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Aberdeen student pro-life society victory

© Heartland Arts / Adobe Stock

A pro-life student group has been granted affiliation at the University of Aberdeen after it took legal action against the University of Aberdeen and its student association for alleged “unlawful discrimination”.

In what appears to becoming a pattern at universities in Britain, Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES) applied to become affiliated with the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) and was initially refused on the grounds that ALES pro-life views directly contradicted AUSA’s ‘pro-choice’ policy.

The ‘pro-choice’ policy commits AUSA “to campaign against” groups that offer pro-life advice and “to offer no funding, facilitation, or platform to any such group”.

It seems however, that such a policy could in fact be illegal as it apparently contravenes the Education Act (No. 2) 1986 , the Equality Act 2010 and Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Section 43 of  places an obligation on universities “to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.”  The obligation is not merely to refrain from limiting or infringing freedom of speech, but rather this law imposes a positive and proactive legal duty to ensure that freedom of speech is secured.

Indeed, after months of obstruction for AUSA, the ALES took the AUSA to court in April.

Appealing to Section 10 of the Equality Act, which treats “philosophical belief” as a “protected characteristic”, and the European Court of Human Rights, which has specifically ruled that opposition to abortion falls within the category of belief guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, ALES’ lawyers alleged “unlawful discrimination” and violation of rights protected by UK law.

Following this legal action, it seems the AUSA has relented, suspended it’s ‘pro-choice’ policy, and accepted affiliation of Aberdeen Life Ethics Society.

As noted, this is not the first instance of a pro-life student group not being permitted to affiliate with a students’ union. While some might not be concerned about this, recognition as an official student society is essential as it typically permits student groups to book university rooms for their events and entitles them to a certain amount of funding. Without this status, which other groups with diverse ideological beliefs are entitled to, pro-life groups are relegated to second class status and are significantly hindered in their proper functioning.

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.