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Students block union’s attempt to stifle free speech on abortion

By on Tuesday, 27 March 2012

University College London (PA photo)

University College London (PA photo)

A student rebellion has crushed an attempt to ban free discussion of abortion at a leading British university.

The National Union of Students at the University College London abandoned its plans to impose pro-abortion speakers on students’ groups if they ever tried to arrange a talk by a speaker critical of terminations.

The climbdown was forced by a coalition of students who objected to what they considered to be an attack on free speech.

Union trustees accepted advice from their own lawyers that the students were right to claim that the move to curtail free speech had been “completely illegal”.

The students had claimed that the resolution had breached Section 43 of the 1986 Education Act that protects freedom of expression in universities and had threatened the union with a legal challenge.

Trustees were also told that proposals to affiliate and donate to the political Abortion Rights campaign were also against the charity laws that govern students’ unions.

Their decision to drop the pro-abortion resolutions could have huge repercussions in students’ unions across Britain that already give money to Abortion Rights, including those of Oxford, Leeds and Goldsmith College at the University of London.

The row erupted after the UCL Catholic Society invited Lord Alton of Liverpool, the former Lib Dem MP, to give a talk about the right to life last October.

The students union passed a motion stating: “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.”

Cajetan Skowronski, the incoming president of the Catholic Society, said that afterwards “students from all kinds of backgrounds approached us and said ‘if you want to challenge this we will support you because it’s ridiculous that a union is trying to impose one opinion on us, especially at a university”.

“We had support from people who were pro-choice as well as those who were pro-life,” he said.

Catholic, Jewish and Sikh students later informed the union in a joint letter that they would not abide by the resolution.

Students then initiated legal action against the union which resulted in a meeting of the trustees who threw out the resolutions.

Mr Skrowronski, who attended the meeting, said the trustees took the simple view that “if it’s illegal we can’t do it and if it’s impractical we can’t do it”.

Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre who advised the students, said: “I am delighted with this result which is due to the courage of pro-life students refusing to be intimidated.

“I find it worrying that a students’ union should be so ignorant of the concept of free speech and demonstrate such a totalitarian and intolerant mindset,” he said.

“Pro-abortionists are increasingly trying to prevent the pro life message being heard and to close down debate on the subject of abortion,” Mr Addison added. “That will not be allowed to happen.”

  • Guest

    1. You are a hideously bigoted person.
    2. We should stop listening to rationalism?

  • Guest

    Can you really not see a problem in giving a man control over a woman’s body?
    And I can honestly say I’ve never burnt a bra.

  • Guest

    There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reason for terminating a pregnancy. It’s the individual’s choice. Everyone has their own reasons – who are we to judge them?

  • James

     Well, if you don’t like pregnancy then don’t have sex.  End of story….  So, you are in favour of killing innocent babies in their mother’s womb.. That is sick and twisted.

  • Cjkeeffe

    You have failed to provide any answer to question I raised previously about the medical and psycological impact of abortion on a woman – why is that? A previous poster frefered commentators to the marthasvinyard website detailing some of these. As you previously said that books get out dated in your field of study – perhaps you may be able to understand the philosopical and biological objections to the nonsense you have sprouted throughout this debate – wikipedia is not a reliable source of information.As a scientist you must be familier with the concept of peer reviewed books and articles.

  • Cjkeeffe

    Dispute the science of what I said!

  • Cjkeeffe

    Everyone has a right not to choice an abortion too. However, to use your language the pro choice lobby deny women this choice by not providing objective counselling as required by law. And how do you feel that women are aborting more female unborn then male? Seems like a gender crime to me (kill the unborn female!).
    You seek equality yet across the world its females that get aborted more then males.

  • Guest

    I don’t know what you’re referring to. Clearly, multiple people are posting as “Guest”, you appear to have a problem with someone else.

    I linked to wiki because I was not attempting to establish a question of controversial fact but offer an explanation of a common concept – the distinction commonly drawn between sex and gender – which the wiki article did adequately. I have better things to do than trawl through the sociological academic literature looking for papers which would be inaccessible to most readers who lack online journal access privileges.

  • Guest

    “Gender dysphoria has no physiological basis. It is entirely a psychological and spiritual disorder”

    The cause – psychological vs physiological (as if such a distinction could be usefully  drawn) – is irrelevant. Even if it were purely psychological and spiritual, that wouldn’t make it wrong.

  • Guest

    LOL – “We don’t make ostentatious displays of our superiority as a faith – that includes refusing to adhere to a higher level of moral conduct!”

    Well, it *would* explain a *lot* of history of religion…

  • Hope

    Have you ever talked to a woman who has had an abortion?  Most have deep psychological scars.  The mother wonders what the child would have been like,every year of her life she remembers what would have been the child’s birthday, sees a chart or hears a heartbeat of a baby that is in the womb at the time she aborted.  Most regret or don’t realize what they are doing.  Wouldn’t you stand outside a clinic if you believed that a murder was taking place and protest that event or try to help the mother or try to offer alternatives to her choice of solution?  Why do you fear those who want to help a person make a personal decision that will affect her life on a long term basis with this short term solution?
    Jesus said that we must do all things with love.This is what makes my belief valid and others less so. I don’t condemn those who make these choices, but as a Christian, I desire that we put aside our selfish needs and consider our children.  Who has not been allowed to be born;  the scientist who would find a cure for cancer, the economist who have the solution to our current economic problems, the woman who would have married my son….?
    You have your choice. You have a right to live with all the the above.  I, also, have a right not to have to pay for something that I believe is murder. 

  • Hope

    Have you ever talked to a woman who has had an abortion? Most have deep psychological scars. The mother wonders what the child would have been like,every year of her life she remembers what would have been the child’s birthday, sees a chart or hears a heartbeat of a baby that is in the womb at the time she aborted. Most regret or don’t realize what they are doing. Wouldn’t you stand outside a clinic if you believed that a murder was taking place and protest that event or try to help the mother or try to offer alternatives to her choice of solution? Why do you fear those who want to help a person make a personal decision that will affect her life on a long term basis with this short term solution?Jesus said that we must do all things with love.This is what makes my belief valid and others less so. I don’t condemn those who make these choices, but as a Christian, I desire that we put aside our selfish needs and consider our children. Who has not been allowed to be born; the scientist who would find a cure for cancer, the economist who have the solution to our current economic problems, the woman who would have married my son….?You have your choice. You have a right to live with all the the above. I, also, have a right not to have to pay for something that I believe is murder.

  • Little Black Censored

    Because they value the lives of women and trans*men and respect their right to make decisions for themselves
    The vote is evidence that the majority do not respect that right.

  • Jason

    What do you mean by the phrase “that wouldn’t make it wrong”?

    Do you mean it would not make it wrong to be a person who has gender dysphoria? If so I agree completely. It’s not wrong to be affected by this illness but it is important to know that is it intrinsically a disorder and not to be deceived into thinking it is a good or right thing.

  • Guest

    The research which claimed to prove links between abortion and mental health issues has recently been completely discredited. It’s been proven that unplanned preganancy can indeed have an effect on a woman’s mental health but the statistics do not vary between those who have abortions and those who carry the pregnancy to term.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16094906

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