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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 20 October 2020

We need to create a solution to abortion. Children as young as 8 need to get sex education in school

A lot of people will consider what I’m suggesting controversial, ridiculous or pointless – but we need to create real solutions to real problems and bring the number of abortions down, writes Liadan O’Connor.

Liadan O'Connor

THE ISSUE OF abortion has reared its controversial head again. Political parties have stated that they will not raise the issue in the next general election.

High profile women are declaring they’ve had an abortion and many are tweeting under #Shout Your Abortion.

A recent spate of pro-choice tweets I wrote caused a pro-life friend to contact me and challenge my opinions. A debate ensued whereupon we discovered that we actually share a lot of the same opinions.

I propose we change the abortion debate from extremist pro-lifers shouting about how you are an inconsiderate so-and-so who thinks your baby is an inconvenience and from pro-choicers stating that having an abortion doesn’t make them monsters. Instead of a slurring/defensive match why not create real solutions for the real problems?

Abortion is such a massive, complex issue and yet people only speak about the polar ends of the argument. Although I don’t believe having an abortion should be a crime or one should be ashamed of it, I do believe it is something no woman wants to do when they wake up in the morning.

Surely then the middle ground is bringing the number of abortions down? Why are we not also discussing ways of preventing pregnancy happening in the first place?

Knowledge is power; education and responsibility are key. The sad reality is that children are having sex from as young as ten years old. As squeamish and uncomfortable as this makes us, adults need to prepare their children in a safe, informative environment.

What child will listen to “The Talk” if they’ve already had a partner or three?

Children should be educated in sex education in school every single year from the age of 8, before the idea of having sex occursto them. They should be taught about sex; its purposes, its dangers if you don’t protect yourself, types of contraception. Girls, but particularly boys, need to be taught about what consent is and, more importantly, about enthusiastic consent.

Contraception should be made freely available to women so that they can protect themselves against an unwanted pregnancy. Girls should be able to go to a doctor or family planning clinic without a parent to access contraception when under the age of 16. Not getting it won’t mean they won’t have sex, merely that they will have unprotected sex.

Boys should learn to take responsibility for themselves. Just because a woman can get pregnant does not mean it’s more her fault or more her responsibility. Everyone knows of couples where they have been dating for over 6 months, so the man doesn’t wear a condom.

Men need to step up and take responsibility for the 50% of potential babies they make. Boys need to be trained to wear a condom from the start and girls need to be trained to enforce their partners to wear one.

I understand that a lot of people would consider what I’m suggesting is controversial, ridiculous or pointless. However, it is clear that sex is very much a topic that pre-teens are not only discussing but acting on; there have been several stories of children taking naked selfies and being arrested for owning child pornography.

Unfortunately, this is a growing and very concerning trend that needs to be spoken about and not brushed under the carpet.

I believe women should have access to abortion in Ireland and that access shouldn’t be determined on their reason for wanting one. However this issue is so much bigger than merely allowing or preventing it. Give women the right to choose and have autonomy over their bodies both before and after the fact. Educate children properly with a nationwide sex education programme and allow women to access contraception for free in tandem with opening up abortion clinics.

If children are educated every single year in school from an age before they have sex surely they are more likely to treat the act with the respect and maturity it deserves? Not every child will listen, not every parent will allow their child attend, but somewhere along the way children may take notice and will hopefully not end up in the situation no one wants to be in.

As adults, we need to face up to the stark realities of the situation, claim our role in it and take responsibility for changing it.

Liadan O’Connor works as a researcher for television.

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Liadan O'Connor

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