Dr Asha Kasliwal
President, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare
Young people have the right to access comprehensive relationships and sex education. Compulsory relationships and sex education is a step in the right direction, but teachers need the right resources to teach about topics such as abortion.
In recent years, relationships and sex education (RSE) has been made compulsory in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. As President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, I believe that young people have the right to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and access sexual and reproductive healthcare services in a confidential manner. For them to make informed decisions, they need to receive comprehensive, accurate and high quality RSE.
In England, the Department of Education has made the requirement to start statutory RSE implementation more flexible due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools who do not have capacity to provide RSE will be expected to do so from the summer term this year. Teachers may understandably have chosen to focus on core subjects, resulting in the neglect of non-academic areas such as RSE.
Schools are required to provide medically accurate information about pregnancy options, including abortion. However, evidence indicates that many schools delivering lessons on abortion use materials which are inaccurate and often stigmatise abortion. Therefore, it is vital that teachers are equipped with evidence-based resources to ensure that they can provide high-quality RSE beyond the pandemic.
We want to ensure that professionals involved in educating young people have an accurate, unbiased source of information about abortion in the UK.
Including abortion in RSE
FSRH has worked with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to develop an abortion care factsheet for secondary schools. It is endorsed by Public Health England and supported by the PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum. It has just been updated, explaining the laws and regulations around abortion and addressing common myths. We want to ensure that professionals involved in educating young people have an accurate, unbiased source of information about abortion in the UK.
Comprehensive RSE cannot shy away from addressing abortion as an integral part of sexual and reproductive healthcare. If young people are to make informed decisions about their relationships and how to avoid unplanned pregnancies, they need to learn about all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, including abortion.