Leading MPs from Northern Ireland have expressed that teaching young students about abortion at school “normalises” abortion and “diminishes the value of life”.
These statements come after the Government in Westminster declared new regulations that would mandate the teaching of abortion to students aged 11 to 16 years in schools across Northern Ireland.
On Tuesday, September 12th, a number of MPs stated their opposition to the teaching of this much disputed subject and sought to ascertain from the Government the right of parents to remove their children from such lessons if so desired. This follows the continuing debate over the introduction of abortion to the current RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) curriculum in Northern Ireland schools.
“The very act of teaching about abortion is not morally neutral” states DUP MP for Upper Bann, Carla Lockhart.
The UK Government claimed that the RSE lessons on abortion would be taught in “a factual way that does not advocate, nor oppose, a particular view on the moral and ethical considerations of abortion”, but Ms Lockhart contests that such a duty would be “impossible to deliver”.
Lockhart explained that “the taking of human lives at their most vulnerable stage” cannot simply be expressed as “a mere moral dilemma about which people may be free to disagree”, she followed by declaring that “for those who are pro-life, human lives are at stake.”
The teaching of abortion, along with the RSE resources available in England and Wales that teach young girls that they can get an abortion privately or without parents knowing, “diminishes the value of life, because if young people are taught about the legal availability of abortion and how to access it, they are more likely to do so in greater numbers”, according to Lockhart.
While Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, assured that any teaching about abortion in schools would be “scientifically accurate”, Lockhart challenged this statement, by calling attention to the Education for Choice website which states that “before the limit of viability…the foetus is not considered a human being”. Lockhart said that this statement contradicts the beliefs of “many people in Northern Ireland and many scientists”, pointing out that much of the general public and those with an informed scientific opinion “would contend that an unborn baby is, scientifically, a human being”. Hence, Lockhart suggests, the information found on the Education for Choice site is “neither neutral nor scientific”.
Miriam Cates MP reiterated the previous argument made by Lockhart about the right of parents of the students to remove their children from such lessons by stating “parents should have the power to make the final decisions about what are particular and personal values for each individual family”.
“The consultation that is currently open in Northern Ireland asks about balancing parent and child rights, but, with respect, that is not how it works. Parents have rights to empower them to do their job of caring for their child. It is parents who are the first and best guardians of their children’s rights, and their role must therefore be safeguarded.” Lockhart contended.
A public consultation is in the process of being carried out, which will review the rights of parents to withdraw their children from such lessons in schools.
The Secretary of State has claimed in a statement made on 6th June, that he had laid regulations in Parliament that “will mirror the approach taken in England with regard to education about the prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.” Considering what students in England are already being taught regarding abortion as part of the RSE curriculum, such regulations would be deeply problematic.
The guide for the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum taught in schools across England advises that “there are many excellent resources available, free of charge, which schools can draw on”. Under the same section of the guide, the Sexwise website is listed as a useful source of “up to date information on all aspects of sexual and reproductive health available”.
The Sexwise website includes a page solely dedicated to answering questions frequently asked by young women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. One of the frequently asked questions that appears on the site is “If I'm under 16, do I have to tell my parents?” the answer to which, according to the site, is no, claiming that “you can still have an abortion even if you don’t tell them.”
As Life Institute spokesperson, Megan Ní Scealláin stated: “It is a huge overstep by the British government to presume they can ignore parent’s wishes and push programmes that paint abortion in a positive light.”
“Abortion is not morally neutral, it ends a baby’s life and schools should not be involved in promoting it to school students.”
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