Pro-choice, please


The King’s College Life Society has the right to exist, but pro-choice views are the ones truly supporting women.


The arrival of a new pro-life society at King’s has caused a bit of a stir among student groups. It has also caused a lot of vague, confused debate: how should we feel about the King’s College Life Society? Why are they here? Should we pick a side, or sit on the fence?

The society was set up as a response to a motion put forward at KCLSU, one proposing that the union should officially adopt a pro-choice position and not only refuse to fund, but actively condemn any pro-life groups on campus. The motion was withdrawn before campaigning started, but this moved a group of students to create a group for those on campus with pro-life views.

I entirely defend their right to do this. Everyone should have a space where they can share their views with like-minded people, as well as the opportunity to engage in debate or take part in campaigning for their beliefs.

Meanwhile, the pro-life position is hardly lacking in advocates. Politicians in the US (predominantly rich, white, cis men) are constantly pushing to create new laws to restrict women’s access to abortion, and various politicians in the UK have expressed their beliefs that the time-limit for abortion should be severely lessened. Most worryingly, Nadine Dorries doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

However, my support for the right to free speech and opinions does not mean that I in any way agree with the pro-life position. As a strongly pro-choice feminist, it’s clear to me that the subjective argument around when the personhood of a foetus begins should remain a personal belief, not one that ‘pro-lifers’ can force upon others. There are those within the pro-choice movement who do believe that foetuses have personhood or who dislike abortion, but respect the rights of other women to make choices about their bodies as they see fit. As the familiar phrase goes: if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. No one is making you have an abortion, but you do not have the right to prevent other women from coming to a different decision for different reasons.

This is not to say that pro-life beliefs do not serve useful purposes for women. Upon engaging in a discussion on the Facebook page of the KCL Feminist Society, the president of the King’s College Life Society found that pro-choice feminists agreed with her that there should be more support for students who find themselves pregnant, wish to keep their baby but also to continue with their studies.

Unfortunately, the logic stopped there, although given a reference to “the abortion industry” (sarcastic quotation marks my own) on the society’s Facebook page, I had not been greatly optimistic to begin with. A point was raised that tends to stump pro-life views: banning or restricting access to abortion does not reduce abortion, it increases the frequency of dangerous, illegal abortions, and women die.

Abortion will never be eradicated because women will always want to make the choice not to have a child that they are unable or unwilling to take care of. The profile picture of the society’s Facebook page states “I am for our children; I am for our women; I am for life”, but if pro-lifers were really ‘for women’, they would understand that women need and deserve safe choices.

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  1. I have been involved in pro-choice campaigns in Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal and extremely hard to obtain on the NHS even in cases where pregnancy threatens the life of the woman. In Northern Ireland we have a power-sharing government led by the DUP, a British Unionist party with strong ties to Christian evangelical religious groups (including Northern Ireland’s Health Minister) who base all their policies on narrow religious beliefs and in many cases downright bigotry. This means that Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where abortion is illegal, homosexuals cannot donate blood and until a recent Supreme Court Judicial hearing gay couples could not adopt. Abortion laws impact upon every woman in Northern Ireland and her family and loved ones, but they can have particularly disastrous consequences for the region’s poorest women, students, migrants and refugees. The only options available to women in Northern Ireland who do not want to continue an unwanted pregnancy are either to illegally purchase the abortion pill online (before 9 weeks) or to take a very costly, lonely and at times traumatising journey to England to visit a private clinic. Abortion is also denied to women who have been victims of rape and incest or who have severe complications in their pregnancy such as foetal abnormalities with slim chances of the foetus surviving to full term. Because of this difficult situation there was a critical many debate within Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union regarding whether to remain affiliated to NUS-USI (the all Ireland Students Union) which maintains a pro-choice stance. The referendum took place in Autumn 2012 and both sides of the camp mobilised. The Pro-Life society hugely increased its activities in the months preceding the referendum and came out in force to persuade students to vote NO. Not only did the Pro-life society callously support the suppression of the right of over half of QUB’s student population (women) to make decision over their bodies and lives, but they also jeopardised QUB’s affiliation with NUS-USI a crucial avenue for students to campaign against increases in tuition fees, cuts on campus, adequate housing and jobs and to be better connected to other campuses around the country campaigning for the same issues. The point I’m trying to make is that whereas I do agree that all opinions within the student body have the right to be represented , it is equally important to organise our pro-choice arguments and activities and convince students that, as you already state in this article, there is a huge difference between the two camps. The pro-life camp wishes to impose its views, be them either religiously or politically motivated on society as a whole and most disastrously on the female population with disastrous economic and social consequences. The pro-choice side advocates freedom, choice and autonomy – the belief that women can be trusted to make their own decisions. It is the only side that can truly represent female students on campus, and unite with other important struggles taken on by the student population; LGBTI rights, resistant to austerity, tuition fees and graduate unemployment. KCL feminists and socialists must organise to show the ‘pro-life’ group that there is no room for bigotry, sexism and inequality on campus.

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