BBC Bitesize gave platform to ‘extreme’ anti-abortion group

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This weekend, the broadcaster removed a lesson on the BBC website promoting the views of an anti-abortion group, following a backlash from health experts.

The religious studies review guide, on BBC Bitesize, the broadcaster’s educational resource, listed “powerful arguments” against abortion, used the term “pro-life” instead of “anti-abortion” and featured a page dedicated to a campaign group vowel who wants Abortion to be banned in Britain.

The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) has a history of promoting misinformation in schools and was exposed in 2019 for launching a toy story-Thematic campaign aimed at children who falsely claim that fetuses can feel pain 10 weeks after conception.

The broadcaster said it is now revising the material in its religious studies guide, which covers Catholic views on life and death and is aimed at 15- and 16-year-old GCSE students.

SPUC has a history of promoting extreme views on abortion among children in ways that are simply factually wrong.

Robert Cann, UK Humanists

SPUC has also repeatedly promoted a procedure known as a “reversal” of abortion on its website, which medical organizations have condemned as unproven and potentially dangerous. And last week he hailed the US decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the supreme court ruling that protected women’s right to abortion across the country, as “a monumental day for justice.” [and the] unborn”.

Despite its history, the group was uncritically described on BBC Bitesize as a “pro-life” charity that “defends the rights of unborn children”, promotes “the sanctity of human life” and “supports individuals and families during pregnancy. Organizations in favor of the right to decide were not mentioned.

Critics said the material, part of a BBC Bitesize resource based on the WJEC examination board’s syllabus, did not clearly distinguish between fact and opinion and risked exposing children to “harmful” misinformation.

Lisa Hallgarten, policy director at Brook, the national sexual health charity, described the learning materials as “shocking” and “problematic in many ways”. . “Singling out an organization that is highly unreliable when it comes to factual information is problematic because you are giving them credibility,” she said. “This is not abstract for young people; This is the real life. We really have to avoid sending people to organizations that won’t help them.”

As well as featuring SPUC, the BBC’s Bitesize resource listed “powerful arguments” against abortion, including that it “denies the fetus choice” and makes human life appear “cheap and disposable”.

In another section, a diagram titled Alternatives to Abortion suggested sexual abstinence and natural family planning as solutions to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and “financial support” as alternatives to abortion, but did not mention contraception.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an abortion service provider, raised concerns about information provided to teenagers about alternatives to abortion, saying it was “absurd” for the diagram to suggest abstinence and natural family planning but make no mention of abortion. contraception.

Humanists UK, a charity that promotes secularism, said it was vital for teaching religious studies to highlight different points of view and encourage structured debate. But Robert Cann, its educational campaigns manager, said SPUC’s inclusion was inappropriate given its “history of promoting extreme views on abortion among children in ways that are simply factually incorrect.”

“We need to be very cautious when your name and resources are lodged uncritically on a self-guided GCSE RE revision course for boys,” he said.

He also criticized the appeal for not reflecting the views of the majority of Catholics. Polls have shown that the majority support abortion and the use of contraceptive methods. “This resource implies that Christians, and in particular Catholics, will invariably oppose abortion. But this is the opposite of the truth: we know that, back in 2013, less than 7% of the total population said they were against abortion, including only 14% of Catholics, figures that have only decreased since then. said. he said she. “The whole matter needs a review to be presented in a more critical, objective and pluralistic way.”

On Friday, the BBC said it was reviewing the resource and that it had been “temporarily removed” in the meantime. A spokeswoman added that the resource was based on the WJEC examination board syllabus, which is why it included a reference to SPUC.

But while it is targeted at a specific group, the resource is publicly available on the station’s website, and the links appear at the top of Google results for searches related to SPUC, abortion and the BBC.

The BBC website says that the Bitesize guides are “written by teachers and subject matter experts and are mapped to follow UK curricula”.

WJEC, the review board whose materials are intended to accompany the BBC guide, distanced itself from the study materials. “The resources developed by BBC Bitesize were created without the involvement of our religious studies team and are therefore not endorsed by WJEC,” a spokesperson said. While the WJEC curriculum examined opposing views on abortion, he said, it did not advocate one in particular.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it could not comment on the BBC’s resource, but that its own content was based on “scientific facts surrounding life before birth”. A spokesman accused pro-choice groups of “sanitizing abortion.”

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