Anti-abortion group makes unevidenced claims around abortion, contraception and vaccinations
Anti-abortion group LIFE has come under criticism for making unevidenced claims around abortion, contraception and vaccinations. Claims made by LIFE include that the cervical cancer jab ‘gives young people another green light to be promiscuous’. The inaccuracies have been highlighted following on from a campaign by Education For Choice (EFC) and the British Humanist Association (BHA) to expose the activities of anti-choice groups giving talks to schoolchildren.
Until recently, LIFE claimed on their website that ‘[young people] do have choices about how they live their lives and the HPV vaccine suggests they won’t be able to control themselves. We should have higher expectations for them and show them more respect, not vaccinate them en masse against STIs.’ The claim follows on from recent news that 24 schools have declined to offer girls the cervical cancer jab, with the majority that gave a reason citing religious grounds or the school’s (religious) ethos. LIFE did not cite any evidence in support of their claim.
The BHA and EFC have recently exposed similar claims to those made by LIFE being made by anti-choice groups Lovewise and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Like those two groups, LIFE frequently gives talks to pupils in schools. A recent Freedom of Information request seen by the BHA shows one school which regularly invites LIFE in to talk is St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls in Carshalton. St Philomena’s was at the centre of a separate controversy earlier this year after it had emerged that the school had followed advice from the Catholic Education Service to promote a petition against same-sex marriage to school pupils.
Earlier this year, the BHA and EFC joined together with 11 other groups to write to Michael Gove to ask that evidence be a criterion in deciding what is taught in sex and relationships education.
BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘It is vitally important that young people receive accurate information around abortion and contraception, and that schools provide young people with the best care possible around sexual health. Lovewise, SPUC and LIFE’s egregious claims seem likely to misinform pupils and damage the care that schools provide, and so we would strongly encourage schools to not invite these groups in.’
Claims made by LIFE
Other claims made by LIFE uncovered by Education For Choice include:
• Until June, LIFE had a press release on their website headed ‘LIFE Urges Department of Health – No more denial of the abortion breast cancer link’, in which they claim that ‘Abortion is a leading factor in breast cancer’. But Cancer Research UK explains that ‘pregnancies that end in an abortion do not increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer later in life’.
• LIFE also has a leaflet for schools which claims that ‘There is a clear link between abortion and breast cancer as well as between abortion and infertility. And so on.’ However, as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state, ‘There are no proven associations between induced abortion and subsequent ectopic pregnancy, placenta praevia or infertility… Women with a previous induced abortion appeared to be at an increased risk of infertility in countries where abortion is illegal but not in those where abortion is legal. Published studies strongly suggested that infertility is not a consequence of uncomplicated induced abortion.’
• LIFE’s school materials also state that ‘The condom does not give much protection against any of them (STIs) even AIDS. Instead, by encouraging sexual activity, it may be making matters worse.’ No evidence is cited for this claim.
• LIFE has also stated that ‘The inescapable reality is that the morning after pill can and does result in the loss of a newly conceived human life in embryonic form…it is undoubtedly an abortifacient.’ But legally and medically, emergency hormonal contraception does not end an established pregnancy and is therefore not the same as abortion.
• LIFE also have a publication (recently pulled from their website) which links abortion to increased suicide rates, long term psychological problems, breast cancer, ectopic pregnancy, placenta praevia. However, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ report, ‘Induced Abortion and Mental Health’ explains that ‘The rates of mental health problems for women with an unwanted pregnancy were the same whether they had an abortion or gave birth’.
LIFE were at the centre of controversy last year when the Department of Health appointed it as a member to its Sexual Health Forum.