Debate on abortion should be about education, not religion

The debate on abortion is too often polarised and ill-informed, and should be about better education and not focused on religion, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has said today. The BHA has called for open and objective discussion in this week which marks the 43rd anniversary of the Abortion Act, which legalised abortion in Great Britain. The BHA has made its comments in light of actions by an anti-choice Christian campaigning group, which will be placing adverts on buses and holding events during the week, including a prayer vigil outside parliament.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, ‘The debate around abortion is often polarised and ill-informed, with very vocal and strongly anti-choice Christian groups seeking to change the law and take away women’s legal right to access safe abortion. Those views, however, are not representative and surveys often show that there is large agreement in the population towards social, ethical and medical issues such as abortion, regardless of respondents’ religious or non-religious beliefs, with majorities supporting more progressive, liberal perspectives.

‘If there is misunderstanding about the facts on abortion it is not really surprising, given the lack of quality education on it. The inclusion of compulsory Sex and Relationships Education in the curriculum for all state-funded schools was dropped from legislation just before the election. For many students the only information they receive about abortion in schools is highly subjective and provided by well-funded, anti-choice organisations. Moreover, it was only earlier this year that the first television advert was broadcast to give women information about the options they have following an unwanted pregnancy.

‘Women in Great Britain have been able to access safe and legal abortions from the NHS or privately since the 1970s and the anniversary this week of the Abortion Act should be used to promote honest, open and objective discussion of issues about abortion.’

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 358.

A recent poll of Catholics in the UK showed that only 6% were against abortion in any circumstances.

Further surveys and statistics on religion and belief in the UK, including attitudes towards abortion and other ethical issues.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief. The BHA contributes to debate on a wide range of ethical issues from stem cell research to sex education. The BHA is a member of the National Children’s Bureau Sex Education Forum (SEF) and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

The BHA is committed to encouraging informed and responsible choice. Therefore, we believe that all children are entitled to full and accurate SRE, including unbiased information on contraception, STIs, abortion, sexual orientation, and the many forms of family relationship conducive to individual fulfilment and the stability of society.