President, Glasgow Students for Life
When a friend suggested starting a Pro Life group at University, I couldn’t have imagined the difficulties we were about to face. It was upon submitting our affiliation form to the University we were told we couldn’t become a group on campus because the University didn’t take a stance on abortion. But after discovering there were already three pro-abortion societies active on campus, we knew we were being silenced. We wrote back to the student body fighting our case- we were a group of students who deserved representation like any other group on campus. Yet time and time again, we had staff ignoring us until we had to physically pursue any leads we could on campus to get anyone to respond to us.
I remember before our group was affiliated, campus newspapers would write cruel and untrue pieces about us. We couldn’t do or say anything because we didn’t have a voice. Now that we have been affiliated with the support of ADF UK, life is very different for us on campus. We are a group who have been given the space to open up important debate and in that we have met many students both pro life and pro choice, who believe our society is so important at Glasgow University.
During one event, the society were asked to close the curtains while a female MP was speaking to them about sex-[RC1] selective abortions because the presence of the society and other pro-life students was deemed upsetting to those who could see into the room from outside.
If students are forbidden from even looking at those who disagree with the views of the certain campus bodies, how will we ever learn to engage, persuade, negotiate or even listen in the real world?”
Co-President, Oxford Students for Life, 2016-2017
Treasurer, Oxford Students for Life
OSFL hoped to facilitate an “Ask Me Anything”-style zoom event with pro-life speakers, with the floor open to anyone, whether they supported, questioned or were critical of the pro-life view. We advertised via various student Facebook groups, including that of my College’s Junior Common Room (JCR).[RC1] Within a few hours, the advert had been removed by the JCR President with the explanation:
“The comments underneath it have raised welfare concerns for a lot of people yourself included … [in accordance with our guidelines,] posts which include sexism are not to be tolerated, which has been reflected in the comments”.
There was nothing whatsoever in the Facebook event or my caption to it that actually gave an opinion on abortion, or even mentioned it. When I asked to see the guidelines (which were not publicly available), I could not find where my post lay at fault. I was further informed that the President was compelled to take it down not only because of “welfare concerns” for the students but because the post displayed “sexism”. The only possible interpretation here is that the words ‘pro-life’ were considered sexist or ‘triggering’ by the College’s JCR.
“Thankfully, ALES was able to overturn their unfair disaffiliation and join in the campus community in 2019. We’re glad to have a voice and note this progress; but we still face opposition from our university, Student’s Association (AUSA) and peers. When news spread that we had been affiliated, our opponents began to use bullying tactics to intimidate us to be quiet about our beliefs.”
President, Aberdeen Life Ethics Society