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Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 61(4) November 2011,  34-35

Just Five Questions: About the work of Life with the Government’s Sexual Health Forum

The pro-life charity LIFE has been given a seat in the new sexual health forum. Earlier this year, Life was invited to the government’s sexual health forum. This drew ferocious criticism from pro-abortion groups including some who found themselves excluded from the working group. A few other pro-Life groups were unhappy at the possibility of cooperation with a government policy that is seen as misguided and unable to achieve its aims. We interviewed Stuart Cowie, who is the LIFE representative, and present his answers to our five questions.

Q: Can you tell us how your appointment came about?

A: The Government reported that it is "an absolute priority" to lower the rate of abortion in the UK. The Department of Health in turn saw sense to invite us onto the core forum.

Q: What is the aim of the sex education forum?

A: The Group provides a national forum for the Department of Health and key stakeholders in the sexual health and HIV field to consider policy developments.

Q: A cursory reading of the list of other members (Brook, the Family Planning Association, the Terrence Higgins Trust etc) suggests that you are on your own. Is there not a hint of tokenism here?

A: This point has been made by a cross party group of MPs who have signed EDM 1918 which asks for more pro-life representation at this forum but I could be more persuaded by the tokenism argument if we were not core members of the group with some power to influence future policy. What I am there to say is not obscure but mainstream and will resonate with parents, doctors and other health care professionals.

Q: Why have current sex education programmes failed to reduce rates of teenage pregnancy?

A: Because they are based on a misguided premise, namely that all young people are having sex. This leads to a normalising of sexual activity in younger people driven by those in authority. The ‘wait until you are ready’ message gives license to underage sexual behaviour. We believe that young people should be given information about delaying sexual activity and the importance of love and commitment. It is all about how the establishment demonstrates its respect for young people. Omission of the ideal context for sexual relations has been short sighted and sends confusing messages to people during an already confusing time of life.

Q: But it is claimed that teenage pregnancy rates are lower in the Netherlands due to earlier and more explicit sex education?

A: However, in "Deconstructing the Dutch Utopia," Joost Van Loon has shown that this statement is simplistic. The decline in teenage conception rates started before the introduction of sex education. The introduction of sex education has not resulted in lower conception rates. Most importantly, there are large differences in the types of sex education in Dutch schools. The study further shows that where there are stable families, the children are less likely to engage in sexual activity.