Image Credit: Stan Zurek
Last week, the latest of four protests by anti-abortion activists at Cardiff University angered the larger student body and the Student’s Union.
A vote in November on a proposed motion by student Isadora Sinha for the Union to adopt an official pro-choice stand on abortion gained an overwhelming amount of support. Despite the Union outwardly declaring that they believe everyone should have the choice to have an abortion or not, three more protests followed the vote.
Large graphic and triggering images were presented on campus by external group Centre for Bioethical Reform UK. Jackie Yip, president of Cardiff ’s Student Union, was concerned with the distressing nature of the protests and that the location was in close proximity to children coming out of nursery. In a Facebook post, Yip encouraged anyone affected by the protests to call 101 to report protestors to the police. This isn’t an isolated incident; internally, student societies based on anti-abortion ethics seem to be on the rise. There are at least 14 societies dotted around universities in the UK, including Cardiff ’s own ‘Cardiff Students for Life’. Isadora Sinha defended the winning motion despite the continued backlash, stating it was “written in a way to ensure free speech and expression for those who are pro-life and the pro-life society can function as before”.
Unfortunately, any action attempted by Student’s Unions around the UK to squash societies pushing anti-abortion messages has fallen short due to the threat of legal action claiming denial of free speech. Chief executive of CBR UK, Andy Stephenson, is not stepping back, claiming that protests are planned for every two weeks potentially for the rest of the year. According to Stephenson, the universities that are being targeted for the anti-abortion demonstrations are the ones “attended with people very likely to have an abortion” and that the group will continue to provide a “voice for the unseen victims of abortion”.
Nouse contacted Ally Smith, one of YUSU’s Women’s and Non-Binary Officers on her thoughts about this issue, she told us: “I stand in complete solidarity with Cardiff’s SU and support their continued advocacy for the right to choose. The use of graphic images to intimidate and frighten students has no place on any campus.”
We also contacted Ollie Martin, the YUSU Activities Officer, on their official stance on this issue, and to whether YUSU would ratify similar groups. He said: “I recognise that YUSU has a responsibility to uphold freedom of speech and any decisions made by the union must not discriminate against any group. It’s important that unions carefully consider the very complex environment that surrounds these debates."
“Policy, affiliation, and ratification at YUSU is led by students who do amazingly at considering multiple factors and testing requests against the values of the union. “In some instances, ratification requests can raise wider issues concerning the reputation or governance of the union, which then means that requests are escalated to the board of trustees, YUSU’s highest governing body.”