The Guardian this week uncovered a story about the SPUC giving an anti-abortion talk in a school.
The school justifies this as part of a ‘range of speakers’ which then allows students to make their own minds up. Now I’m a big fan of debate, and I’m a big fan of children being taught this skill in school. Learning to listen to alternate viewpoints and make your own conclusions is a vital skill.
My problem is that SPUC isn’t an alternate viewpoint but a crock of lies.
The anti-choice lobby frequently resort to lies as they know that otherwise their argument falls flat on it’s face – if they were truly concerned with child welfare they would spend a little time helping children in poverty and supporting pregnant women. Their argument comes down to their desire to punish women and “make them live with the consequence of their actions”. Pure and simple – which everyone can see is a bigoted and mean way to live.
So instead they spout lies that abortion causes cancer (it doesn’t), abortion causes depression (when studies show it doesn’t, but women already depressed are more likely to need an abortion) that abortion can kill you (which it doesn’t – ignoring medical advice has on one occasion caused death) and completely ignoring the damage to both women and children of going through with unwanted pregnancy, and all the complications and trauma that pregnancy can cause.
Allowing someone to go into a school and spout these lies is a particularly appalling thing to do. Children are taught in schools to respect teachers and BELIEVE WHAT THEY SAY – which is kind of the whole point of teaching. Children therefore are likely to believe that adults coming in to the school to give a talk are at worst not absolute liars.
Inviting a feminist to attend the talk and give an alternate viewpoint doesn’t mitigate this state of affairs. It actually adds credence to the SPUC viewpoint – that someone has to stand up and argue against it could be taken as evidence that points need to be argued against – when they don’t, they were just complete lies. The school acted entirely irresponsibly by allowing someone to come and lie to students. The school should not have allowed this speaker to talk when they had pointedly refused to allow the school to see what they were going to say in advance. The school has an even greater duty of care when this is an issue which could well be affecting young people at that time. Teaching debate is useful; giving children facts about sex education is also a complete no-brainer. But allowing someone to come and promote lies is appalling behaviour.
The anti-choice lobby has recently been stepping up activity in the UK, holding US style rallies and protests. The media describes this as highlighting a debate. It’s not a debate. If there were points to genuinely debate, the anti-lobby wouldn’t need to resort to lies and untruths. This is purely and simply about controlling women – or letting women control their own bodies. By giving the anti’s the right to put their arguments across as equally valid you are giving them way more power than they deserve.
If ever an anti wanted to stand up and truly promote their viewpoint – that sex is a sin that women should be punished for – I’d be happy to see them debate it in public, and see how many people they convert. While they continue to hide behind lies, they don’t deserve a platform to speak from – least of all within a school.