.- A biology program originally approved in the Australian state of New South Wales to teach public schoolchildren about the “Wonder of Life” before birth has been banned because of its creator’s connections to pro-life groups.
In March, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training had approved The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) program to be taught in fifth and sixth year classrooms as part of the personal development, health and physical education curriculum. The program, which uses life-sized dolls of the fetal development of a baby, was created by Bruce Coleman, a former executive director of the pro-life group NSW Right to Life.
The Sydney Morning Herald then reported on Coleman’s link to NSW Right to Life, which it characterized as an “anti-abortion lobby group.”
The report resulted in the state education department banning the group from visiting schools. The education department has also announced a review of the approval process.
Coleman, a former management committee member for the Christian Democratic Party, was an unsuccessful CDP candidate in the 2004 election.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Coleman said the program was “very much biology” and said he “doesn’t get involved in the politics at all.” The program does not mention abortion “in the primary context” because it is “not appropriate,” he said.
Coleman also runs the company The Choices of Life Inc., the Australian distributor of the pro-life merchandise marketed by Heritage House, a U.S. company. Its range of fetal life-sized dolls is used in the disputed program.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Smith, a Liberal MP, supported the creation of The Choices of Life in 2007.
Smith, a former president of NSW Right to Life, said he did not see a problem with Coleman’s program being taught in public schools.
Associate Professor Anne Mitchell of La Trobe University, an expert in sex education in schools, told the Sydney Morning Herald it was entirely appropriate for children in years five and six to be taught about conception, pregnancy and life in the womb.
"My problem would be if it's put in an ideological framework, if it's being used to influence people's thinking about abortion," she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Education and Training said that the The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) presentation has been removed from the department’s website and the company responsible for presenting it has been told it is not authorized to present in NSW public schools.