A motion to make Cardiff University’s Student’s Union officially pro-choice over abortion has been defeated in the Annual General Meeting last week.
The motion was put forward by the Chair of the Cardiff Women’s Association Rachael Melhuish, stating that Cardiff Student’s Union should: “Campaign against protest outside abortion clinics… and prevent affiliated societies and groups from taking part in anti-choice protests or rallies outside of abortion clinics and under the banner of the Student’s Union.”
A further clause states: “Any information about abortion or contraception disseminated, distributed or presented in union or university buildings must be unbiased and not shame those who choose to have abortions, and must be academically referenced.” The motion also points out that 1 in 3 women will have had an abortion by the age of 45.
The motion was opposed by the Keep Cardiff Uni Free campaign, which had backing from multiple religious on-campus groups such as the Catholic Society, Islamic Society, and the Atheist Society among others.
This prompted concerns that freedom of speech and expression in the university was under threat by the proposal of the motion.
Alithea Williams, vice-chair of the Alliance of Pro-Life Students said: “This motion is highly problematic. It seeks to impose a uniform ideological viewpoint on the entire student body, and tramples upon the right to freedom of speech and expression of those who disagree.”
Laura Carter, Women’s Officer for Cardiff University said: “I have never admitted to trying to represent everyone’s views (I represent roughly 55 per cent of Cardiff University Students’ Union population) as that would be virtually impossible and I would achieve very little in my role.
“My role is to put the interests and welfare of women students first in the way that I see fit. Imagine the criticism I would have (deservedly) received had I voted against the motion or abstained. As Women’s Officer, it is not just my own decision to be pro-choice and support pro-choice, it is my duty.
“We need to actually clarify to students what being pro-choice means and why it is so important for women students. It was an unbearably close vote and I am immensely proud of Rachael Melhuish and all of the other students who spoke on behalf of the motion.”
Catholic Society at the University of Cardiff also commented, saying: “CathSoc are happy that they can remain part of the Students’ Union, but are more delighted that the broad coalition formed between several student societies and individuals has protected free speech within the SU. We hope to work with the women’s association in the future with certain parts of the motion, such as improving access to information for student parents, and this motion has given us a baseline to start communicating and working together.”
According to the Huffington Post, the motion to make Cardiff University officially pro-choice was defeated by such a landslide that votes weren’t counted for the opposition.
However, Olivier van den Bent-Kelly, member of the Student Senate at Cardiff University told The Mancunion: “In the end, the room voted that the opposing arguments were stronger with 60-40 (according to the voter counter) voting to reject it.
“It did highlight the need to have a debate on pro-choice/pro-life and that it is necessary that groups such as the Women’s Association, Cathsoc and Students For Life need to enter into dialogue to now see what the best course of action is on this issue.”
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