Scottish Universities Reject Pro-Life Groups

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 30, 2018   

Glasgow Students for Life is the latest pro-life club to be thwarted by student government

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GLASGOW, Scotland (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pro-life student group in Scotland claims it is getting shorthanded by the university.

In October, a pro-life group called Glasgow Students for Life (GSL) applied for affiliation with the University of Glasgow. Affiliation would give GSL official club status at the university, which would grant them access to funding, the ability to host official events on campus and more. 

But the Students Representative Council (SRC) shot down GSL on Nov. 10, according to a press statement from the pro-lifers on social media.

"We were extremely disappointed that the SRC are willing to shut down the free and open discussion of life issues on campus," GSL leadership told Church Militant late Wednesday. "We are also surprised that the SRC would wish to restrict free speech, especially on a university campus."


Leaders from the group said there were "roughly 30 members at the time of application, although we have more now."

GSL leadership told Church Militant that their pro-life organization came together earlier this year: 

During the summer, a group of pro-life students decided that the debate around abortion was very one-sided on campus. It's important to have a balanced argument, and so that was one factor as to why we wanted to start the group. Additionally, as students we understand the stigma surrounding pregnancy amongst students and recognize the importance of giving female students support if they find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. That's something we didn't feel was entirely present at Glasgow University but something extremely important. We wanted people to realize one can be pregnant and still continue with their life!

On Nov. 14, GSL submitted a legal complaint appealing the student leadership's decision. Jamie McGowan, who acts as a legal advisor to the group, commented, "GSL have submitted an equality complaint against the SRC, arguing that GSL have been directly discriminated against because of their beliefs. Their legal argument is pretty strong, given that 'philosophical beliefs' such as those of the pro-life movement are considered to be a protected characteristic in Scots Law."

Lauren McDougall, president of the SRC, claims they rejected the pro-lifers' request for affiliation because affiliation is seen "as a form of endorsement," adding that "affiliated clubs and societies are permitted to use our branding in their promotional material."

She noted that the SRC has itself campaigned in favor of abortion, so letting pro-lifers have affiliation would contradict the SRC's stance: "Given the SRC's campaigning on a number of related social issues over the years," McDougall said, "including support for the recent 'Repeal the 8th' campaign in Ireland, it would be contrary to our ethos to endorse a society which calls for limited rights for women."

Church Militant sought comment from SRC, but did not hear back by time of publication.

We were extremely disappointed that the SRC are willing to shut down the free and open discussion of life issues on campus.

Something similar to what unfolded at Glasgow also happened at the University of Aberdeen. The Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES) was a group of pro-lifers who wanted to foster discussion and debate about life ethics issues such as abortion and euthanasia. The group applied for affiliation with the university in April. The application was denied in October by the Aberdeen University Students' Association (AUSA). 

The student leadership determined that granting affiliation to the pro-lifers would be in violation of a policy passed in November 2017 that made the AUSA officially "a pro-choice institution," saying it "will always stand in solidarity with people seeking free, safe, and legal access to abortion, contraceptives and reproductive health care."

ALES spokesperson Alex Mason told Church Militant late Thursday that the group has used "the official complaint process offered by the university administration" to ask administrators "to arbitrate the decision."

Mason said of the students' association's October decision, "The decision was frustrating, but it was not at all surprising. Unfortunately, AUSA and the student council are dominated by a vocal group of leftist student activists."

He continued, "We simply want to be recognized as a university society and exercise our freedom to engage in civil debate and discussion regarding important issues in life ethics. As such, we will continue to press for a repeal of AUSA's no-platform policy for pro-lifers."

The pro-lifers discussed their plight in an op-ed for independent student newspaper The Gaudie. They wrote, "AUSA operates as a democracy, but once the majority uses its power to strip rights away from the minority, democracy has devolved into mob rule." 

Their op-ed also said, "How can a university community truly live up to its own ideal when the freedom of speech is actively suppressed? If these topics are freely and civilly debated outside the walls of the University, why should AUSA deem them to be off-limits on campus?"

"The future of free speech at Aberdeen hangs in the balance," they argued. "As pro-lifers, all we ask for is fair treatment and the opportunity to be heard without threat of reprisal or no-platforming. We want to enter the conversation on equal footing, but in order to do that, AUSA's discriminatory no-platform policy must be rescinded."

Church Militant reached out to AUSA for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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