On Tuesday night, members from Durham University student groups ‘Durham Students for Abortion Access’ and ‘Durham Intersectional Feminist Society’ protested a pro-life event held by Durham Students for Life.
The event, entitled “How to Be a Voice for the Voiceless and Defend Pre-Born Babies,” was held at St. Cuthbert’s Church. The event consisted of a series of talks in support of pro-life positions on abortion. A local woman that was present at the event told Palatinate: “The primary focus was [on] loving women, loving unborn and helping them both as best we can”.
Protestors were seen chanting and holding placards outside the gates from 6pm. They were refused access to the church to attend the event and those at the scene told Palatinate they were threatened with police action if they were to attempt entry.
“The primary focus was [on] loving women, loving young born and helping them both as best we can”
Durham Students for Life posted on their Facebook group: “We exist to create a culture of life for both born and pre-born people in Durham University through discussion and providing a space to explore life ethics.
“Our message is a positive one, it is not about shaming or blaming, it is about discovering the beauty of human life and protecting it.”
They added: “We do not condone or promote any behaviour that would demean any person for any reason. We believe that abortion is one of the most important issues of our time, and we aim to provide you with the opportunity to engage with us on this topic.”
The protestors were also joined by a few pro-life supporters. Small groups could be seen debating throughout the night. However, as the event ended in the church, those in attendance were met with chants from protestors as they walked out in small groups, mostly choosing not to engage in a dialogue.
Speaking to Palatinate, Chelsea Lowdon, the leader of the protest said: “We’re going to be focused on supporting students in Durham on where to access abortions, and provide advice on where to find to further sources of support where necessary. We’re also keen to highlight that abortion is not fully legal in the UK, and to show solidarity to those in Northern Ireland fighting for access to safe, legal abortions, so we plan to do some events focused on that.
“We really wanted to emphasise that abortion is not something that’s up for debate, it’s a fundamental right that everyone should have a choice to access. Pro-life activism is extremely dangerous, therefore it’s important not to remain silent when this goes on.”
“We really wanted to emphasise that abortion is not something that’s up for debate, it’s a fundamental right”
Meg Haskins, Durham Student Union’s Welfare and Liberation Officer, said in a Facebook statement: “Following the emergence of the pro-life group on campus, I just wanted to confirm that this group is not in any way affiliated to Durham Students’ Union.
“I will always advocate for women to have a choice when it comes to accessing abortion services, and I strongly believe that these services should be free, safe and accessible. Groups such as this may claim to not be about ‘shaming or blaming’, but the nature of the group inherently promotes a blaming and shaming culture.”
A PhD student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Palatinate: “I went [to the pro-life event] more out of curiosity and solidarity with the organisers than anything else. I wanted to show that the group has a right to exist. It was sharing a traditional Christian viewpoint on the rights of the unborn.
“The wording of the protest event description frustrated me. The word “Hateful” was used twice in the same sentence, and there were accusations of misogyny even though both organisers are women.
“They added that they found the protest wording ‘ridiculous’, and argued that ‘we live in a society that shuns pro-life views and is spectacularly unable and unwilling to have an open, honest debate. An interesting and engaging outcome to all this would be for a debate to be held.'”
The anonymous source did state, however, “I think it’s extremely courageous for the detractors to have braved the cold and made their voice heard… Power to them, honestly”.
A pregnant woman from the local Durham area that was present at the pro-life event told Palatinate: “There were a series of talks which were really interesting.
“We had some small group discussions, and I spoke to the people in my group about being heavily pregnant.” They added: “I think [the lack of discussion between the protesters and those at the group] is a shame. I would’ve loved to have a discussion with them.”
Featured Image: Jack Taylor