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Top barrister: students’ crackdown on abortion debate is Stalinist and illegal

By on Tuesday, 31 January 2012

University College London (Photo: PA)

University College London (Photo: PA)

A leading Catholic barrister has said that a student union motion at University College London which forces Catholic organisations to invite pro-abortion speakers to pro-life events is “completely illegal”.

Neil Addison, who specialises in freedom of religion, told the Catholic Herald: “This motion is completely illegal under the Education (No 2) Act 1986 which guarantees freedom of speech at universities [and is] also illegal under Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The student union has no right to dictate what speakers are invited by student organisations. Also the resolution assumes that everyone involved in this debate can be easily categorised as ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’ which is a simplistic analysis. Many people, for example, regard Nadine Dorries as ‘pro-life’ though she describes herself as ‘pro-choice’. What right does the student union have to decide which category a speaker should be classified under?

“The students who voted for this resolution have demonstrated a totalitarian intolerance unworthy of an academic institution. Hitler and Stalin would be proud of them,” Mr Addison said.

As well as officially affiliating the student union with Abortion Rights group, the motion also stated: “Any future open events focusing on the issue of termination invite an anti-choice speaker and a pro-choice speaker as well as an independent chair, to ensure there is a balance to the argument.”

It noted: “On October 31 2011, UCLU Catholic Society advertised a ‘discussion’ around the issue of abortion which consisted of one pro-life speaker. It is also noted that people who held opposing views were invited to attend.”

It continued: “An official pro-choice policy would not prevent students who disagree with termination on ethical or religious grounds from exercising their right not to seek a termination. Pro-choice policy encourages students to make well-informed decisions regarding their bodies and their futures. When clubs and societies invite pro-life speakers they should also invite a pro-choice speaker to balance the debate and vice versa.”

James Skuse, Democracy and Communications Officer for the union, said the motion applied to pro-abortion talks as well as pro-life ones and was meant to ensure that “no student feels alienated because of his or her personal beliefs or experiences”.

He said: “Societies wishing to hold meetings just for society members do not have to abide by this rule. It is also worth mentioning that this clause works both ways and as such any pro-choice open event is also obliged to invite an opposing speaker and independent chair.”

  • Rsmcgregor81

    Very well written and some crucial points made.

  • tdm900

    I left the students union when I was at Kent, you are right it is a stalinist institution of young people who have not matured to see the wider picture of human rights and freedom of religion.

  • Deefer Dog

    Well done, well said and spot on, Neil Addison!

  • Anonymous

    Student groups should not be forced to bring in other speakers in this way.

    However, I do think that it is the case that Catholics should be sure enough in their opinions on abortion that pro-choice speakers should not prove a threat. If the official Catholic stance on abortion made any sense then Catholic groups would not be wary of challenge.

    As it stands however with the ridiculousness of conceptions terminated as being equated to as akin to murder (when God’s design of the women naturally terminates many more conceptions in each woman than are actually born) then it is no wonder Catholic societies can’t face the challenge.

    The Church has some thinking to do in the light of modern science. 

  • Anonymous


    I doubt you know the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion.

  • southwarkcath

    As a former UCL student I applaud this decision. As someone said, if Catholics are sure that their position is the right one they have nothing to fear from hearing an opposing view. I find the moral outrage on this issue a bit rich given most Catholics wish to close down all debte on this issue. Dialougue is good, not just for ourselves but for pro choice people as well.

  • Anonymous

    Of course I do. But both have the same effect – a conception gets terminated.

    God designed the womans body, so surely he is responsible for all of the (billions of) ‘natural’ miscarriages that occur.

    If the termination of conceptions was so bad why would a loving God allow this?

  • Anonymous

    or between natural death and murder, between a heart attack occurring naturally and one occurring as a result of an illegal shock.   In this world there are a huge number of evil things that occur; there are a huge number of unfortunate accidental things that occur.  We navigate through this life trying to  follow the law of God.

  • ms Catholic state

    But why was the Pro-life group singled out?  It’s not about balance… is about dominating and subjugating the Pro-life voice. 

    Let’s face it…..the Student’s Union are rabid pro-aborts….who can’t stand the thought of the unborn child.  And someone should tell them….the unborn child’s body belongs to themselves alone…NOT the mother.  Same for the umbilical cord and sac both of which contain the child’s DNA not the mother’s.  This motion should be ignored because it is evil. 

  • Vernon

    Tsk, tsk.  Notice how the well educated, open minded, even handed, objective, University folk are always so afraid that Christians, especially Catholics, may get to utter a complete sentence in a speech or forum, without being interrupted, or overridden by the strident opposition. Let’s have “Freedom of Speech”, says the University .  But what is meant is, Freedom of Speech, but only for PC, LGBT, and Pro Abortion Speakers.  Isn’t it a major goal of a good education, to instill the ability to listen calmly and politely to the opinions of others, even if those opinions are different than one’s own? Try speaking as a Christian at a University function.  Bring along earplugs, to protect your hearing from the shrieking, and a good towel so you can clean the spit off your face, from the supposedly “educated” opposition.

  • ms Catholic state

    Amazing how uneducated the ‘cream’ of our society is.  Imagine not knowing that the unborn child is NOT part of the mother’s body.  Simple biology and basic genetics!  Tut tut.

  • ms Catholic state

    You are right.  Pro-aborts are so aggressive and loud mouthed.  But then when it comes to it….they only pick on those much much smaller than themselves who can’t defend themselves or those with high morals who won’t retaliate.  Truly nasty.

  • ms Catholic state

    Time I think for some good Catholics to join the top ranks of the student’s union.  Why is it only the hard faced, cold blooded sorts put themselves up for pseudo jobs like the student union?!  Catholics need to become more ambitious.

  • ms Catholic state

    BTW……spitting on people should be reported to the police immediately.  Disgusting and cowardly behaviour.

  • UCL student

    I’m a Catholic and current UCL student who previously served as an officer in our students’ union. It comes as little surprise to me that the union passed a resolution of this kind.
    The loudest voices in the union tend to be those whose agenda is generally liberal and politically left-wing. It just so happens that these people are also the most ‘active’ in using the framework of the union to get their points across. I can say this objectively since my work in the union involved screening motions like this controversial one.

    In any case, union motions can easily be manoeuvred by a minority. As it stands, the entire UCL students’ union, which represents over 22,000 students, is officially affiliated with a pro-choice group. All it took was just over 2,000 students (less than 10%) to say yes to it.

    One can’t fault the union for not getting more people to vote – there’s little point forcing those who can’t be bothered. However, the union should refrain from taking such sweeping stances on account of a flawed voting system.

  • ms Catholic state

    Thank you.That is very interesting.  It just amazes me how these unions are almost always staffed by pro-aborts.  Are we Catholics just not as zealous or crafty or what?!  Maybe we are just too nice and too naieve…..and maybe not operating as devout Catholics should.  Time for that to change methinks.

  • Jorge Morais

    By your logic, all muder is OK. After all, everyone dies.

    “God designed the human body, so surely He is responsible for all the billions of natural deaths to this day.”

    “If intentional murder was so bad, why would a loving god allow this?”

    In other words: your flawed logic has just justified all murder.

    Morality is far more subtle than you think, paulsays.

  • Student at UCL

    As a UCL student, I feel it’s worth mentioning a couple of points: 

    Firstly, a large number of students voted for the motion without properly understanding its nature; they just saw a pro choice option and voted ‘yes’. Having been explained the true intentions of the motion, most students were against the motion.
    Secondly, it’s definitely true that it’s good to encourage discussion about a topic such as abortion. Although the Catholic Society didn’t have an official speaker in favour of abortion at their event in October, there were some very strong opinions (examining whether abortion can be a good thing) displayed during the discussion after the pro life speaker’s presentation, which were certainly welcome. 

    This motion is simply unnecessary. It’s not an abortion debate, it’s a question of whether a university union should remain unbiased and supportive of all views, which of course, it should. 

  • Vernon

    Of course, your explanation then requires that at every Pro-Choice Student event, a Pro Life anti-abortion speaker must be invited.  Somehow, this won’t be allowed, will it?  So your opinion that the University is “unbiased” is laughable, just another device to excuse it’s unabashed support of Abortion, and the usual ongoing daily criticism of Christians. 

  • Student at UCL

    no, my explanation doesn’t say that, I simply meant to say that it’s good to discuss both sides of the argument for and against the subject sometimes – this event in October was a discussion – but not a debate as was suggested before, which is why people got angry that there were no pro abortion speakers at this ‘debate’.

    I don’t think any body should have to be invited to anything, if a society wants to do an event, they should be allowed to do it, as long as it doesn’t aim to offend.  

  • Vernon

    Really? Astounding!!  Discuss both sides of the Abortion issue! Why, how fair and unbiased you are!  You are a true University Student! 

  • Student at UCL

    I’m not really sure what you’re arguing. Could you clarify? (as a ‘true university student’, I’m not very clever)

  • Vernon


  • Charles Martel

     Blimey, here he goes again. Just for the sake of clarity, are you a Catholic, paulsays?

  • Anonymous

    Just worry about beating my arguments first.

  • Ohio reader

    You made an argument?

  • Anonymous

    does you mouse have a scroll-wheel?

  • Ohio reader

    Why yes, I do, and no matter how high I scroll, I can’t find an actual argument. There is an absurd confusion between natural miscarriage and intentional termination. People have answered by pointing out the logical fallacy in your thought. You have failed to respond to THEIR points, not the other way around. You have no argument, because you have not recognized the basic distinction between natural death and intentional killing. Or do you think them the same? What if the state decided to do away with you before your moment came naturally? Or decided not to prosecute murder, leaving all citizens vulnerable to, well, the murderous? What would it matter? After all, we’re all going to die one day. What does it matter when, or how?

    And as for your obligatory reference to “modern science”, it would be an instructive exercise  to write a paragraph defining and describing the terms “science” and “scientism”, and what distinguishes the two.

    “Science”, however you conceive it, whatever value you ascribe to it, however much you may confuse it with technology, does not exist in some privileged ethical vacuum. Just because something can be done, does not mean it should or must be done.

  • Student at UCL

    Okay. Would you like to clarify your argument? 

  • Anonymous

    On reflection, I don’t think this ‘motion’ is all that bad. Let the ‘pro-choice’ speakers come along, and let them be educated by sound argument and their misunderstanding on this issue be corrected. If you are having a pro-life event, isn’t part of the idea to get pro-choice people along to inform them of the sanctity of human life? Bring them along, have some Catholic prayers at the beginning, followed by Scripture reading and meditation, then get on to the pro-life discussion. If pro-choice people are going to come, better to expose them to as much Catholic teaching and practice as possible, and who knows?! We might just touch some hearts while we are at it. Pro-choice people aren’t demons, just ill-informed folk who need to be touched by God’s love. So turn this silly motion around, trust in God, and maybe win souls for Christ. It just seems a win-win situation to me!

  • johnnewbery485

    Or think laterally ……….. perhaps UCL Union will insist that meetings of the Geography Society invites speakers from the Flat-Earth group, the Revolutionary Socialists have to invite a Tory Eurosceptic speaker, the medics must invite people supporting healing stones, and so on……….

  • Mysteries Hastings

    The article in the actual newspaper is longer. I urge all to read the full article.
    David Alton was invited to give a talk entitled: Abortion: the ultimate taboo. His excellent talk provoked the Stalinist crackdown, thus bearing out the argument that the topic of abortion is the ultimate taboo. Freedom of speech is not allowed on this topic. 

  • m francis

    how on earth can anyone who is Catholic be angry there was no pro abortion speakers as the sanctity of life is a tenet of our religion and anyone who genuinely believes otherwise is either a non Catholic hijacking the event or a Catholic who clearly does not know their own faith

  • Student at UCL


  • Kburchfiel

    I felt extremely alienated when the UCLU passed the anti-pro life measures and ended up leaving the union. So Mr. Skuse, the motion adopted by the union completely failed.

  • BunnyOlesen

    anti-choice speaker and a pro-choice  LMAO as opposed to PRO-LIFE and ANTI-LIFE – why I assume that whomever wrote that choice morsel is well on their way to becoming a double speak politician or P.O. crap-monger.  Even the attorney against the student organization said  ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’….anti-choice, get real – that is NOT even the issue, what a smarmy way to make them look like some kind of anti-freedom fascists or something by terminology.
    I also question this comment:  to ensure there is a balance to the argument. – who said a pro-life event was ‘AN ARGUMENT’ or that there was any debate?  Are they then saying they DEMAND that it be a debate, instead of an event or seminar or speaker of catholic pro-life ideals?  
    ANOTHER stupid double speak statement:
    An official pro-choice policy would not prevent students who disagree with termination on ethical or religious grounds from exercising their right not to seek a termination 
    REALLY – GEE THANKS, YOU MEAN YOU WON’T FORCE THEM TO GET AN ABORTION?  (yet) What if they just don’t want an abortion & ethical or religious reasons aren’t involved, they just ‘want their baby’?  
    Why would they even feel the NEED to include a statement like that??

    This statement is just a lie:   was meant to ensure that “no student feels alienated because of his or her personal beliefs or experiences.”  FIRST OF ALL nobody has to go to the pro-life event if they don’t want to, and feeling alienated from groups you wholeheartedly disagree with is part of LIFE.  So they need to get used to it.  Secondly, that’s just a total lie!!  ANTI-LIFE people are usually so aggressive and hateful, if someone wants to hold a PROLIFE event based on being Catholic they should NOT have to include the whole group of those who oppose.  
    And the whole OH yeah well they have to invite an opposing speaker too, is BOLLOX, because their anti-life belief IS NOT BASED ON RELIGION – it doesn’t mean the same thing.

    When they force the MULLAHS and islamic speakers to include LARS VILKS with his opposing view on islam, then we’ll talk.  


    Well you don’t need to have an opposing view if you just include yourselves….CRAP !!!  That’s the whole point is to invite people who might want to learn about pro-life; and not be bombarded by the anti-lifers at the same time.

  • BunnyOlesen

    Shut up jackass.  Nobody said they were “wary” of the ANTI-LIFE speakers.  The POINT is that they weren’t setting up a two party debate or ‘argument’ – they were having a pro-life EVENT.  That being said, it is a CATHOLIC religious pro-life event, and seeing as how abortion DOES go against their religion (and not just theirs) it violates their freedom of religion to impose an outside person who is against their beliefs.
    Do holocaust survivors have to include a holocaust denier at their ‘events’?
    Do Israeli Jews have to include Jew hating Muslims to ‘balance the argument’?
    Do islamic speakers have to ask LARS VILKS or Geert Wilders to give their “side” of the story?
    NO, no and  hell no.  This is Christian bias, and it violates their freedoms PERIOD.  This only came up when the catholics wanted to have a pro-life event.  These so called ‘elitist liberals’ are not liberal at ALL, they are demanding in their inclusivity while denying others their right to their own freedoms!  They hate regular family values (for some reason) and do everything they can to quash it; but also, they never say a damn thing when it comes to the crap the muslims come up with.  ONLY christians.

    Also, how the do you know what the statistics are on natural terminations versus births?  NOBODY knows.  And those ‘natural terminations’ are usually birth defect riddled mutants incompatible with life; or a body that isn’t capable of ‘holding’ a baby.  I think they estimate 50% of spontaneous abortions have Trisomy disorders.
    It is not ridiculous to people who believe there is a soul in the fetus. IF you believe that, then it is murder.
    Another thing that bothers me is, like even if I say yeah, well at 3 or 4 weeks, it is just a tiny mass of cells, there’s no heartbeat or anything, so that’s probably all right – then somebody else pushes it and pushes it back. Until abortion at 8 1/2 months is approved, I mean honestly just go ahead and approve euthanasia, because pulling the baby partially out & stabbing it in the head with some scissors does not make it LESS REAL than delivering it fully and killing it then.
    Did you hear about that late term abortionist who pulled out a viable baby, that was breathing and apparently fully delivered, and the ladies on the staff held it and played with it for 30 minutes and THEN he stabbed it in the head with some scissors??  WHAT the hell – the line gets blurry way to blurry.

  • BunnyOlesen

    yeah well he designed the  mans body too, is he responsible for your erectile dysfunction?

  • BunnyOlesen

    It’s not illegal to “shock” someone, unless you mean with electricity.

  • BunnyOlesen

    LMAO – you have no argument. Your argument is that it’s stupid to say life begins at conception – that’s it.  That’s NOT an argument – OH YEAH are you talking about miscarriages?  That’s not an argument either.  
    Most miscarriages are known to be babies so messed up with birth defects that they are ‘incompatible with life’ and even if delivered at full term would die within minutes or hours naturally.
    Also, neither YOU nor anybody else knows the number of natural terminations so it’s bogus to say that happens MUCH MORE than pregnancy that holds.  You can’t say that.

  • BunnyOlesen

    Maybe the Darwinists will have to invite creationists – I’d LOVE to see that.
    UNFORTUNATELY it appears that this ‘rule’ ONLY applies to abortion issues.  Which is also bullshit, because then they’re just enforcing their own beliefs onto people practicing their religion.