The SU has announced that a referendum will take place in March about whether the Students’ Union should adopt a ‘Support the Right to Choose’ policy regarding abortion. On the 5th February, Women’s Officer Rose Bonner put the motion to Council. However, the proposal faced opposition, notably from Accommodation and Community Officer, Sian Green.
Speaking to Impact, Green said: “I understand both sides of the Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life argument and I personally feel it is very important that a woman does have the right to choose.”
She added: “I spoke in opposition to the motion at Union Council as I feel that, whilst it is important that a woman has the right to choose, we as a Students’ Union should not have a policy on this matter. I do not think we would gain anything from having this policy; rather, we would be actively alienating some of our members.
“It has been mentioned that we passed an Equal Marriage policy last year, which does alienate some of our members. The difference is that last year, we as a nation did not have Equal Marriage and therefore it is important for us a Union to be in a position to lobby for equality.”
Council member Fran Cowling proposed that the motion be moved to a referendum so that every student would be able to vote on the matter.
Bonner stressed that this motion was not pro-abortion but simply making sure that there is relevant support in place to help students who get pregnant during the course of their degree, whether they choose to have an abortion or not.
Writing for Impact, Charlotte Abbs said: “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.”
She said that, “If the Union declares itself pro-choice it is effectively alienating any students who hold different ethics to that of the pro-choice movement.”
Talking to Impact, Bonner said that, “Because of Abort67, a lot of other Universities are trying to introduce pro-choice policies, including Cambridge, Oxford and UCL. Sheffield, for example, recently became a pro-choice union.”
Since the referendum has been announced, the Elections Committee has received a total of 40 objections. Some of these were politically and legally based arguments and the Committee urged students with these views to raise them during the campaigning for the referendum.
They added that the Trustee Board of the Students’ Union would get involved if any laws could potentially be breached.
The Committee also addressed other objections involving the motion’s wording and grammar, saying: “Elections Committee is not in place to discuss the motion itself – only whether by putting the motion to a referendum, would the vote itself be able to be delivered in a fair and democratic manner.”
Regarding the issue of alienating pro-life students, the Committee stated that, “We understand that this is a highly emotive issue and that there will be strong opinions on both sides of the argument. However, this doesn’t stop the student body from voting to decide a position that the Students’ Union should adopt. The Students’ Union has previously held positions not agreed by all of its members, and will do so again in the future. Such is the nature of democracy.”
Voting is set to take place on the SU’s website, starting at 12pm on Monday 18th March and finishing at 3pm on Friday 22nd March