Pro-life charity LIFE has denounced OUSU Council’s decision to ban advertising of the charity and other similar organisations which provide “directive abortional advice”.
The motion, proposed by Sarah Pine, OUSU VP for Women, and seconded by Alasdair Lennon, St. Johns’ JCR President, referenced OUSU’s pro-choice policy, whereby they maintain the stance that the best person to make decisions around pregnancy is the person themselves.
It states that they, “deserve impartial and non-directional information and advice” and that “LIFE’s counselling and publicity is directive.” It mentioned in particular the LIFE statement that, “you can take the time, with our support, to work through all of your options and discover what is best for you whilst still being against abortion in all circumstances.”
The motion argued that these kinds of “anti-choice messages” could be upsetting and stated that “organisations that give misleading advice can be actively harmful.”
The motion passed but the second clause, stating that OUSU would never give a platform to any organisation which provides directional advice around abortion or campaign’s against women’s right to choose was removed.
LIFE spokesperson Anne Scanlan said, “OUSU is simply restating its pro-abortion policy instituted against LIFE many years ago. If the Union was truly pro-choice, as it claims to be, it would encourage greater access to all counselling services for pregnant women considering abortion such as the counselling and skilled listening services offered by LIFE which also provides accommodation and practical support to pregnant women who choose to keep their baby. Why would a truly pro-choice group want to deny them that?”
She continued, “OUSU’s policy that “the best person to make decisions around pregnancy is the person themselves”, is not in conflict with LIFE’s non-directive counselling service.
“The motion speaks of organisations offering advice. LIFE does not offer advice. It offers non-directive counselling or skilled listening. Counselling is a non-directive activity quite distinct from giving advice which does not happen in the counselling room. To imply that we are an organisation which gives misleading information which can be actively harmful is slanderous. OUSU should withdraw this statement immediately.”
President of Oxford Student’s for Life, told Cherwell, “While we opposed the entire motion, we’re very pleased that OUSU Council voted to defend free expression against an undemocratic no-platform clause.”
Pine and Lennon responded saying, “The LIFE motion proposed in OUSU Council passed with a democratic majority on 28th of May 2014. We are of the belief that LIFE’s mission and previous endorsement of abortion restrictions contradict its’ aims and activities. We are also of the belief that the presence of Life in OUSU publications and events can be triggering and as such may be harmful to women who have undergone an abortion. A student union has a duty of care to its members and should do its utmost to prevent them from harm.”