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A public consultation in Northern Ireland has found widespread opposition to abortion access being included in sex education resources. 

The consultation by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland sought responses to legislation on the right of parents to withdraw their children from sexual and reproductive health lessons covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents expressed opposition to sex education resources covering access to abortion.

Guidance released by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland at the start of the new year confirmed that parents can withdraw their children from these lessons in years 8 to 11, as well as in year 12 if the child consents.

Parents can make a request in writing to withdraw their child and do not need to provide a reason.

The guidance also confirmed that teachers and pupils can discuss “moral, ethical and spiritual issues alongside the age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate teaching and associated learning resources”, and sex education covering abortion access can be taught in a manner “aligned with the ethos of the school”.

The public consultation received over 13,000 responses, nearly half of which (47%) came from parents.

The vast majority of respondents (92%) also agreed that parents should be “informed about the specific nature and content” of sex education lessons.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said: “The overwhelming rejection of the teaching about access to abortion in Northern Ireland is consistent with what we already know: the people of Northern Ireland do not want abortion.

“The people of Northern Ireland made it clear that they did not want abortion introduced to Northern Ireland, but the UK Government ignored them and forced it on them.

“Now the UK Government is adding insult to injury and forcing schools throughout Northern Ireland to teach about abortion.

“This clear ideological teaching is in stark contrast to the historic culture in Northern Ireland where the rights of unborn children were recognised. A hundred thousand people are alive today in Northern Ireland because of their historic strong pro-life laws, laws that sadly no longer exist”.

“However, it is important that parents can at least withdraw their children from years 8-11 from content that includes teaching about abortion.”

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