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One in four UK pro-life students “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed” for being pro-life at university

Almost a quarter of pro-life students have been “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed” for being pro-life at university, according to new  poll.

According to polling by the national student pro-life group, the Alliance of Pro-Life Students (APS), over 71.9% of pro-life students report that they have faced situations in lectures or seminars where they felt could not speak about their views.

23.8% of those surveyed said they had been “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed – by actions or words – by another student or academic” because of their membership of a pro-life society. A further 35% of the participants reported that they had seen events canceled due to the “de-platforming” of pro-life speakers. 65% of pro-life students had “witnessed another student being discriminated against or harassed for holding pro-life views”.

Freedom of expression in crisis

APS polled 206 students and recent graduates and have submitted their findings to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, who recently issued a call for evidence as part of their enquiry into freedom of expression.

CEO of APS, Madeline Page said: “These statistics are alarming, yet confirm what we already know – pro-life students are being marginalised and silenced at universities”.

“Institutional policies which refuse to allow certain topics to be discussed don’t just damage free speech – they destroy a culture of tolerance and respect on campus, ruining the chance for all students to engage with people of diverse opinions and understandings. This was made abundantly clear in the results of our survey which found that [52.9%] of pro-life students have had a friendship or relationship adversely impacted because they held pro-life views”.

“We trust that the Joint Committee on Human Rights will consider these results carefully as they reflect on the current status of freedom of expression in the UK”.

Responding to the new survey, Peri Dalkic, President of the Aberdeen Life Ethics Society reported that her group faced online abuse, their female members were branded “fat mutants” on student Facebook groups and the society had condoms thrown at them during the freshers’ fair.

Georgia Clarke, Co-President of the Oxford Students for Life Society from 2016-17 reported that protesters had become so aggressive that even with security guards at one event, the police had to be called.

Pro-lifers censored

In what appears to have become a pattern at universities across the UK, many pro-life groups have been hindered in their ability to speak freely and enjoy the same benefits as other student societies.

In the last four years, student representative bodies at Aberdeen University, Glasgow University, Nottingham University and Strathclyde University have all tried to prevent student pro-life groups from being affiliated with their university and benefiting from the same privileges available to any other student group. In each of these cases, the student unions had to reverse their decision after the groups threatened legal proceedings against them. Students at Birmingham University also had significant difficulty becoming affiliated with the university but eventually won out against significant opposition.

In 2019, in the first case of its kind, a midwifery student at Nottingham University was suspended and faced possible expulsion from her course after a lecturer raised concerns about her role in the University’s pro-life group. Only after beginning legal action was the University’s decision overturned. Towards the end of 2020, this incident was closed after the university extended an apology to the student and offered compensation for her unjust suspension.

Freedom of speech at British Universities

Freedom of expression and speech at universities is increasingly being thought to be a widespread problem.

David Davis MP is currently advancing a Bill to protect freedom of speech at universities from a “corrosive trend… that aims to prevent anybody from airing ideas that groups disagree with or would be offended by”.

A recent survey undertaken by Survation for legal advocacy group, ADF International, has found that 27% of university students have ‘hidden’ their opinions that they believe may be at odds with those of their university.

The same survey found that 44% of students believe that their lecturers would treat them differently if they made their views known, and that 38% believe that their future careers might be adversely affected if they openly expressed their true opinions.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The silencing and self-censorship of pro-life voices on campus is a familiar story. In addition to robust free speech protections, students need to continue to be brave in being outspoken about being pro-life. Groups like APS exist to provide the support and, if necessary, legal assistance so that they are afforded the same rights as any other student group at university. Students concerned about their future at university or future career should make use of the support available”.

“Now that the censorship, which pro-lifers have experienced for a long time, is being felt by others, perhaps the Government will act decisively to ensure that this important freedom, the freedom to express what you believe, is protected from those who want to shut down the free exchange of ideas, especially at university”.

Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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Dear reader

Thanks to the support from people like you, last year a major attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Domestic Abuse Bill with two extreme abortion proposals failed, in a major pro-life victory.

Unfortunately, this is not the end for our opposition.

We are currently facing major threats on five separate fronts:

  1. Pro-abortion MP Rupa Huq has brought forward an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to introduce a jail term of up to two years if a pro-lifer offers support or advice to a woman near an abortion clinic. This is a threat to unborn babies and to freedom of speech.
  2. The assisted suicide lobby has brought forward a bill to legalise assisted suicide, which was introduced to the House of Lords on 26 May.
  3. The Northern Ireland Secretary has given himself new powers to force expanded abortion services on Northern Ireland.
  4. The abortion lobby is further exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to attempt to make dangerous ‘DIY’ home abortions available permanently.
  5. The abortion lobby is expected to make another attempt to change abortion law to allow abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

If these major threats from our opposition are successful, it would be a disaster. Thousands of lives would be lost. 

Fighting both the abortion and assisted suicide lobbies over this period has already made a huge dent in Right To Life UK's limited resources.

To cover this gap and ensure we effectively defeat these proposals during this period, we must raise at least £200,000.

We are, therefore, asking people like you to please give as generously as you can. Every donation, no matter how small, will make a significant difference.

By stopping these threats, YOU can save lives over this coming period.

Will you make a special gift right now to help protect vulnerable lives from these threats?

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Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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