On 13thJune this year, the Office for National Statistics published the latest abortion figures for England and Wales for 2108 (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_
data/file/808556/Abortion_Statistics__England_and_Wales_2018). Alarmingly, the report shows that nationally we’ve reached a record high, with over 200,600 abortions. But organisations such as BPAS and the FPA are nevertheless claiming these figures show that their sex education policies in schools over the last decade have been a huge success, because they point out that the figures for teenage conception and abortion are significantly down. Last year, they proudly state, there were only 1,267 abortions recorded to girls under 16, including 363 for girls under 15.
Is this really the victory claimed? No, it is not.
A week earlier, on 7th June, the Office for National Statistics published the latest figures for STI infections in 2018. Overall these showed an increase of 5%, with the highest impact groups still being young people, black minority ethnic groups, and men who have sex with men (MSM) (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/
file/806118/hpr1919_stis-ncsp_ann18.pdf). Which, translated, means that STIs amongst teenagers remain at epidemic level, and clearly demonstrate that young people are not ‘having less sex’ or acting more responsibly, but are simply becoming ‘better’ at avoiding pregnancy.
Is this in itself a cause for celebration? VfJUK argues it is not, and a quick examination of teenage sexual behaviour demonstrates why. For a start, and as an integrated part of sex education, pre-pubescent girlsare being encouraged to use contraception and have sex ‘as soon as they feel ready’. In support of their sexual rights, a report in The Mail in April last year claimed that more than 10,500 underage girls – some as young as 12 – had been given contraceptive implants on the NHS, without their parents’ knowledge (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5614063/Contraceptive-implants-given-girls-young-12-NHS.html). Yet, even despite this, and along with reported widespread use of other forms of contraception, teenage use of the morning-after pill, available free over the counter or from the school nurse, is worryingly high. Exact figures – somewhat mysteriously – are impossible to access, but teenage girls are reportedly regularly using this emergency form of contraception, sometimes as often as two or three times a month – which is another cause for concern, because the long term health implications of such heavy use are unknown (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-300031/Teens-rely-morning-pill.html).
At the same time, and also as a regular part of sex ed, both boys and girls are being taught about oral and anal sex, with the message that it’s both ‘normal’ and healthy ( see, for example, https://respectyourself.info). These practices are very far from being either normal or healthy, as evidenced by the rising rates of related cancers, however, as result, we know that many teenagers are now opting for these types of sex as a means of avoiding pregnancy. So the drop in teenage pregnancy and abortion does not at all mean that children are learning to act more responsibly or having less sex, whatever sexual rights activists try to claim – but rather the reverse.
If we really care about the nation’s children and young people, it is time to stop spreading this gospel of promiscuity and perversion, and instead teach them about the risks and benefits of restraint – about what will really bring them happiness and fulfilment. Let every child learn what it really means to value and respect themselves – and others. Anything less is the worst kind of exploitation and abuse, done purely to help adults feel good about their own sexual inclinations and moral laxity. It is surely time to reassess… before it all becomes too late.