Sat 1st Nov 2014 | Last updated: Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 16:19pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

What happened to the pro-life movement on campus?

My generation ignored life issues in favour of more fashionable topics

By on Monday, 21 January 2013

Eve Farron

It was good to read Madeleine Teahan’s interview with Eve Farren in the Herald last week. Eve Farren, for those who have not read the article, is to become the full-time leader of a new pro-life inter-university student organisation: The Alliance of Pro-Life Students. A graduate of Bristol University, she recalled her experience of the lonely struggle to present a pro-life message to other students there. Madeleine herself recalled similar obstacles when she was an undergraduate: a stall at the Freshers’ Fair “was usually the height of the academic year’s pro-life activism”. She felt that “The inertia that blights pro-life campaigning at universities is partly due to fear and lethargy but also a lack of advice and support”, adding that “I still regret not doing more for the pro-life society at Cambridge.”

I also have regrets. For my first two years at Cambridge in the mid-60s there was no pro-life society as such. Then, in 1967 came the Abortion Act. I cannot recall raising my voice once in defence of life, either before the Act was passed, or afterwards. Apart from a hectic social life my head was full of Third World and other issues – the sort of activities that makes you feel good without removing you one inch from your comfort zone: I dutifully turned up for plentiful amounts of soup and rolls at War on Want lunches; I pinned that poster of Che Guevara on my wall in token of my support for his cause (whatever it was); I made a speech at the Union (very late at night when it was almost empty) on the safe subject of apartheid in South Africa; I handed out Ban the Bomb leaflets; I joined in a huge anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Grosvenor Square; I listened sympathetically when friends in college went on about over-population. But I did nothing in response to the single and gravest piece of legislation during those years: raising my voice about the abortion of pre-born babies that was starting to take place on my own doorstep.

In retrospect this strikes me as a shameful omission. Many years later I tried to make some small amends: hearing that pro-life students were under attack from militant pro-choice fellow students who wanted to silence their voice completely, I went on a 25-mile sponsored walk to raise money for their cause. Now that the Alliance of Pro-Life Students has come into being, I should be glad to give them further tangible support.

Since the 1960s, when I was an undergraduate, entrenched battle-lines have been drawn up between those wanting to repeal the Abortion Act and those who don’t. It remains a constant and passionate dispute on both sides. A thoughtful blog by Daniel Nichols on his Caelum et Terra site reminded me to look at the argument from a different angle. He referred to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic In Akron, USA which had its usual numbers of pro-life protesters. Recently, one of these protestors was accidentally injured outside the clinic. The clinic’s nurses immediately came outside to her aid, phoned the emergency services, contacted her husband and even sent her flowers in hospital. Nichols reflects, “It made me realize that I was wrong to assume that someone associated with such evil as abortion must be devoid of all goodness…for all I know, they may consider abortion a tragedy, an unfortunate necessity. We should refrain from the demonization of our enemies. They may not be evil, just mistaken.”

The pro-life movement in this country urgently needs a new perspective and new strategies. I have hopes that the Alliance of Pro-Life Students, under the energetic leadership of Eve Farron, will find a new and compassionate way to convey their message of hope to the students they meet on campuses up and down the country.

  • OldMeena

    I think she is saying that the so-called “pro-life movement” is now becoming more fashionable among some students. 

  • Patrickhowes

    I think what Francis is saying is that we have become too complacent about the abortion issue and that we need to rasie our heads from the sands

  • OldMeena

    By “she”, I meant Eve Farren.  I’ve removed the ambiguity.

  • Kevin

    “They may not be evil, just mistaken.”

    The specifics of this incident aside, being evil does not imply that one always does the wrong thing. Certain gangster-types, for example, are well-known for loving their families or doing a lot of work for charity. It may be that gangsters take a globalist view of morality: that it is possible to “balance” the sum totals of wrongs and rights done in one’s life and come out in credit. This of course obviates the need for atonement and redemption.

    In the context of abortion, the most obvious deficiency of “replacement ethics” is that whatever alternative good you practise, you can always go home and return to your private life. A child, however, “intrudes” on that. Realising this in advance, a person wishing to do the right thing simply has to follow through on the logic: avoid occasions of sin, make sure you love someone before you make love to them, and test that love by committing to them in front of witnesses.

    These are obvious ways to avoid hating the woman you just slept with and the child she is carrying.

  • JFJ

    I certainly wish Eve Farron blessings and all the best in her efforts and will pray for her. I do think that gentleness and dogged determination will be qualities that she will need; and a large does of dogged determination as well.  She will need to have the heart of a child and the skin of a rhinoceros.  One of the things she may run  into is the entrenched assumption that is part of some Student Unions within U.K. universities, that the only plausible position one can take on this issue is a pro-abortion stance and all others are un-welcomed.  If I am not mistaken, this happened to students at UCL about one year ago (see CH 31 Jan 2012 and other newspapers).  Miss Farron must be prepared to encounter those running the unions and the universities for that matter, whose convictions do not allow that any position that is contrary to theirs is actually included in the idea of free speech or will be welcomed in their market place of ideas.  

  • JR, Sydney

    An honest approach would be to advise access to appropriate rcontraceptive advice. Whatever the official party line is, students are young and lusty and as my late ( daily communicant grandmother once said) “an upright cock has no conscience”.

    Doesn’t sound as though much has changed  on the uni scene in the last 40 years!

  • JessicaHof

    She will certainly run into the entrenched ‘wisdom’ that sex with no strings and no consequences is a ‘human right’. She’s a brave woman and I wish her well.

  • GeoffreySales

    ho ho

  • Miss

    Too complacent!! You are all too obsessed! I think that is the only thing Catholics think and talk about. Never anything about God, religion, faith etc. but ALL about this obsession with foetuses.

  • Miss

    We are all too busy getting our degrees to be protesting. University is not the right place for it.