Category Archives: Abortion

Take sex education out of the classroom and restore it where it belongs

Being just 21 years old, I well remember my secondary school education. I often walk past the school I went to, bilateral (operating grammar and comprehensive systems simultaneously) and located in the north of Kent.

Thinking about school brings back many great memories. I was one of those children who loved going to school. I enjoyed quite a number of subjects, though was only good at a select few, and forged a group of close friends, with whom I am still in frequent contact today.

This week I was again reminded of secondary school by an interesting study linking state initiatives with teenage pregnancy published in the Journal of Health Economics and reported on by ‘The Times’. It highlighted the findings of David Paton and Liam Wright, of the universities of Nottingham and Sheffield respectively, who concluded (the emphasis is mine):

“There are arguments to suggest that the impact [of the cuts] on teenage pregnancy may be not as bad as feared and, indeed, that spending on projects relating to teenage pregnancy may even be counterproductive. Put simply, birth control will reduce the risk of pregnancy for sex acts which would have occurred anyway. But [it] may increase the risk among teenagers who are induced by easier access to birth control either to start having sex or to have sex more frequently.’

Can anybody seriously claim that they are surprised by these findings? If they are, they have not been following events too closely. A similar study, published thirteen years ago by the Family Education Trust, found that areas of the country experiencing high teenage pregnancy rates also played host to the most teenage pregnancy projects.

So, it seems, the more we talk to teenagers about sex, normalise the process and illustrate how it can be had more safely, the more they will do it. And this conclusion took the work of distinguished professors to reach? It is not rocket science.

The main problem with, for instance, sex education has always been that it further chips away at the sanctity of sex; something I have always argued against removing. Sex is, by its very nature, a powerful and private thing, and can come with quite horrid, unforeseen consequences if not engaged in appropriately or at the right time.

Sex education implies that excessive experimentation is inevitable, which it shouldn’t necessarily have to be, and that by introducing it at school, teenagers will effectively be taught how to channel their sexual desires.

These desires may be natural, but extortionate levels of transmitted diseases, abortions and teenage pregnancies are not. They are the result of a 1960s cultural and sexual revolution that promoted the ideals of individualism over those of a social conscience and restraint.

Cultural change isn’t easily changed or reversed, but schools have proven to be an incompetent and inappropriate source of direction for students susceptible to the problems of sex. It should always have been the duty of parents to talk to their children about sexual health and etiquette. Those who avoid this are bad parents.

I remember distinctly, too, how uncomfortable it made students who were more restrained and quiet, a little shier and less eager to talk about such things. Many of my old classmates did not find the experience to be anything other than embarrassing and uncomfortable.

I now appreciate the concerns that they had and wish I had been of clear enough mind to raise the issue whilst at school. Sex education is grotesque, gimmicky nonsense that has, like most government initiatives, proven to counter-productive. It ought to be removed from the school curriculum in the next parliament.

 

 


Think sex-selective abortion is crazy? It could be just around the corner

Is there a more fitting way to celebrate fifty years of Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act than by permitting sex-selective abortion? You may think there is, but it might be too late.

The British Medical Association could soon be forwarding this as its official recommendation, at least if Professor Wendy Savage, an influential member of the BMA’s ethics (ha) committee, gets her way.

How a medical professional of many years, acutely aware of the difficulties that women face when going through the abortion process, can propose scrapping a law that prevents aborting by gender I am not quite sure.

It is possible that, after carrying out thousands of terminations, Ms Savage has internally normalised the process of killing babies to such an extent that she now thinks it viable in almost all scenarios.

Her claim that it is the woman’s right to decide as it is her body offers the medical profession with a very slippery slope. Since all pregnancies involve the mother’s body, Savage’s argument can be readily applied to every single request for an abortion.

I am appalled by the notion that unborn babies ought to be killed if their mother or parents do not approve of their gender. And no, I don’t care that it occupies a part of the mother’s body.

It should not be her right to choose what sex her child is, and I would seriously question the motive of any couple that seeks to terminate a pregnancy purely on the basis of whether their child is male or female.

Inevitably, the normalisation of sex-selective abortion will lead to societal imbalances between men and women. This has been the result wherever the policy has been tried. I believe that the skewing of gender ratios would reinforce a demeaning attitude towards whichever sex was phased out by parents.

Across both India and China, perhaps ironically, sex-selective abortion has been used as a tool to dispose of unwanted females. A survey of a dozen villages in India produce quite shocking results, with just 50 females living amongst a population of 10,000 people[1].

Newsweek reported in February 1989 that, in six clinics in Bombay, after eight thousand amniocentesis tests that showed the baby to be female, all were aborted but one[2].

In Guangdong, a province of China, bachelors are struggling to marry as 500,000 males outnumber women aged 30-45 by 10 to 1[3], causing demographers to warn about social upheaval on an unprecedented scale.

At present, it is difficult to image a situation in which British parents opt for the same sort of foetal gender discrimination. But that does not mean that decriminalising (likely within the current 24-week threshold) will not take place.

We have, especially since the 1967 Abortion Act, been rapidly marching towards a society in which abortion is used fundamentally as a form of contraception. In 2015 alone, 191,104 were performed on women in England and Wales.

Indeed, Diana Johnson’s latest Reproductive Health Bill, designed to repeal certain criminal offences related to the termination of pregnancies, passed its first reading in the House of Commons only last week.

Attitudes towards abortion have found themselves nestled firmly in the liberal camp, and pro-choice campaigners could soon have sex-selective abortion on their to-do list. I suspect that those in favour of it will someday get what they desire. After all, history tells us that, when campaigners for reproductive rights mobilise effectively, they get what they want.

 

Notes

[1] Robert Stone, “Women Endangered Species in India”, 14 March 1989.

[2] Jo McGowan, “In India They Abort Females”

[3] “Asia: Discarding Daughters,” Time, Special fall edition 1990, 40.


Does God seek me or do I seek God? The Parable of the Prodigal Son sheds some clues

I offer my profound thanks to Tim for a document he sent me last week that included a collection of quite fascinating chapters written by the Catholic philosopher Herbert McCabe from his book ‘God still matters’. One of the chapters, entitled ‘The Prodigal Son’, is a homily of Jesus’ ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’ (sometimes called his ‘Parable of the Lost Son’), was both extremely moving and a wonderfully accurate articulation of my current period of religious reflection.

The parable is told by Jesus to his disciples in Luke, the gospel. Those interested in reading the original version may want to look up chapter 15, verses 11-32. For those who would prefer just a brief synopsis, the story is about a father of enviable wealth, his house and two sons. Both sons grow up in the house of their father and a loving community. The father possesses an estate that he promises will be inherited by his sons, two-thirds for the eldest and a third for the youngest.

One son, the youngest, decides that he wants to cash in on his father’s estate immediately, and enjoy his newfound riches elsewhere. He leaves behind him the community he grew up in, one of love and friendship, and sets off to explore new pastures. After many years of excessive spending and living an extravagant lifestyle, he is out of pocket, and must sell his labour to an employer who uses him to feed swine. The sin, Jesus reminds us, is in loving the gift more than the giver.

The younger son realises that, upon leaving the loving community behind him for one obsessed with self-seeking and individualism, everybody he is surrounded by is motivated by the same kind of personal gain as he is. “Naturally enough”, writes McCabe, “in that kind of society, the employer finds his product much more important than his employee.” The son contrasts the community he abandoned with the community he travelled to and begins to realise that he would be happier, in whatever form, returning home to his father’s house.

In this parable, Jesus is teaching his disciples that when we view ourselves as worthy of worship in and amongst our conflicting interests and we ignore divine intervention we are not liberated but enslaved. He reveals that society cannot be truly fit for human purpose unless it is more than just human. In other words, without the forgiving sanctuary of the father in the parable (analogous of God), the younger son cannot realise how he has fallen and what he is missing. It is this concept, of how one can be ‘lost’, as the parable suggests, that fascinates me most.

McCabe summarises his sermon of the parable (Chapter 25 of God Still Matters) quite beautifully. He writes:

“Luke is saying to them: we make merry and are glad in the Holy Spirit, not because of our virtue, important though it is, but because, more deeply than that, we are all sinners who are forgiven, who have been embraced by the exuberant, impatient love of God, because ‘we have been dead and are alive, because we were lost and have been found’.”

The state of ‘being lost’ particularly interests me because it has been the very foundation of my religious reconsideration. To be clear, as of the time of writing, I am no longer an atheist, but it is too early for me to be pigeonholed elsewhere. The problem with my current lack of a religious position is that, due to the confusion that has seeped into my mind, it is incredibly difficult to write about.

For quite a while, I have not felt any real meaning in the things that non-believers claim embody the purpose and value of life. These things include family relationships, hedonistic encounters and cultural figures or pastimes. I have, for the first time in my life, really started to consider whether I should turn my focus towards something more. Something higher, perhaps. Importantly, I love Christian traditions. I am a huge believer in marriage, having children inside wedlock and of respecting human life over calls for choice and bodily autonomy.

This detached feeling from the outside world is what I would describe as my state of being lost. Unlike the younger son in the parable, I have spent my life in a different house, but as my political transformation (from liberal to conservative, almost two years ago) suggests, I think I had realised subconsciously that this ‘new house’ I was living in, that being my 21 years as an atheist, did not provide me with the kind of purpose and liberation that for years I argued it did.

The parable is also hugely significant as it touches on the question of who seeks whom. Do we seek God, or does He seek us? The parable explains that the younger son needs the experience of leaving his father’s house behind in order to realise what he has lost. During my period as an atheist, I was comforted by the fact that I didn’t just hold my beliefs to fit in with the spirit of the age, but rather they were held sincerely and I did not ever concede that there was a possibility of allowing God into my life. I do not regret this. When the son returns home, his father, we are told, does not wait for forgiveness, he rushes to his son and offers a loving embrace. Though it may not apply to those who have converted to the household of God, it does tend to suggest that the ‘seeking’ is mutual.

I cannot say with any certainty that God is seeking me. Nor can I say that I am actively seeking God. Moreover, it feels, much like it does in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that the connection that may be developing between me and God is – whilst not yet firmly established – not just mutual, but inevitable.