Schools should invite pro-choice speakers to address pupils


As I write, International Women’s Day is fast approaching.

This is an opportunity to celebrate the important victories won in the fight for women’s rights and to renew our commitment to the struggle for real equality.

An indication of how far we still have to go in Northern Ireland is the fact principals in secondary education think it acceptable to invite the Director of Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth, to speak to their students.

This is the same women who has recently been convicted of harassment.

Socialist Youth has been told that while schools invite this fundamentalist to preach to their students, requests by pro-choice groups to give the other side of the argument are met with a wall of silence.

Inviting Ms Smyth to speak in schools legitimises the bullying tactics used by groups like Precious Life against women dealing with unplanned pregnancies, medical practitioners and pro-choice campaigners.

It also adds to the stigmatisation of women who seek terminations and prevents young people from being able to engage in an open and balanced discussion around sexuality, sexual relationships and family planning.

Bernadette Smyth’s opinions are not representative of the majority of people in Northern Ireland who support liberalisation of abortion law and they are particularly not representative of the views of young people.

Serious questions must be asked of school managements and the Minister of Education as to why such a figure is allowed to “teach” in our schools.

Rather than the hysterical rhetoric and misrepresentations of the right-wing, religious fringe, young people have the right to expect serious, secular and factual sex education.

Courtney Robinson

President, Belfast Met Students’ Union (personal capacity) and Socialist Youth