Last Thursday night the Durham Students’ Union Assembly voted to support access to free, safe and legal abortions.
This will allow the DSU to support students counter-protesting against anti-choice organisations, provide welfare support for those considering abortion and engage in a national campaign to reform Northern Irish abortion law.
The motion was contested by numerous students. One feared the motion may preclude the possibility for pro-life groups to form. “I feel it is deeply inappropriate to close down certain perspectives”. Instead, they suggested careful contemplation and open dialogue is important, rather than criminalising dissent. “A democracy doesn’t do that, a tyranny does. If you block groups wanting to form and prevent them from being able to assemble, that is a form of silencing.”
Another member of Ustinov College suggested “Gracing the label of pro-choice pushes people to more extreme positions”. It was suggested that by adopting the motion, the SU assumed it was an issue of only two sides, but instead the nature of abortion law meant there was a range of responses to the issue, with the vast majority not lying on the extremes of the debate.
The motion was proposed by Chelsea Lowdon, who led the Durham Students for Abortion Access protest against a pro-life event in January. Lowdon believes “Anti-choice protests, sentiment and organisations are on the rise. These networks disproportionately target University campuses, and their organising methods can be distressing and intimidating for some… the Students’ Union should campaign for abortion access, not only on behalf of our Northern Irish student population, but also as a fundamental human right… an official pro-choice policy would not prevent students who disagree with abortion on ethical or religious groups from exercising their right not to seek a abortion”.
Kate McIntosh, the incoming SU President, said this motion was similar to one being accepted by lots of student unions across the country. Lowdon said she hoped to encourage people to be empowered to make their own decisions, and the proposal was passed.
Image: Maddie Flisher