A Pro-Choice Vote Would Silence My Voice

The subject of abortion has been at the forefront of many students’ minds recently. Last term, pro-life group Abort67 came to campus to target female and medical students in their continuing campaign against abortion. The Womens’ Network organised a counter protest in retaliation to what they described as misinformation, flawed arguments and threatening behaviour.

I was amongst the women who counter-protested Abort67. I am pro-life and am aware of the contrasting views of the Women’s Network but I felt we had a common cause. I admit I was unprepared for the hostility I faced in engaging Abort67 protestors in debate – particularly when cornered three on one and facing arguments consisting of inaccuracies that the other side refused to reconsider, even when corrected.

In particular, one male protestor rebuked me for having not ‘kept [my] legs closed’. I felt threatened and, although there were police present, I did not feel the University was prepared to protect me. It was around an hour before he was removed, after harassing several other women.

At the last Students’ Union Council meeting of the autumn term, a ‘Pro-Choice Motion’ was proposed by the Womens’ Network. It was a proposal that the Union declare its support for the pro-choice movement. Amongst the resolutions were commendable ideas such as readily available information for students facing unwanted pregnancies and support for future action against groups threatening the safety of women on campus.

This sentiment in particular struck a chord with me. Had I not, as a pro-lifer, felt my safety threatened in an attempt to protect the women on campus? And now they had suggested that it was necessary to take a pro-choice stance, silencing my voice, in order to eliminate these threats.

In both cases, engagement with the other side’s perspective is not a priority. As a pro-life feminist I am faced with hostility from both sides. The pro-life movement is rife with misogyny, ignorance, disregard for education and disinterest in prevention of unwanted pregnancies. On the other hand, the immediate association between moral objection to abortion and the pro-life movement provokes hostility from many pro-choicers. For this reason I am terrified at the prospect of standing up and openly opposing the proposed ‘Pro-Choice Motion’.

The Students’ Union is supposed to represent the students of our University. This should be regardless of religious or political beliefs. It is not appropriate for the Union to take a side in ongoing debates such as the morality of abortion.

The Union should be taking an impartial stance on this subject. There is no reason that support cannot be offered for women facing an unwanted pregnancy from a neutral perspective, even if that support is to direct the woman to a third party support network.

We are not all pro-choice; there are a variety of reasons why someone might be against abortion. If the Union declares itself pro-choice it is effectively alienating any students who hold different ethics to that of the pro-choice movement.

Charlotte Abbs

Editor’s Note: The ‘Pro-Choice Motion’ was postponed at SU Council 11th December 2012, because council was inquorate. The motion will be put forward again at Council on 5th February 2013 at 6pm in the Law and Social Sciences Building.

CommentLead articles
15 Comments on this post.
  • Emily
    4 February 2013 at 18:37
    Leave a Reply

    I wish you had gone into why you’re pro-life. Personally I think the phrase ‘pro-life feminist’ is a bit a of a confusing oxymoron- feminism by a lot of its definitions is about having the choice so it doesn’t really make sense to me.

    I agree with your point about the university accepting there are different views on controversial subjects such as this and not taking one side or the other.

  • Dave J
    4 February 2013 at 18:43
    Leave a Reply

    The article raises a good point which has wider implications for the Students’ Union – specifically its role in representing students on other issues besides student welfare because, ultimately, the Students’ Union is not democratically representative.

  • Chris
    4 February 2013 at 23:14
    Leave a Reply

    Since when did being anti-abortion become ‘pro-life.’ This is an American expression and it is deceptive.

    You say that ‘there are a variety of reasons why someone might be against abortion,’ but do not give any examples apart from ‘misogyny, ignorance, disregard for education and disinterest.’
    Perhaps because there are no other reasons?

  • Emily :)
    8 February 2013 at 14:55
    Leave a Reply

    Pro-Life feminism is fantastic! Look up (if you haven’t already) Feminists for Life – they’re American, and they are brilliant. Also, there’s a facebook group called New Wave Feminism.

    It might seem like an oxymoron, but for me, it’s always been the other way around – being pro-choice and for women’s rights is the oxymoron. A society that stigmatises young mothers, allows men to pressurise women into abortions, and leaves them feeling that their life will be ruined if they continue with their pregnancy is NOT a society that is fair for women. To say that we must suppress our natural biology in order to be equal to men is no equality at all.

    I am so sorry for, and disgusted by what was said to you at the Abort67 protest. There is really no excuse for it. 🙁

  • Charlotte
    8 February 2013 at 16:33
    Leave a Reply

    Emily – I wrote a piece previously about my pro-life views:

    I am not anti abortion, I am pro life. I am generally against the ‘pro life’ movement as I feel it doesn’t care about womens’ lives. But I am morally against abortion, in that I think it is wrong. I do not, however, want it to be illegal. I think women have the right to choose, it is just my opinion that the right choice is to keep the baby – and I don’t want the Union to take a stance which directly conflicts with eithe rparty’s beliefs. There are many things I admire about the pro choice movement and I’m not against them – I am just not a part of it and don’t want to be alienated by my university for this.

  • Emily
    9 February 2013 at 20:31
    Leave a Reply

    @Emily :). Your opinion assumes that most women would all essentially want to keep their child and are pressured into it abortion through society/men. I don’t think that is true for a lot of women. Most of us spend our sexual lives trying not to get pregnant because we know we’re not ready and want to do other things such as a career or they don’t have the financial security to give the child a good, healthy upbringing. For students especially it is just not the financially economical choice if you want to do your degree and go on to have a high power career later on. Surely with a pro-life stance, if I got pregnant I would have no choice but to have the baby which isn’t very feminist at all. Feminism is about having the ability to choose and make your life what you, the woman, want to do in your life, which contradicts the pro-life movement in a fundamental way. Of course pro-choice also implies you have the choice to keep the baby too if that’s what you wanted and if you felt was right for you.

  • Emily
    9 February 2013 at 20:39
    Leave a Reply


    Ah right. I agree with you that the focus should be on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies through education and contraception, but what happens when contraceptions fails, as sometimes it does? If a woman has done everything she can to stop herself from becoming pregnant, does that mean she has to keep the child because she was unlucky? This kinda leads on to another point about adoption. It’s a viable option, but pregnancy puts a huge strain on a woman’s body -it’s never the same again- should she have to go through all that when she doesn’t want the child at the end and never did? Seems a bit unfair especially if the woman has tried everything .

  • Sarah
    9 February 2013 at 20:44
    Leave a Reply

    Being a ‘feminist’ and not supporting a woman’s right to choose whether or not she has a baby is a completely alien concept to me. Many believe abortion is ‘murder’, but don’t acknowledge that practically forcing a woman into continuing a pregnancy she doesn’t want is just as inhumane. Personally I’d love to see the SU declaring their support for a woman’s right to choose, as it represents the tolerant and liberal country that we live in.

  • Charlotte
    11 February 2013 at 11:50
    Leave a Reply

    When contraception fails, the woman is faced with a choice. Because of the emotional and physical strain on a woman, I would not want abortion to be illegal. I believe in a woman’s choice – I just don’t believe that abortion is the right choice. I am religious and have morals tied into my beliefs. I am aware however that these are not the same as everybody else’s beliefs. I don’t think the law should be dictated by my beliefs.

    I think if the adoption system was improved and women received adequate support, they might be *able* to continue with pregnancies, and less abortions would occur. This is not the relaity though and I do not hold women responsible for that. I believe in choice, but I am not pro choice, because I do believe abortion is wrong – but I can see that in today’s unfortunate circumstances that it may be the lesser of several evils. I am pro life – and that includes women’s lives as well as childrens’.

  • Charlotte
    11 February 2013 at 11:57
    Leave a Reply

    Please understand guys – though my last piece was explaining my pro life views – this piece isn’t a live v choice debate. It is about my view that the SU should not be taking sides in that debate. Both sides have presence in the university’s student body, and neither should be alienated.

  • Martin
    11 February 2013 at 17:11
    Leave a Reply

    As the clever Emily has already stated, let us not start claiming that pro-choice means all girls are suddenly going to be forced into having abortions. That is a stupid thing to claim, ‘Emily :)’ – nobody is saying that you ‘must suppress [your] natural biology’ and you gain no ground suggesting that they are. Pro-choice is inclusive – nobody is forcing you to have an abortion but you have every right to one if you so wish. There are worrying references to Americans all over this debate – let’s never take anything they get up to as a model for things in our country.

  • Charlotte
    11 February 2013 at 19:40
    Leave a Reply

    Actually, I would say there are many young girls being forced into abortions – be it in the literal sense (eg by their parents) or in a less literal sense. There is a stigma around abortions, which I think is unfortunate – after all, even if I am against them I don’t think you should go through with the pregnancy out of pressure from society – there is also a stigma surrounding single (esp young) mothers. On top of this there is inadequate support for single mothers as well as a failing adoption system for women who choose not to raise their child (which I described in the article I linked above). If there was better support for expecting mothers I think some people might find it less traumatic to have the child than abort it. Don’t get me wrong – I tihnk both options can be traumatic. I think there are as many factors effectively forcing women into abortion as there are forcing women into bearing children. Women are being attacked from both sides, and it is a horrible position to be in.

  • Sarah
    12 February 2013 at 23:56
    Leave a Reply

    We live in a society that accepts and even glorifies pre-marital sex and, although I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed the liberties that that brings, we have to accept that there is a risk of pregnancy whenever we have sex, protected or unprotected. All we can do is make sure that every option is available for women who want to prevent a pregnancy, as well as those who want to terminate a pregnancy. If the SU was not to declare its support for a woman’s right to choose, then an avenue will be closed off, and we cannot chastise a woman who was just unlucky.

  • @sarah
    13 February 2013 at 00:18
    Leave a Reply

    If the su didn’t have a policy, it wouldn’t be chastising anyone. Also, please explain how an avenue would be closed off if the su didn’t have such a policy? The su is part of the NUS, which has -choice policy. The su can act in pursuant of ensuring no avenues are closed off regardless of whether it has a pro-choice policy itself.

  • anonymous
    17 February 2013 at 15:38
    Leave a Reply

    Whether you’re biologically female or not, if you’re against abortion then you’re anti-women.

  • Leave a Reply