Tomorrow is the last day for students to vote in the referendum on whether or not the SU should adopt the Right to Choose motion. Impact reports on last week’s debate between No campaign representative Luke Mitchell, and Yes campaign representative Fran Cowling.
“The Students’ Union is a political body which holds political views and not everyone is going to agree with the policies it has. We can never get a policy that everyone believed in so why is this abortion policy different?”
Luke Mitchell: “When deciding on a policy for the Students’ Union, we have to take two things into consideration. Firstly how much this policy or stance reflects our student body and secondly how much benefit there is in having this stance on this issue. We recently adopted a policy saying that we think it is unfair that postgraduate students have to pay upfront for their courses. Some people might disagree with that but there is a benefit in that we can work with bodies such as the NUS to lobby the government to change that.”
“This is in contrast to the abortion policy. Firstly there is a whole spectrum of different beliefs on abortion; its very unlikely that we will find an answer that reflects our student body. Secondly I can’t see a lot of benefit to students in this policy because a lot of what the policy is aimed at the Students’ Union does already.”
Fran Cowling: “A lot of people say that this policy will alienate people because they are against abortion but if they actually read the policy this isn’t the case; it says that no matter what your opinion is you will be supported. If you went up to an officer and said, ‘I am pro-life and think abortion is wrong’ you wouldn’t be judged for that; if you went up to someone and said ‘I’m pro-choice’ you wouldn’t be judged for that either.
“Although they say it is alienating to them because it supports people having an abortion, it also supports them in having the opinion that abortion is wrong so it is difficult to please everyone. This motion was written in such a way as to encapsulate everyone because there is a broad range of views on this issue.”
Given that we already do all of these things, is it fair to say that passing this motion will do no harm?
Luke Mitchell: “I think that if the SU does vote yes a lot of students in our Union will feel isolated. I don’t think we should take a stance on this for no apparent benefit; if there is no positive benefit to this and we are isolating students, then the negative is that we are isolating students for no real benefit. I don’t think there is an issue with taking a stance on something that some students might disagree with so long as there is some tangible benefit to our wider student body but I haven’t seen a real benefit in having this policy and so I don’t think we should adopt it.”
Fran Cowling: “I would agree: we are a pro-choice union currently so I would ask how many students would feel alienated if they knew that; we are just renewing a policy that we already had. Unlike Luke, I think it would benefit students because even if the Union already does all of this already, writing it down in policy so we can refer to it and mandate our officers to follow it doesn’t do any harm.”
“You make policy as a Union to decide what to do on certain issues; you have ideas and you have rules so that you can write them down in a constitution and look at them and refer to them in situations. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that and supporting this policy will make sure that our students are protected.”
“You’ve said that the pro-choice policy doesn’t actively alienate anyone because it lets people choose, but the whole concept of pro-life is that you don’t give people that choice, and there are a lot of students who are pro-life and feel alienated by this.”
Fran Cowling: “I understand that obviously if you are pro-life you don’t agree there should be a choice about it, but then I would refer back to what Luke said: even if it does alienate students, if it is for the greater good of students and protects those who are vulnerable, I would unfortunately rather alienate those students.”
“First of all I would like to know whether the anti-side agree with the existing policy and secondly I want to know from the pro-side why what is wrong with the policy we already have.
Luke Mitchell: “We adopt new policy every three years and every three years the policy lapses because that is roughly how long it takes for the student cycle to turn around. When it lapses we can allow the policy to fall, we can re-adopt it or we can amend it. The current policy just lapsed in December and we are now going to readopt it. The current policy is quite a bit toned down compared to the new motion but my main issue with the new policy is that I don’t think we really need it; not that I am opposed to abortion. If we were voting on the current policy I would vote against it for the same reasons.”
Fran Cowling: “In the old policy we were a pro-choice union but it was wrapped into a sexual health policy motion. When it lapsed it was felt by the union committee who were reviewing it that they should be two separate motions as the parts about pro-choice were more contentious then the parts about sexual health and as a result it was re-submitted. I would support the previous policy but we decided it needed updating and that is why we took it back and separated them. The sexual health policy was updated as well and in light of the Abort-67 protest this one has been updated too.”
The referendum closes 3pm tomorrow on the 8th of May.