Anti-choice movement infiltrates schools

April 8, 1998

By Justin Harman

PERTH — Private schools in WA have been playing an active role in spreading the message of the anti-abortion lobby. Students at Perth's largest — mostly Catholic — private schools were urged by their principals to attend a "pro-life" rally on March 31. They were offered the day off and provided with transport to get to the rally.

According to Jane, a pro-choice activist and member of Resistance, leaflets opposing abortion were distributed to every student at her school. Posters advertising a pro-choice rally were ripped down by staff. After the posters were put up a second time, with the words "Both sides have a right to be heard" added, the school administrators placed a message in the daily notice.

"The message warned students that the school has a certain ethos and that we are all expected to follow it. You can't have different views as that would mean you don't belong in the school", Jane told Green Left Weekly.

The school also arranged a speaker from the Association of Women Hurt by Abortion. Attendance at the one-hour talk was compulsory for year 11 and 12 students. A second speaker described herself as a "journalist and bio-ethical issues advisor" to a federal politician. She told students how she became a "pro-life activist" after a friend sent her a photo of an aborted foetus.

"The emphasis", explained Jane, "was not on the usual 'pro-choice is pro-baby killing'. It was misinformation about the psychological damage to women who have had abortions, and other 'side-effects'. They ignored completely the much more severe 'side-effects' of botched backyard abortions and how most of the guilt women experience is generated by groups such as themselves."

During question time, many students raised concerns about being given only one side of the story and asked to hear a speaker from the pro-choice movement. The issue has now been banned from discussion in class because, according to Jane, "a debate around the issue had begun".

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