This was the headline on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald on 13th June 2009. Only one problem – it wasn’t true! And it still isn’t true. As a matter of fact, the then Deputy Director-General of Schools, Mr Trevor Fletcher, stated very clearly in a letter dated 27 October 2009 that, “The presentation is not banned from NSW public schools… Choices of Life is entitled to make approaches to any NSW public school with a view to presenting The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) to staff or students.” Even though the program conducted by Choices of Life in the schools had never been banned it was surprising how many schools believed what they read, despite the fact they wouldn’t believe many other things they might read in these daily tabloids. The primary school program, The Wonder of Life (Before Birth), was approved according to the very specific guidelines of the NSW Department of Education. The final stage was a ‘real life’ presentation by Bruce Coleman in front of a group of students in a public school. The Director who approved the program (she had approved many other programs for the Department) was very excited and at the time exclaimed, “This is so good it should be in every school in NSW!” That was March 2009. So what was presented, and what happened to change the mind of those in the Department?
The Primary Program
Choices of Life is an organisation set up with the primary goal of school-based education about the sanctity of human life, especially prior to birth. In grades 5 and 6 (11-12 year olds) the message is interactive,factual and highly visual – models of the baby at different stages, 4D ultrasound images and posters. Students are left in no doubt as to the humanity of the unborn. “The presentation helped me to understand that an unborn baby is a real living person!” wrote one student. The Sydney Morning Herald claimed they had alerted the Department to the existence of the program resulting in it being ‘banned’. It can only be surmised who may have alerted the SMH so they could make the complaint. The reasons they (SMH) cited for the program being unsuitable had nothing to do with the content. It had everything to do with the people with whom Bruce Coleman (the CEO of Choices of Life and presenter of the program) associated, namely, the NSW Right to Life, Rev Fred Nile, and the US company, Heritage House, that supplies “anti-abortion merchandise … such as a range of life-sized foetal dolls.” I assume the little feet lapel pins (representing the size of an unborn baby’s feet at 10 weeks after conception) were also included in their ‘antiabortion’ classification.
The initial phone call from the Department of Education, to Bruce Coleman, was within 14 hours of the conversation with the SMH journalist. The Departmental official said the reason for the supposed ‘temporary’ removal of The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) presentation from the Departmental website of approved programs was because of the content of the Choices of Life website. They claimed that some people may be offended, or even disagree, with the ‘biased’
(read ‘pro-life’) content it displayed. Bruce commented that he was offended by the ‘biased’ material on the Family Planning Association website and asked whether their departmentally approved programs would also be removed. ‘No comment’ was the clear reply! It is interesting that not once did the Department representative query the content of the actual presentation, nor its appropriateness to the age group – that should not be surprising since neither he, nor the one who may have made the original complaint, had ever seen the program.
The ensuing five months involved a detailed investigation, under the supervision of two senior Directors of the Department, of the ‘approval process’. It can only be assumed that this was the same process, as carefully detailed on the Departmental website, by which the previous 250 programs had been approved. Bruce Coleman, the school, the Director who provided the recommendation for approval, and anyone remotely involved was subjected to the inquisition. Every minute detail was inspected. Every question was answered. Every procedure had been followed. Their final solution was to remove every approved program and to close down the Performances in Schools website. Such a move expresses a distinct note of desperation – Choices of Life had come up ‘squeaky clean’ but to avoid an admission of their own error, the Department of Education made this radical decision. It can only be assumed that this ‘inquiry’ was all about ideology, and not a desire for speaking the truth. It seemed the reason for the removal of the program appeared to be irrelevant – it just had to be removed.
The Secondary Presentations
Choices of Life also has presentations appropriate to students in the senior secondary grades. Again using 4D ultrasound images, models and factual information, the Years 9 and 10 students are challenged to make up their minds on the issue of abortion. Some of the so-called ‘pro-choice’ arguments are exposed and discussed – it’s just a blob of cells, it’s just a woman’s issue, it’s a woman’s choice. The presentation concludes with the facts about the possible consequences of abortion. As one student wrote, “Everybody needs facts to form an opinion on this issue – this helped me to make up my mind that abortion is wrong any way you look at it.” This follow-up presentation, A Logical Defence of the Pro-Life Position, provides a framework for senior students to clearly and confidently defend their pro-life position in an illogical ‘pro-choice’ world. The facts speak for themselves.
The need for volunteers/presenters
From 1997, the programs were presented under the auspices of NSW Right to Life but since 2007, Choices of Life has continued to expand the presentations across Australia. It is often a challenge to gain access into schools, but over the past 16 years Bruce has spoken at hundreds of Catholic, Christian, Anglican, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventist and even a few Public schools. It is clear that the message is still absolutely vital in educating the next generation on the sanctity of the most vulnerable of human life. The great need is for more presenters to take the program to more schools so that more students can hear this life-changing message.