Government Appoints Life to Sexual Health Forum

A minor fuss this morning in Britain as the Government announces that it has appointed LIFE to the new Sexual Health Forum in the stead of BPAS (an abortion provider).

A group known to be opposed to abortion has joined a forum advising the Government on sexual health, it emerged today.

The Life organisation was appointed this month to the new panel, which replaces the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV. In contrast, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been omitted from the forum despite its position on the previous group.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said: ‘We are disappointed and troubled to learn that having initially been invited to the sexual health forum we have been disinvited, particularly now we understand that Life have been offered a seat at the table. ‘We find it puzzling that the Department of Health would want a group that is opposed to abortion and provides no sexual health services on its sexual health forum.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘To provide balance, it is important that a wide range of interests and views are represented on the Sexual Health Forum. Marie Stopes International and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have similar interests. We offered them shared membership but they declined, and after careful consideration we concluded that it was not feasible to invite both organisations.’

Stuart Cowie, Life’s head of education, said: ‘We are delighted to be invited into the group, representing views that have not always been around on similar tables in the past.’

This news has had some pro-abortion liberals up in arms.

So why did invited Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, invite a group which opposes the very existence of an abortion law to sit on this panel?
It is difficult not to see this latest move as part of a mission creep of government being opened up to faith-based or pro-life groups.

This is a very serious cause for concern. It is crucial that women considering abortion receive objective advice. The state should facilitate that — not thrust them intot he hands of interest groups. Around 20 per cent of women seeking abortions at BPAS clinics decide not to proceed with a termination following the counselling they receive, indicating that they are by no means pushing abortions to their clients.

It is vital that pro-choice and sexual health campaigners stay alert to this thread in government: both legislative changes pushed by Tory MPs such as Dorries and Field, and the increasing influence of faith-based groups. Otherwise there is a very real risk of serious retrograde steps being taken on the crucial issue of sexual health.

I find this line of argument rather disturbing. Is the New Statesman suggesting that no-one who opposes the current law of the land should be invited onto a Government panel exploring an issue? That’s like suggesting that those who want the law changed as regards conducting Civil Partnerships in religious premises should be barred from any government policy group discussing that issue. What a ridiculous assertion.

Methinks Samira Shackle, Jane Martinson et al should accept the fact that their pro child murder viewpoint is not the only one viewed as acceptable by this government and this society.

Update : The Christian Medical Fellowship says pretty much the same thing as me. Now all we need to wait for is Ekklesia to come out opposed to the appointment of LIFE and we’ll all be pretty clear that having LIFE on the Government’s panel on these matters is a good thing.

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  • http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/ Stuart

    :lol: Love the updated para…

  • Jill

    Life provide homes and help for mothers and babies who are victims of the 'free sex for all' culture of the other parties on this panel. But they are vilified for stating the bleedin' obvious, that if you abstain from sex you will not get pregnant and you will not pick up any nasty diseases.

    Much more scandalous, in my view, is the presence on the same panel of the Terrence Higgins Trust, who have just been awarded £200+ grand (of our money) to teach our children the joys of some of the sexual practices graphically illustrated and described on their website, from the bizarre to the downright deadly, including how to inject the many drugs they describe (safely, of course!) from which young people are almost certain to catch numerous unpleasant diseases and injuries. But where are the howls of outrage about this? In what way does this empower young people to become 'sexual health champions'?

    I did try to post something similar to this in the Guardian, but naturally it was rejected.

    • ryan

      Hi Jill,

      'Liberal' emphasis on (e.g.) the Dutch model might be overstated, but does the evidence really support the Abstinence model? It would (from a Christian perspective) be great if kids didn't do drugs, or have extra-marital sex, or masturbate but surely it's a greater dereliction of Duty to pretend that they're not going to try those things? Nobody doubts (for example) that the Reaganite 'Just Say No' anti-drugs campaign was created with the best of intentions, but there's no getting away from the fact that it was a destructive failure. And this is hardly a modern problem. I'm 31, and *most* people I know didn't wait until the legal age of consent before having sex – and I'd guess (fallen human nature being what it is) that was equally true of the generations before mine.

  • Jill

    Actually, Ryan, the abstinence model does have a degree of success. Professor David Paton, an economist at the Nottingham University Business School, said: "The underlying social deprivation of an area, family breakdown rates and religion seems to have a greater effect on teenage pregnancy rates than more obvious policies such as sex education or providing access to family planning. There has been a tendency for the Government's teenage pregnancy strategy to focus on creating schemes where teenagers can get the morning after pill or other forms of family planning at school or clinics. The danger with this sort of approach is that it can lead to an increase in risky sexual behaviour amongst some young people. There is now overwhelming evidence that such schemes are simply not effective in cutting teenage pregnancy rates."

    Young people are not stupid. They are more likely to delay becoming sexually active if warned of the true consequences than if they are merely shown how to put condoms on bananas! ‘Just Say No’ is a bit simplistic. I don’t think moralising is going to work (I’m even older than you, and it didn’t work when I was a teenager either! Although drugs were only just beginning to become a problem when I was young, and we certainly didn’t have to cope with gay proselytising).

    Proper sex education is simply not happening on a large enough scale. Those supplying it, however well meaning, are in some cases also the beneficiaries of its failure, i.e. abortion providers. Girls need to know that immature bodies are more receptive to HPV which can lead to cervical cancer, and that they will be more vulnerable to herpes, Chlamydia, HIV. Girls expect emotional involvement, and most (91% is a figure cited) girls express regret at casual sex. They discover that if they behave like tarts, they get treated like tarts by boys, and this does not do a lot for their self-esteem. Hence the spiral of depression. As the number of casual sexual partners increases, so does the depression. Their fertility decreases. Their trust in the opposite sex decreases. Use of antidepressants increases.

    Girls will pay the highest price, for obvious reasons, but boys too will suffer. When they eventually want to marry, or form permanent relationships – and most do – they cannot be certain that they will be able to trust their wife who may have had many previous sexual partners. Doubts and jealousies ruin relationships. Boys are also likely to be unknowing carriers of STIs.

    Nobody wants to terrify youngsters and put them off sex for life, but many of today’s problems have been caused by the policies of the very people who are objecting to Life’s inclusion on the panel.

    As for the Terrence Higgins Trust, I would not want them anywhere near my grandchildren. I am sure that most parents and grandparents would feel the same, if they knew what THT was really about. Most of the other organisations on the panel have policies which have spectacularly failed. Life, on the other hand, is an organisation experienced in crisis pregnancies; they know the trauma of women and girls in abusive and sometimes violent situations and offer practical help. They have experience in spades and a team of Education Officers who are, according to their website, ‘dynamic, well-informed and in touch with the aspirations and concerns of young people. They present up-to-date, relevant information in a coherent and challenging framework’.

    What’s there to object to in that?

    • ryan

      Professor Paton is, as you say, an economist, and the quoted statements consist of general opinions, not evidence offered in support of an argument. So that paragraph is pretty much fallacious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_author

      The guy George W.Bush appointed to be in charge of abstinence education, Wade Horn, famously resigned after a billion dollars was spent on it with far from convincing results – the approach was criticised in an official congressional report.

      http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2007/04/13/burhttp://www.alternet.org/rights/52648/ http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/PDFs/

      >>>Young people are not stupid. They are more likely to delay becoming sexually active if warned of the true consequences than if they are merely shown how to put condoms on bananas!

      Yes, but they are not shown to put condoms on bananas for the fun of it – but in order to prevent the diseases they are being warned about! There's no point merely pointing out the consequences without teaching kids how to avoid them.

      >>>>>>>>>>>Girls expect emotional involvement, and most (91% is a figure cited) girls express regret at casual sex. They discover that if they behave like tarts, they get treated like tarts by boys, and this does not do a lot for their self-esteem. Hence the spiral of depression. As the number of casual sexual partners increases, so does the depression. Their fertility decreases. Their trust in the opposite sex decreases. Use of antidepressants increases.

      >>>>>

      There's a lot of stereotypes there. All girls want emotional involvement? Haven't conservative been bemoaning the rise of e.g. "ladettes", and the fact that today's girls are "as bad as the boys". I'm curious about the 91% figure too. Due to societal double standards, women who sleep around are called sluts whereas boys are called studs – hardly conducive to girls honestly admitting to enjoying casual sex. Feminists would say that female internalization of guilt over promiscuity is analogous to gay men feeling inferior and suicidal because they live in a homophobic society. Many would take issue with your use of language like tarts. Now, of course, Christians condemn promiscuity in both male and female, but it seems to me unhelpful and part of a general societal demonisation of boys to pretend like the problem is boys convincing girls to have casual sex. The oft-quoted truism about girls maturing faster applies to the sexual sphere too. Of course underage sex, of any variety, is destructive and something schools should not be encouraging. Clinical depression is an illness – and one that has struck many a chaste evangelical of my acquaintance – so I'm wary about setting that up as an STD-style intrinsic danger of promiscuity.

      >>>>>h gay proselytising

      I agree with William. I remember, circa the repeal of Section 28, conservatives using such words to refer attempts to stem sexuality-based bullying. Anyone of my age who went to a Scottish state school will recall that terms like "poof" were accepted (and used by teachers, even). Conservatives might say that the actual amount of gay people is far lower than what Stonewall etc claim it is. But logically *some* kids are going to be gay, in which light only teaching them about heterosexual safe sex or how to avoid making babies is an absurd waste of taxpayer's money at best, gross dereliction of duty at worst.

      >>>>>Girls will pay the highest price, for obvious reasons, but boys too will suffer. When they eventually want to marry, or form permanent relationships – and most do – they cannot be certain that they will be able to trust their wife who may have had many previous sexual partners.

      Yes, but such Virgin/Whore patriachal dichotomies – however prevalent – are not necessarily self-evidently (or even at all) moral and sensible.

      >>>>>Nobody wants to terrify youngsters and put them off sex for life, but many of today’s problems have been caused by the policies of the very people who are objecting to Life’s inclusion on the panel.

      I'm not sure if that's a reference to abortion, which is a separate issue. Evangelicalism has largely capitulated to feminism (every hear a sermon on the evils of the pill and gender equality in an evangelical church? no, me neither).

      >>>>>>>>>As for the Terrence Higgins Trust, I would not want them anywhere near my grandchildren. I am sure that most parents and grandparents would feel the same, if they knew what THT was really about. Most of the other organisations on the panel have policies which have spectacularly failed. Life, on the other hand, is an organisation experienced in crisis pregnancies; they know the trauma of women and girls in abusive and sometimes violent situations and offer practical help. They have experience in spades and a team of Education Officers who are, according to their website, ‘dynamic, well-informed and in touch with the aspirations and concerns of young people. They present up-to-date, relevant information in a coherent and challenging framework’.

      What’s there to object to in that?>>>>>>>>>>>

      Very little, but mission statements tend by their nature to be full of platitudes. What do *you* object to in the THT's "

      Our vision

      A world where people with HIV live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination, and good sexual health is a right and reality for all"
      http://www.tht.org.uk/aboutus/ourmission/

      The Roman Catholic Church, hardly pro-gay, has to its credit always spoken of the need to treat people with HIV in a fair, loving and respectful manner. You could of course say that THT's vision statement doesn't tell the full story of its, to you, problematic beliefs and practise – the same thing applies to Life. What specifically is your problem with THT? I note that they pointedly refer to Safer – not safe – sex, hardly consistent with minimising the risks of particular sexual acts.

  • William

    "…and we certainly didn’t have to cope with gay proselytising."

    What's gay proselytising, when it's at home? Although I'm a gay man, familiar with the gay scene, I'm not sure that I've come across it.

  • Jill

    Oh very funny, William. I think you know perfectly well what I mean. I assume you don’t have children so aren’t aware if the pernicious material being inflicted on children by Schools Out, Stonewall and the THT. All under the guise of being ‘anti-bullying’ which is nonsense. Once one group is singled out for special treatment they are likely to be subjected to more, not less, bullying. Bullying is unacceptable for all.

    Ryan, Professor Paton works with statistics. You can see a list of his publications here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/business/LIZDP_Public

    Ryan, if you introduce youngsters to condoms and explain their use, do you think that they will be (a) less likely or (b) more likely to engage in sexual activity? Would you hand a child a cigarette, explain how to light it and inhale, and then tell them they were not old enough to use it?

    As for the ‘ladettes’ culture, do you think these girls are really happy? The female brain is different to the male, in case you hadn’t noticed. They are often the product of the broken families created by the societal ills created by ‘free love’ and haven’t a clue about normal family life. This is really sad. Little girls throughout the ages have grown up dreaming of love and marriage – I simply don’t believe this has changed – it’s just the reality that has changed.

    As for THT, I had better be careful or Peter will throw me off his site. The bit you have quoted doesn’t exactly tie up with the rest of the website. Nor does it make sense. You will not have good sexual health by engaging in most of the practices so graphically described and illustrated by Action Men in The Bottom Line, or Below the Belt. And how does one ‘safely’ inject the drugs enumerated by them? (No, don’t tell me.)

    Everybody, not just the RC Church, should treat people with HIV in a loving and respectful manner. What are you trying to say? That we mustn’t recommend abstinence as a means of avoiding contracting it?

    I don’t pretend to know the answers. I just say that in view of all the dismal failures of the current SRE policies, Life should be given a hearing.

    • ryan

      Jill, why would William be unaware of Stonewall et all just because he doesn't have children? The Family Value brigades citing of maternity as a Nobel Prize style qualification is very much part of the problem! What evidence do you have that singling out a group is likely to decrease bullying? And what about if particular groups *are* more likely to be bullied? Here's an analogy. What would you say if Jewish children were currently far more likely to be bullied than non-Jewish ones – and that a disturbing number of bullied Jewish children committed suicide? Would you back a campaign to focus on that particular problem or would you call it useless singling out? Racist language and bullying used to be a real problem in the UK. Schools nowadays have zero tolerance of phrases like "Paki" and we live in a far less racist society now than we did twenty or thirty years ago. Don't you think those two facts are connected? And do you concede that LGBT children ARE more likely to be the subject of bullying than the straight kind?

      >>>>Ryan, Professor Paton works with statistics. You can see a list of his publications here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/business/LIZDP_Public

      Hmm, I see he wrote a a paper on Cricket, which I'm all in favour of :) Am sure it's all peer-reviewed stuff – but that hardly explains you ignoring all my links on abstinance ed and its failure. Setting such store by Professor Paton because his beliefs match your own does not make your argument *more* compelling!

      >>>>Ryan, if you introduce youngsters to condoms and explain their use, do you think that they will be (a) less likely or (b) more likely to engage in sexual activity? Would you hand a child a cigarette, explain how to light it and inhale, and then tell them they were not old enough to use it?

      Poor analogy. I don't smoke. I have no interest in smoking. The success of and popular support for the public smoking ban suggests that there are more people like me than there are pro-smokers or nicotine zealots. Is that really true of sex? Hardly. Man's heart is evil from his youth and adolescents especially are preocuppied with sex. 'Twas always thus. Take your analogy: if I found that my ideology did not in fact lead to kids stopping smoking, and in fact even encouraged them, then would I not be honor bound to challenge it? You talk about the impact of sex upon girls. I think we both agree that the ideal solution would be kids to abstain. But given the unlikelyhood of that happening (extramarital sexual intercourse has been a feature of life long before the Lady Chatterly ban and the Beatle's first LP ;)) is there not a strong moral argument to ensure that condom use is emphasised to prevent unwanted pregnancies? Are you suggesting that talk of condoms is liable to lead to people trying sex when they would otherwise be celibate? Afterall, most children today are sadly not Christians. They're hardly going to listen to warnings on the dangers of fornication if they don't believe in God, or accept Christ.

      >>>>As for the ‘ladettes’ culture, do you think these girls are really happy? The female brain is different to the male, in case you hadn’t noticed. They are often the product of the broken families created by the societal ills created by ‘free love’ and haven’t a clue about normal family life. This is really sad. Little girls throughout the ages have grown up dreaming of love and marriage – I simply don’t believe this has changed – it’s just the reality that has changed.>>>>>>>

      Do I personally think these girls are happy? Probably not, but then I'm a male monotheist so I would say that. Curious on what differences in the female brain you're specifically invoking to explain an intrinsic distate for promiscuity (there's a lot of popscience on gender differences which, spatial reason vs empathy truisms aside, is largely junk science!). However you do make some good points. Even Sex and the City, a horrendous alleged 'tribute' to sluttish materialism apparently ended on the search for True Love. Similarly, I've known a lot of girls who go to university as Laddettes and come out of it pinning for a husband – an urge that intensifies as the clock starts ticking in their late twenties. However, as you say, the dream of true love has been around for ever and isn't likely to change. So I'm not sure if taking an abstinence approach and warning girls off casual sex would work. Wouldn't they, raised on 'having it all' feminism (even in evangelical churches), reply that they can and will have the youthful casual sex *and* the eventual monogamous loving relationship?

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.As for THT, I had better be careful or Peter will throw me off his site. The bit you have quoted doesn’t exactly tie up with the rest of the website. Nor does it make sense. You will not have good sexual health by engaging in most of the practices so graphically described and illustrated by Action Men in The Bottom Line, or Below the Belt. And how does one ‘safely’ inject the drugs enumerated by them? (No, don’t tell me.)>>>>>>>>>..

      Obviously I don't want you to be indelicate (or for Peter to kick you off the site!) but I can't really ascertain the rights and wrongs of particular THT publication if I don't know what you're talking about. I assume you mean

      http://www.tht.org.uk/informationresources/public

      http://www.tht.org.uk/informationresources/public

      Which are certainly pretty explicit and NSFW! However they are described as being aimed at gay men and so need to be comprehensive – covering things like CBT or watersports (which, for the record, I find quite as disgusting as anyone else) in no way means that the majority of gay men do these, or that THT is somehow trying to 'promote' them. Personally I also find the use of terms like 'cock' vulgar. But it's understandable. How many people, male or female, actually refer to the "penis" or "vagina" outside of a medical context? And if people are likely to listen to safe sex advice expressed in vulgar language, but not the overly dry and scientific kind, then it's understandable that such language is used. I didn't see anything advocating drug use, but point me to some links and I'll of course read and critique them.

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>.Everybody, not just the RC Church, should treat people with HIV in a loving and respectful manner. What are you trying to say? That we mustn’t recommend abstinence as a means of avoiding contracting it?>>>.

      Nothing so opaque. I was merely stating that the THT vision I quoted uses language on respecting people with HIV that even the anti-gay Catholic Church would agree with, so it doesn't seem to me ideologically problematic in the manner you allege. I'd argue that saying "Sex: Just Don't Do It" would be even more of a "dismal failure" than current SRE policies.

    • William

      No, Jill, I haven’t got any children, although I do have nephews and nieces, including a gay nephew. Schools Out aims to make schools safer places for LGBT children and to prevent bullying; Stonewall stands for equality and against discrimination; the Terrence Higgins Trust aims to fight the spread of HIV and to improve the nation’s sexual health.

      You may agree, as I do, with what these organizations are trying to achieve, or you may not, in which case I can only express my astonishment. You may think that they are pursuing their aims in the right way, or that they are pursuing them in the wrong way. But to describe these things as “gay proselytising” is absurd.

      None of these organizations are trying to obtain special treatment for one group. On the contrary, they are fighting AGAINST the singling out of any group for special treatment in the form of discrimination or bullying. That is not proselytising.

  • Jill

    Wow, Ryan, that's brave of you, linking to those THT articles! (Bet you're not brave enough to link to the revolting THT 'Hard Cell' though.) I wonder how many parents, reading the contents of the site, will think 'Hoorah! How glad I am that my hard-earned is going towards paying for these people to come into schools and introduce my children to these materials'?

    Indeed, much of the material produced for schoolchildren would be illegal to introduce to minors if it didn’t come under the fraudulent guise of ‘education’.

    I do think you are missing the point here. I don't think anybody cares very much what consenting adults get up to, *in private*, but what we DO care about is these practises being normalised and introduced to our children with devastating consequences.

    I don't intend to get drawn into a tedious and pointless counter-fisking exercise as it is plain we are talking different languages. But concerned parents will find a devastating expose of current sex-ed (US-based but very similar to UK) and spelling out what children are not being told, and the probable consequences in the work of Miriam Grossman MD, author of ‘You’re teaching my child what?’ http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/teach_my

    It is time so-called sex educators were open and honest about medical evidence rather than led by politically-correct dogma. Let us hope that Life can go some way towards addressing this.

    • ryan

      How many parents are comfortable considering their children as sexual beings per se? I seriously doubt the majority are uncomfortable with promiscuity but are ok contemplating their loved ones "learning" fellatio for use in marriage!

      Ironic of course that most of these parents themselves lost their virginity before the approved age (the swinging sixties were exactly that!). The "do what I say, not what I did" approach to sex ed is hardly likely to be successful. And the invocation of the "taxpayer's money" argument hardly does your side any favours. Gays pay taxes too, one reason why the pre-gay lib approach of either pretending that gay people didn't exist or demonising them when they did is wholly unjust and unfair. I did look at the publications on THT specifically aimed for schoolkids. Lots of good stuff. Isn't it a bit dishonest to use THT material aimed *at adults* to denounce their youth material?

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>I do think you are missing the point here. I don’t think anybody cares very much what consenting adults get up to, *in private*, but what we DO care about is these practises being normalised and introduced to our children with devastating consequences

      Acknowledging that particular acts exist – and sex education necessarily involves imparting knowledge – is not the same thing as encouraging people to try them. Anal Sex was illegal in the UK even within marriage until recently and so, to say the least, was hardly "promoted". Do you really think this meant that people didn't try it? Not to be vulgar, but threesomes and anal are two of the most popular masculine fantasies (and, fallen human nature being what it is, this is not a recent invention). I can understand that parents might want to think that their children are probable life-long virgins who would never try sex unless the evil liberal sex ed lobby introduced them to it. But public policy oughtn't not to be founded on such delusions.

      I said that I found practices like CBT disgusting (and so would many a gay man of my acquaintance), so I'm not sure how you think merely discussing them is going to increase their popularity. Anti-gay authors up to and including Gagnon are fond of discussing "homosexual practise" in explicit detail, and such discussion (to the say the least) hardly makes them liable to *try* gay sex. I'd be interested if you could genuinely define objectively moral "normal" and "moral" sexual practices between consenting adults. Fifty years ago, there was not much popular press that regarded oral sex as normal. Do you concede that of course oral sex still went on in those years (c.f. Greco-Roman vases from a lot more than fifty years ago!)? If so, then surely it would have been far better , in sex ed classes, to inform kids of what oral sex is and the risks etc thereof. Imparting knowledge is not advocacy. You have spoken of times of the intrinsically risky gay world. It is a statistical fact that many kids will grow up gay. In that light, is it not wholly immoral not to impart *knowledge* on gay sex so that the newly sexually active can make informed decision and avoid STDs?

      It's ironic that you invoke "medical evidence" whilst advocating Miriam Grossman, who is a fan of NARTH. She might be an MD but, when it comes to psychiatry, she, not the 'gay lobby' is the one arguing for a discredited fringe belief. If we are talking different languages then might it not be sensible to see if said languages are founded on unjustified presuppositions?

      Note your use, again, of the "concerned parents" line. And you seem to be attempted some more arguments from authority again. That Grossman is an MD in no way means that her *opinions* on the "probable consequences" are accurate (cherry-picking "experts" who agree with you hardly indicates a seeker after truth.) If anal sex is far more dangerous than the pc lobby claims it is then of course such information should be publicized. But merely stating an opinion doesn't make it so.A British Journal of Medicine article on the dangers of anal sex included flatulence in its definition of "incontinence" – which is ridiculous, indicated a flawed study that should be ignored even if its conclusion best support one's ideological team.

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