By Joe Willetts
Recently Cardiff University’s students’ union voted to greatly limit the expression of pro-life supporters. The union is to vote on adopting an unofficial pro-choice policy that would essentially ban all pro-life organisations on campus. The intolerance of the pro-life isn’t strictly limited to Cardiff however.
Two weeks ago a discussion on abortion at Oxford University by pro-life advocate Dr Tim Stanley was cancelled after students threatened to disrupt it. In June, the Oxford students’ Union banned the pro-life charity ‘LIFE’ from advertising in the union. In addition to this, in September The Dundee University Students’ Association banned The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children from the freshers’ fair despite having a stall for eight years previously.
While the recent flurry of campus bans on Page 3, Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and Dapper Laughs are arguably justifiable, the intolerance towards pro-life societies is not a matter of misogyny but clearly a threat to free speech. By censoring the pro-life standpoint universities are putting societies such as the Christian Union in the same category as the offensive comedian Dapper Laughs.
Another pitfall of pro-life intolerance is that it’s attacking freedom of speech that universities are a bastion for. Students should be free to express their views on abortion as easily as they do about their football team. We accept people have different viewpoints, so why not apply this logic to the pro-life argument. While it’s fine to disagree with an opposing view, trying to enforce a single ideology is wrong – especially in a university environment.
University Students’ unions are independent from the university to make life better for students by electing representatives to convey students’ opinions. We in turn trust the SU to express our views to the university, a role that requires listening to students. Considering this, SU’s should be impartial and tolerate a range of different viewpoints. In reality however, top university’s such as Cardiff and Oxford are ignoring a huge group of pro-life supporters for believing in the sanctity of life.
Censoring pro-life students now seems to be a mainstay of being pro-choice. But who is being ignored? The answer is societies such as the Christian and Islamic Unions – liberal and largely tolerant religious societies – expressing a non-offensive belief.
But equally intolerance for abortion can be applied to some religions. In January Pope Francis called abortion a “horrific symptom” of a “throwaway culture” that placed “too little value on human life.” Similarly the case of Savita Halappanavar who died in October 2012 after suffering a miscarriage after her request for an abortion had been refused by hospital doctors in Ireland.
While these cases show religious intolerance, in the university context pro-life supporters don’t try to censor pro-choice supporters. They only strive to shout louder. Pro-choice is every bit a credible opinion as pro-life and should be allowed a voice within a student union irrespective of any religious connotation.
Would you want UCLan Students’ Union to adopt a similar mentality, excluding the views and beliefs of societies such as the Christian Union, Islamic Society and any other student with a pro-life standpoint?
Pro-life should not be intrinsically linked to religion and anti-abortion. A pro-life supporter need not be religious and can define the parameters in their own mind about when abortion is acceptable. But the crucial thing is that your views are expressed and not censored.
Britain as a whole is largely accepting of the customs and beliefs of many other religions and nationalities. But despite an anti-abortion belief being a major part of Christianity, as well as many other world religions, it’s incredible that some British universities are so intolerant of a belief held by our own country’s major religion.