potential hazards. Expectant parents who go out and flash the cash do it predominantly for their own pleasure, whilst persuading themselves it’s an altruistic gesture and measure of love.
The message is clear. If you are a teenage mother then you are a failure, you have let yourself and your baby down and should be utterly ashamed of yourself. No-one should be encouraging teenagers to become mothers, but in a society which has failed our young people in terms of the mixed messages that it imparts, seeking to punish and marginalise teenagers who have been sold the lie that sex can be safe and that all choices are equally valid, for not aborting their unborn baby or for getting pregnant in the first instance, is not the answer.
Moreover adverts such as these are a total gift to the abortion industry. This, they say, is the real attitude towards teenage mothers and why abortion is necessary. Teenagers will have to face so much stigma for becoming pregnant in the first instance or not giving their babies up for adoption, that abortion has to be the kinder option. The posters reinforce the notion that unless a pregnancy is planned with ruthless efficiency to occur at a time when a woman is financially and emotionally ‘ready’, she is not capable of being a good mother and doing what is best for her child.
The really insidious agenda here is one which seeks to promote and assert children as having consumer needs which blend into ‘rights’. According to this logic, unless a child can be given a very specific, middle-class start in life, then he or she is going to endure a life of poverty, deprivation and misery and it would be better and kinder if they were not born in the first place, forgetting that the right to life is the most basic of all human rights and supercedes every other consideration. A right to life, is not the same as the right to a comfortable Guardian-reading, middle-class life and should not be confused as such. Furthermore such patronising attitudes display total contempt and arrogance towards those of a different social strata, forgetting that concepts such as joy, happiness, contentment, fulfillment and spirituality transcend man-made social constructs.
The second campaign is one fronted by the TV presenter and journalist Kate Garraway, called Get Britain Fertile which aims to improve chances of conception for couples and stop women from ‘sleepwalking into infertility’ as according to a YouGov survey, 70% of women believe that women having a baby in their forties is too old.
Let’s not fool ourselves here, this campaign is not one of altruism, it’s sponsored and promoted by First Response, a company who manufactures ovulation and pregnancy testing kits and therefore has much to gain by increasing women’s awareness of their fertility.
Like the No to Teen Pregnancy campaign, Get Britain Fertile is based on a sensible premise. Just as it isn’t advisable for most teenagers to become pregnant, we should also not be encouraging women to wait until their are in their late thirties or early forties, before they think about becoming mothers. In the same way that teenage mothers can be a massive drain upon the country’s resources, older mothers can also cost significantly more, not least in terms of cost to the NHS.
Of course cost shouldn’t really be a consideration when we are talking about the welfare of individuals but we also know that becoming a mother at a significantly younger or older age is likely to put additional burden on the individuals involved. In the case of teen mothers these burdens will as likely be financial, in the case of older mothers, the burden will be physical, but both will have psychological knock-on effects. Both ages of motherhood can be ethically problematic, an older mother being more likely to resort to IVF and encountering more health issues, a teenage mother being more likely to be without a partner and/or stability.
Being a younger mother or an older mother has its advantages and disadvantages and one shouldn’t cast generalisations about either group of women. I know plenty of inspirational women who fall into both categories. Friends of mine got pregnant at seventeen, had their children and have wonderful lives and careers with almost grown up children of their own at a stage when I am still knee-deep in feeding and nappies. Other friends have conceived their first child in their forties and have a wealth of wisdom, experience, not to mention enough money to be able to become full-time mothers. Some older mothers I know are total control freaks, used to being in charge of every element of their lives and unable to cope with the sheer unpredictability of an infant, some younger ones have a tendency to irresponsible or feckless behaviour. Mothers aren’t a species apart from the human race, age does not confer or remove an ability to parent, it simply presents a different set of barriers.
But both campaigns are equally frustrating, in that by and large they hone in upon the woman, her needs, wants, desires and physical abilities. In focusing upon age, both campaigns miss the point. The most important thing about having children, is neither age, nor even family income, but family stability. Of far more significance to the overall wellbeing of a child is not the age of their mother, but that they have a mother and a father. The greatest barrier that women face in being mothers, is a lack of support from their children’s fathers. Being a single mother (or father for that matter) is one of the hardest jobs in the world. What mothers need is for the fathers of their children to support and encourage them in their attempts to fulfill their potential as great mothers. What fathers and men need, is for women to support and encourage them in their attempts to be good fathers. Not having a biological parent with an equally vested interest in doing the best thing for the child, to emotionally and financially support mother and child is the biggest obstacle that exists to motherhood – age is utterly immaterial.
A poster campaign isn’t going to change hearts and minds, most younger or older mothers find themselves victims of circumstances, but policy-makers wishing to prevent teen pregnancies and single mothers, need to axe the various government quangos that validate feckless sexual behaviour and disincentivise marriage, misinforming young people that sex can be ‘safe’ and consequence-free.
Equally vital is informing men about the duty and respect that they owe to women, the inherent dignity of motherhood and the importance for children that they are supported by two loving mutually supportive parents. If men are suffering from a crisis of masculinity, it is precisely because sex has been decoupled from procreation and issues related to romantic relationships, parenting and childbearing have been advocated as being solely in the realm of women’s rights. Men have been left out of the equation and seem to be relegated to the role of mere sperm donors.
If it is in the interests of society that women begin to start their families earlier then men need to buy into this concept and learn about their responsibilities towards women as potential and actual mothers of children, as opposed to co-workers, rivals for promotion or recreational sexual partners or objects.
Speaking as one who has had children in her twenties, thirties and will in all probability have another child in her forties, I would state that as long as one is biologically capable of naturally bearing children, one’s ability to mother should not be judged in terms of age. Women of all ages and in all situations are capable of being good mothers. It’s the lack of a father, not the digit on a birth certificate, that needs the most compensating for.
It’s not the age of mothers we should be concerned about, but the role of fathers. Get the importance of families, commitment and stability straightened out in the minds of politicians, alongside the vital and crucial work of motherhood, the average age of the first-time mother will plummet as will the teenage pregnancy rate.
Allison Pearson’s column in yesterday’s Telegraph gives pause for thought if one has children who are attending a mixed-sex school. In the absence of many single-sex state schools, not many people are able to afford private single-sex schools or to be able to give up an income to home school. As Pearson says, if this happens in an upper-class boarding school, it’s going to be happening in schools up and down the country.
It is scandalous that one the one hand parents are being asked to take responsibility for their children’s internet, politicians seem to be finally waking up to the fact that we live in an over-sexualised society and yet on the other parents are actively excluded from information pertaining to their children’s sexual health decisions.
Is it really such a consistent idea to be encouraging teenagers to be experimenting with sex so long as it is with each other and ‘consensual’ whilst at the same time acknowledging that children are exposed to unprecedented amounts of sexual pressure, regardless of their gender. How is encouraging children that it’s perfectly acceptable to sexually experiment with each other without their parents’ knowledge or consent going to do anything to address sexual exploitation? We are already seeing plenty of cases whereby young teens are abusing even younger children – telling children that perhaps they should try oral sex or mutual masturbation instead of full penetration is hardly conducive to a society that wants to protect its youngsters.
And before anyone moots yet more education is needed, take a look at this:
The figures are from the Health Protection Agency and are an amalgamation of the under 15 and 15-19 age brackets. Diagnoses of gonorrhoea have decreased which is a good thing, seeing as there is a worrying outbreak of an antibiotic resistant strain, which seems to be on the increase in the US, but the rest of the figures don’t look so great. I haven’t included cases of syphilis in teens because the numbers are too small to register on the scale, but it should be noted that between the years 2002 and 2011, diagnoses of this disease in teenagers increased by 96%. That our young people should be battling this potentially fatal and wholly avoidable chronic condition is absolutely horrifying.
When it comes to teenage pregnancy rates, the numbers state that the under-18 conception rate is at its lowest since 1969. This is obviously very good news, but it is not indicative that the teenage pregnancy strategy was in any way successful, in terms of teenagers’ sexual health, indicated by the chart above. When talking about the teenage pregnancy figures, we need to remember that the under 18 conception rate is for the age ranges 15-17. As Professor David Paton points out, the under 16 teenage pregnancy stats have seen little change between 1969 and 2012, fluctuating between 7 and 10 girls per 1,000 every year. In any event, even with the drop, the UK teen pregnancy figures are still amongst the highest in Western Europe, before we all start congratulating ourselves.
What is evidently happening is that more or at least the same amount of teenagers as previously are having sex, most of them are using long-acting reversible contraceptives or hormonal contraceptives like the pill and thus leaving themselves open to disease. The Health and Social care Information centre reports that the 16-19 year old age group had the highest number of attendances at contraceptive clinics of the entire female population and that oral contraception was the primary method of contraception for 45% of women who attended.
Clearly something is going awry with sex education in this country and it doesn’t take much to figure out what. More on this anon.
Clare Perry, the rising star in the Conservative Party and David Cameron’s new advisor on childhood has said some eminently sensible and refreshing things today which will no doubt cause Louise Mensch to turn a shade of green.
Mrs Perry, a mother of three, points out that it should not be assumed that children have an automatic right to privacy and that society as a whole has been complicit in a culture which allows children to make unsupervised and inappropriate contact with strangers any time of the day or night.
She argues, in the same way that I did post publication of the Bailey Report, that parents need to take ownership and responsibility for their children’s internet access on their laptops and mobile phones. If you don’t want your children to have unsupervised access to the net, either don’t buy them a device, or if you must, install various filtering software and blocks. If your child is up on the internet until the early hours of the morning, then the solution is simple – switch the darn router off. He who pays the piper, calls the tune!
I grew up in the eighties and nineties where having access to one’s own private telephone line was an unimaginable luxury, although admittedly in my day, mobile phones were simply beyond the means of most individuals, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of sheer size, with the look, feel and weight of a house brick. Like most households of that time, our telephone was situated in a very public place, on the hall table and consisted of an unwieldy non portable handset, with a dial – push buttons were the last word in decadence. As a result all incoming telephone calls were received in a public place, every word could be overheard and any talk about one’s love-life either with friends or heaven forbid the young man himself had to be couched in code, making the whole thing far more exciting that I’m sure it would otherwise have been.
Ever mindful of the bill and the fact that my father ran a business from home, calls had to be kept quite short and it would not have occurred to me to pick up the phone and make a call without first asking permission. As teenagers, if we did answer the phone and the call was indeed for us, we would have to inform our parents as to the identity of the caller. My father is something of an eccentric and used to delight in causing maximum mortification by deliberately winding up callers for myself and my sister. My best friend Anna, was regularly treated to a medley of hits from the King and I, female friends would be sung to and any male callers could be guaranteed either to have my father’s version of Stanley Unwin’s language, or worse still, not be allowed to speak to us until they had made the request or spoken an entire sentence in Latin!
It’s difficult to know whether or not the internet could have got us into trouble as children, my parents were sensible types but equally I can see how difficult it is for parents these days, many of whom might not be as conversant in the new technology as their kids, but Mrs Perry is right to state that parents have a responsibility to regulate their children’s internet access. Given that it is practically impossible to escape the internet in one form or another and that it will be an integral part of children’s lives, it does seem fitting that the IT curriculum should incorporate lessons on basic safety and service providers and the industry as a whole should agree a new code of conduct, along similar lines to the rules of broadcasting.
It goes without saying that children and adolescents do need to be afforded some level of trust and privacy and we need to be realistic that at some point they probably will use the internet to get up to some naughtiness or other (just as children used to look up all the rude words in the dictionary), but limiting the scope for mischief, whilst helping them learn responsible behaviour, can be no bad thing and neither should it be left entirely in the hands of schools or regulators. Parents do have the primary responsibility.
But has anyone spotted the huge inconsistency yet? Clare Perry has correctly pointed out how internet technology can be used to degrade , objectify and sexualise young girls who are often at the receiving end of sexual bullying, citing the terrible case of Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, the 13 year old girl who fell to her death from the top of a tower block whilst begging her boyfriend to delete a sex tape he’d made on her phone.
‘We’ve given our children all these opportunities to communicate in private, but we’ve lost the confidence to actually get involved in that.
You have to ask yourself whether or not confidential sex advice, access to contraception and abortions provided to teens without the parents’ knowledge or consent has enabled and encouraged that attitude. Whether the deliberate exclusion of parents from knowledge pertaining to their children’s development and welfare and usurping of parental role in the provision of sex education has produced a generation of impotent parents who lack the skills and confidence to intervene?
‘We have to feel more empowered to ask. Make sure your kids allow you to be friends with them on Facebook, ask them whether what they are doing is appropriate.
But whatever you do, don’t ask them whether or not they are taking large doses of synthetic hormones designed to subdue their developing fertility, don’t ask them whether or not they are having sex and whatever you do don’t try to prevent them from doing so. What your child is being taught about sex , whether or not they are engaging in sex or risky sexual behaviour, whether or not they might be aborting their unborn baby is none of your concern as a parent.
Whilst schools continue to provide under 16s with contraceptive advice, products and abortions without the knowledge or consent of their parents, frankly fussing about whether or not they have unfettered access to Facebook or the internet is like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. How can parents be expected to protect their children when they are excluded from the most crucial and key decisions involving their personal health?
Make no mistake, the internet and mass media can have a deleterious effect on children’s development and expose them to sexual predators and unrealistic visions of sex, sexuality and body image. But just as harmful can be the physical effects of early sexual activity which stems from premature exposure to the internet and sexualisation. Isn’t it time for a double-stranded approach?
A follower on Twitter linked me to some graphic material, produced by the Terence Higgins Trust, which SPUC are claiming is indicative of the type of the material that will be taught in schools if gay marriage is enacted into law.
The booklet is entitled ‘The Bottom Line’ and is a comprehensive guide to ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ homosexual sex. Another friend on Facebook has expressed some legitimate concerns – the booklet, he says, is designed for distribution in GUM clinics and doctors surgeries and is deliberately couched in gay urban parlance, the Terence Higgins Trust are attempting to reach the gay community in order to educate and reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases.
Whilst as Catholics we would advocate a more holistic solution involving both body and soul, though I’m uncomfortable with the contents of the brochure simply due to the ick factor (yes I’ve read my Freud, spare me the inevitable comments about repression or heaven forbid ‘homophobia’, I just find graphic depictions of sex as about erotic as a tub of blue play-dough), the Terence Higgins Trust should not be condemned for attempting to improve the health of the gay community.
I’m also not about to, for want of a better phrase, explore the concept of sodomy, other than to note that it’s entirely contrary to Catholic teaching, regardless of the mix of genders who may be engaging in it and it isn’t inciting homophobia to state that it carries greater health risks than heterosexual or ‘vanilla’ sex. According to the latest report from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) released in November 2012, the highest rates of HIV were reported amongst men who have sex with men (MSM), where the diagnosis is 47 per 1,000, with new diagnoses amongst this community being at an all time high. That sodomy is inherently a risky business is evidenced by the need for educational material such as that produced by the Terence Higgins Trust. Like most things in life, sodomy, particularly between males, is a calculated risk – despite various precautions one can take in order to mitigate the risk.
As an aside, it’s fascinating to note how the government is attempting to interfere and regulate in other matters of personal health such as putting swingeing great increases on the cost of tobacco, introducing a minimum price for alcohol and mooting a fat tax, but in terms of sexual behaviour, which one could argue has enormous consequences for public health, prefers a laissez faire attitude. Perhaps David Cameron’s push for gay marriage is a disguised attempt at encouraging homosexual monogamy?
SPUC’s point about this booklet, is to be fair, a valid one, but I think some caution is required before using it as an example of the type of material that may be used in schools. They may not be too far off the mark, a quick look at the Bish Training website will give an indication as to the type of material that is thought appropriate and the horrors of the Living and Growing video, which was shown to children as young as 8, will still be fresh in parents’ minds. The problem is that those who are ideologically wedded to the idea of sexual enculturation as at early an age as possible, will seize on any attempt to portray their opponents as liars. As it isn’t entirely clear whether or not this booklet would be aimed at teens, it not being specifically produced for use in schools, then accusations of deliberate and false scaremongering will fly, along with the usual flim-flam about inciting hatred.
But SPUC are correct to point out that the teaching of gay sex in schools will be a logical and necessary consequence of gay marriage, simply teaching about hetrosexual practices will be deemed discriminatory. And I’d be willing to bet my bottom (ha excuse the pun) dollar, that most parents, aside from the achingly hip metro-liberal chatterers desperate to wave their progressive rainbow crendentials, would be terribly uncomfortable with that.
Do we really want our primary school children and young vulnerable adolescents given explicit instructions into the mechanics of anal sex, or the sexual practices of anyone, beyond basic reproductive biology? Anyone with same-sex attraction surely figures it out for themselves an at appropriate age without being given the pointers in school, as does anyone with any sexual urges.
I hate writing posts like these with my ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ sucking a lemon face on, because actually sex is a glorious and joyful thing, which is earth-shatteringly powerful. We shouldn’t underestimate its power, nor seek to neutralise or clinicalise it in soggy grotty latex filled self-satisfying encounters or feats of performance, which are about as stimulating as watching Midsommer Murders with a cup of hot cocoa in a cardi.
Which is one of the tragedies of the ideology of sex education in schools. A fulfilling and joyful sex life should not have to include a mandatory regular health check, nor intricate discussions of the workings of the back passage that would make Kenneth Williams blush. And the sooner people cotton on that the way sex is taught in schools, that anything goes, nothing matters so long as it’s consensual, is an ideology and a damaging one at that, the better.
On the subject of imports from the abortion industry, I see the US has now picked up the rhetoric of the soft marketing messages used by the UK abortion clinics and sex education providers. The Guttmacher Institute, funded by Planned Parenthood , the US’s largest abortion provider, has launched a new 1 in 3 campaign, stating that 1 in 3 women will obtain an abortion before the age of 45. Sound familiar?
As the Right to Know campaign pointed out last year, this ‘statistic’ is trotted out time and time again, in order to validate abortion as an option. The best-selling academic and author, Dr Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State university, describes ‘social proof’ as being one of the six key principles of persuasion. People are more willing to take a certain or recommended course of action if they see evidence of others doing it, particularly if they perceive those others as being similar to themselves. So it’s highly likely that a woman considering abortion could well be persuaded by the ‘evidence’ of other women. Social proof is most influential if someone is undecided as to a particular behaviour, they look to what other people are doing and observe that as correct. A technique which is doubly effective if they identify with the other subjects in some way.
So it’s highly likely that a young person who is yet undecided as to the issue of abortion, will encounter this message on an Education for Choice website and be convinced – if one in three women are having an abortion, then it must be not only necessary, but also perfectly acceptable, surely? The same goes for a woman with an unplanned pregnancy in an ambiguous situation who is unsure of what to do. The fact that 1 in 3 women allegedly have an abortion is only there to influence her decision. Surely what other people do should be of no relevance, in terms of her own personal situation? If pro-choice is all about doing what is right for that individual woman in her particular circumstances, what does it matter what other people have done?
There is no reason to include that statistic other than to attempt to influence opinion. Still it’s very sneaky indeed. Simcha Fischer from the National Catholic Register gives some insight as to who these one in three women are.
Robyn Reed is one of the one in three. When she tried to escape from the abortion clinic where her family had dragged her, the abortionist tore off her clothes, hit her, tied her to a bed, aborted her child, and drugged her so heavily that she was unconscious for twelve hours. Reed was fifteen years old at the time. She is one of the one in three women in America who obtains an abortion.
This mother is one of the one in three. When doctors told her she would die if she didn’t abort, she refused and refused, but finally agreed to be induced early, on the condition that they would try to save her baby’s life. She delivered a son, and no one made any effort to help him. He died in her arms. Later, she discovered that he was healthy, and that she had never been at risk. She is one of the three women in America who obtains an abortion.
Here and here and here are hundreds of accounts written by women who had an abortion and regret it. Over and over again, they use the phrase, “I felt like I didn’t have a choice.” Each one of these women is one of the one in three women in America who obtains an abortion. They are part of the one in three.
These are the women the Guttmacher Institute is counting when they used numbers to make the claim that women want and need abortion.
This is what the “1 in 3” Campaign seeks to normalize: pain, regret, coercion, violence, despair. It is a campaign to make women understand that abortion is normal, abortion is their fate — that they have no choice.
Personally I’d like to see the stats behind one in three. Is it really one in every three women who have had an abortion before the age of 45? How has this figure been worked out? The ONS doesn’t routinely give out statistics regarding first time and repeat abortions unless one submits a Freedom of Information request, so how can we vouch for the veracity of the figure. Is this just the number of abortions averaged out between the number of childbearing women in the UK. According to this American campaign 22% of pregnancies end in abortion, but 1 in 3 women will have one. It seems that they have done a straight averaging job here, which means women who have had repeat abortions will skew the statistics, as will women who have never fallen pregnant. I’d love to see the raw data.
Even if the figure is true, what does that say about our society? One in three women are in such desperate and dire circumstances that they have no other choice than to abort their unborn baby? Or is it that contraception fails one in three women? Whatever the answer, it’s certainly not something that anyone should be treating with a healthy dose of pragmatism, unless of course we really do live in the culture of death.