A guest post from Education for Choice.
Many pro-choice Americans think we in the UK have it all: free abortion on the National Health Service (NHS), providers who don’t have to wear bulletproof vests to work, and the general acceptance amongst society that abortion is a medical procedure that women should be able to access whenever they need it. Growing up in the Midwestern U.S., I thought these same things. Because women have free access to abortion on the NHS, even a heck of a lot of Brits think that there is no work to be done here, but I’ve been working at EFC since January 2010 and I’ve learned that there’s no room for complacency. People here are always surprised to hear that anti-choice organisations are using American-style tactics to spread lies and misinformation in schools and at crisis pregnancy centres across the UK every day.
In the U.S. there are numerous inspiring and active pro-choice activist organisations, groups and advocates, but in the UK Education For Choice (EFC) is the only educational charity dedicated to enabling young people to make and act on informed choices about pregnancy and abortion. We at EFC are here to say out loud that abortion is not a dirty word and that our abortion rights should not be taken for granted.
This month, the new Government is having a Spending Review which promises drastic public sector cuts and the strong chance that some key public health strategies will not be renewed. EFC will no longer be able to rely on funding from the Government so we are looking at alternative sources of support. We met with a professional fundraiser recently. Her first suggestion was that we should leave the word abortion out of our organisational description. She described it as ‘the A word’ and explained that ‘it puts people off’.
It’s precisely because the word ‘abortion’ puts people off that EFC needs to exist. We are here to ensure that young people acknowledge how common abortion is, that it is safe and available, but also have an opportunity to think about how and why it happens, how complex the decision to have an abortion can be, and how they can focus on preventing unwanted pregnancy in the first place. We’re not going to stop talking about abortion but the whole incident has inspired us to name our education campaign - ‘The A Word’!
Our ‘A Word’ campaign has one goal: to ensure that young people can receive accurate information and good quality education about abortion whoever they are and wherever they are. To achieve this we will:
1. Continue providing our pregnancy decision-making and abortion workshops in schools so that we can keep meeting young people finding out what they need to know and telling everyone how they can be supporting and educating young people better.
2. Conduct an audit of what and how schools in England are teaching about abortion within Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and Religious Education to demonstrate the paucity of good quality abortion education.
3. Campaign for comprehensive SRE that includes evidence-based information and discussion about abortion – with no opt outs for schools or parents.
In the U.S., out of fear of judgement, I tended not to tell people about my field of work and about my belief that all women should be able to access abortion when they want to, at no cost and without shame and fear. I love the fact that most of the professionals who I’ve worked with here in the UK believe that women do have a right to this. It’s been freeing and refreshing to actually work in sex education and to say the word abortion without hesitation. We need to preserve this culture; continue to improve information and support for young women; and remove the stigma around abortion not just here in the UK but in collaboration and solidarity with pro-choice activists and professionals in the U.S. and around the world. We need your help to do so.
If you believe that young people have a right to accurate information and good quality education on abortion, please visit our Just Giving page and help us reach our goal of raising at least £50,000 by the end of December which will help keep EFC to run this education campaign for the next year. Any amount from £1 and above is gratefully appreciated (Just Giving will convert U.S. dollars to Great British Pounds!).
You can also support EFC and our work with young people and professionals by showing that you are not afraid of ‘The A Word.’ We ask you to:
- Sign our statement of support for our A Word Campaign
- Follow us on TWITTER
- ‘Like’ our Facebook page
- Tweet, blog and spread the word about our important campaign
- Become a Champion For Choice and offer EFC some of your time to support this campaign.