A lesson on the BBC website promoting the views of an anti-abortion group was removed by the broadcaster over the weekend, 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’ rather than ‘anti-abortion’ and had a page dedicated to a vocal campaign group who want abortion in Britain to be banned.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (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 was currently reviewing content for its guide to religious studies, which covers Catholic views on life and death and is aimed at GCSE students aged 15 and 16.
The SPUC has also repeatedly promoted on its website a procedure known as abortion “reversal”, which medical organizations have condemned as unproven and potentially dangerous. And last week he celebrated the decision in the United States to overturn Roe v Wade – the Supreme Court decision that protected women’s right to abortion across the country – as “a monumental day for justice. “. [and the] to be born “.
Despite their track record, the group has been uncritically described on BBC Bitesize as a “pro-life” charity which “defends the rights of unborn children”, promotes “the sanctity of human life” and “supports individuals and families during pregnancy”. No pro-choice organizations were mentioned.
Critics said the material, which was part of a BBC Bitesize resource based on the WJEC review board review programme, did not clearly distinguish between fact and opinion and risked exposing the children to “harmful” misinformation.
Lisa Hallgarten, policy manager at Brook, the national sexual health charity, described the learning materials as “shocking” and “problematic in many ways”. . “Pointing fingers at an organization that is very unreliable when it comes to factual information is problematic because you give them credibility,” she said. “It’s not abstract for young people; This is real life. We really need to avoid sending people to organizations that won’t help them.
As well as featuring SPUC, the BBC Bitesize resource listed ‘powerful arguments’ against abortion, including that it ‘denies choice to the unborn child’ and makes human life appear ‘cheap and disposable’. .
In another section, a diagram entitled Alternatives to Abortion suggested sexual abstinence and natural family planning as solutions to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and “financial support” as alternatives to abortion, but did not mention the contraception.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an abortion provider, raised concerns about the information provided to teenage girls about alternatives to abortion and said it was ‘absurd’ that the chart suggested abstinence and abstinence. natural family planning but does not mention contraception.
Humanists UK, a charity promoting secularism, said it was vital for the teaching of religious studies to highlight different viewpoints and encourage structured debate. But Robert Cann, its education campaigns manager, said SPUC’s inclusion was inappropriate given its “history of promoting extreme views on abortion among children in a way that is simply factually wrong”.
‘We should be very careful when his name and resources are hosted uncritically on a self-guided GCSE RE review course for children,’ he said.
He also criticized the resource for not reflecting the views of most Catholics. Polls have shown that most are in favor of abortion and the use of contraception. “This resource implies that Christians, and especially Catholics, will invariably be opposed to abortion. But that’s the opposite of the truth – we know that in 2013, less than 7% of the total population said they were anti-abortion, of which only 14% were Catholics – figures that will only have decreased since then. he added, said, “The whole thing needs an overhaul 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 exam board syllabus, which is why it included a reference to SPUC.
But although it is aimed at a specific group, the resource is publicly available on the broadcaster’s website, and links to it appear at the top of Google results in searches for SPUC, abortion and the BBC.
The BBC website states that Bitesize Guides are “written by teachers and subject matter experts and are mapped to follow UK curricula”.
WJEC, the review board whose BBC guide is supposed to accompany the material, has distanced itself from the study material. “The resources developed by BBC Bitesize have been created without any involvement from our Religious Studies team and are therefore not endorsed by WJEC,” a spokesperson said. While the WJEC program examined opposing views on abortion, he said, it did not advocate any in particular.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it could not comment on the BBC resource but its own content was based on “scientific facts surrounding life before birth”. A spokesperson accused pro-choice groups of “sanitizing abortion”.