Students deserve medical facts, not propaganda on contraception say Women’s Rights Foundation

Women’s NGO says pro-life groups have to stop dogmatic obfuscation of debate on reproductive rights

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Matthew Vella
25 January 2017, 7:08pm
Pro-life campaigner Miriam Sciberras showed students graphic scenes of abortion during PSD lesson
Pro-life campaigner Miriam Sciberras showed students graphic scenes of abortion during PSD lesson
The NGO which successfully brought forward a legal claim for Malta’s pharmaceutical authority to licence the morning-after pill, has demanded a mature debate on reproductive rights and abortion.

The statement by the Women’s Rights Foundation comes in the wake of a pro-life presentation to pupils of the National Sports School by the Life Network, which depicted graphic scenes intended to drive home an anti-abortion message.

Parents of the NSS pupils were said to have been disgusted by the propaganda that was allowed inside the government school.

“Abortion is a complex moral issue and cannot be addressed from a black or white perspective, as can happen in a pro-life versus pro-choice framework,” the WRF said.

“Students should be presented with objective medical facts, diverse legal approaches and different philosophical arguments that are not limited to one dogma. This is an opportunity for educators to engage them in critical thinking and discussion which are crucial for moral decision making.”

The WRF said it was preoccupied that Life Network campaigners were being invited to schools and insisting that emergency contraception was equivalent to an abortion, despite consensus by national and international scientific organisations that emergency contraception neither terminates an established pregnancy nor inhibits implantation of a fertilised egg.

“If the morning after pill debate made anything clear, it is that these pro-life organisations are ready to rely on obsolete evidence from suspect sources in an attempt to obfuscate confuse and misinform. It is very likely that such discourse will be included in any ‘educational talk’ that Life Network addresses,” the WRF said.

The WRF said that the ministry for education should ensure schools have clear guidelines so that such sessions are delivered by educational professionals, that adequate resources are provided, and that a system of monitoring and evaluation is in place to ensure that learning objectives are being reached across all schools.

“We would like to emphasise that this issue is not limited to one particular school. The petition reported in the media in fact started last week following reports from at least one other school where Life Network gave a presentation.”

The WRF said it was inviting the Ministry of Education for a mutual dialogue and collaboration on issues related to sexual and reproductive health from a gender sensitive perspective.

Following the introduction of emergency contraception, the Women’s Rights Foundation is advocating for better sexual and reproductive health for women and girls of all ages. “One cannot emphasise enough the importance of changing stigmatising attitudes towards female sexuality and reproduction,” the WRF said. “This includes more comprehensive sexuality and relationship educational programmes in schools amongst adolescents of all genders and better understanding of contraceptive use and its access.”

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.