The subject of abortion has been at the forefront of many students’ minds recently. Last term, pro-life group Abort67 came to campus to target female and medical students in their continuing campaign against abortion. The Womens’ Network organised a counter protest in retaliation to what they described as misinformation, flawed arguments and threatening behaviour.
I was amongst the women who counter-protested Abort67. I am pro-life and am aware of the contrasting views of the Women’s Network but I felt we had a common cause. I admit I was unprepared for the hostility I faced in engaging Abort67 protestors in debate – particularly when cornered three on one and facing arguments consisting of inaccuracies that the other side refused to reconsider, even when corrected.
In particular, one male protestor rebuked me for having not ‘kept [my] legs closed’. I felt threatened and, although there were police present, I did not feel the University was prepared to protect me. It was around an hour before he was removed, after harassing several other women.
At the last Students’ Union Council meeting of the autumn term, a ‘Pro-Choice Motion’ was proposed by the Womens’ Network. It was a proposal that the Union declare its support for the pro-choice movement. Amongst the resolutions were commendable ideas such as readily available information for students facing unwanted pregnancies and support for future action against groups threatening the safety of women on campus.
This sentiment in particular struck a chord with me. Had I not, as a pro-lifer, felt my safety threatened in an attempt to protect the women on campus? And now they had suggested that it was necessary to take a pro-choice stance, silencing my voice, in order to eliminate these threats.
In both cases, engagement with the other side’s perspective is not a priority. As a pro-life feminist I am faced with hostility from both sides. The pro-life movement is rife with misogyny, ignorance, disregard for education and disinterest in prevention of unwanted pregnancies. On the other hand, the immediate association between moral objection to abortion and the pro-life movement provokes hostility from many pro-choicers. For this reason I am terrified at the prospect of standing up and openly opposing the proposed ‘Pro-Choice Motion’.
The Students’ Union is supposed to represent the students of our University. This should be regardless of religious or political beliefs. It is not appropriate for the Union to take a side in ongoing debates such as the morality of abortion.
The Union should be taking an impartial stance on this subject. There is no reason that support cannot be offered for women facing an unwanted pregnancy from a neutral perspective, even if that support is to direct the woman to a third party support network.
We are not all pro-choice; there are a variety of reasons why someone might be against abortion. If the Union declares itself pro-choice it is effectively alienating any students who hold different ethics to that of the pro-choice movement.
Editor’s Note: The ‘Pro-Choice Motion’ was postponed at SU Council 11th December 2012, because council was inquorate. The motion will be put forward again at Council on 5th February 2013 at 6pm in the Law and Social Sciences Building.