A pro-life student group was forced to remove their stall from a university freshers’ fair, raising new concerns over free speech.
Strathclyde Students for Life in Glasgow had displayed educational and promotional pro-life material, some of which offered support to pregnant women and featured a logo of an unborn baby with the words “life is precious”.
Members of the Students’ Union confronted the pro-life group to demand the removal of their material, claiming that it was too graphic and breached their safe-space policies.
Strathclyde Students for Life have asserted that their posters are inoffensive, and drew attention to the fact that pro-abortion activists have a history of trying to deny pro-life groups any presence on university campuses.
Last year, after being threatened with legal action, Strathclyde’s Students’ Union lifted a long-running ban on pro-life groups affiliating with the union. This had prevented the group accessing funding and using university premises for events, .
Catherine Deighan, President of Strathclyde Students for Life, said:
“For our first year coming to the freshers’ fair, we were fully expecting to come in and be treated equally… However, we weren’t provided with this courtesy.”
“We were approached by a Student Association staff member who made us feel very intimidated and uneasy. He ordered us to take down our posters because he deemed them in violation of a new so-called pro-choice policy that the union had put in place…”
“We were told that if we said we were pro-life, this was in violation of their policy. We felt extremely unwelcome and bullied so we had to pack up and leave to protect our society members’ well-being. We have been entirely discriminated against and censored.”
In what is becoming 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.
Student representative bodies at Aberdeen University, Glasgow University, Nottingham University, and at Strathclyde University have all had to reverse their decisions to refuse affiliation to pro-life groups after the groups raised the prospect of legal proceedings.
In 2018, the Joint Committee on Human Rights released a report on Freedom of Speech in Universities, which criticised growing restrictions on free speech and the new phenomenon of ‘no-platforming’ policies on UK campuses and the exclusion of pro-life views.
Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“The case at this university alone is disheartening, but it is part of a concerning and disturbing trend across the UK where pro-life groups are having their freedom of speech and association taken away from them. Unfortunately, there is a lot of social pressure on young people to conform to the pro-abortion viewpoint.
“Having lost the debate a long time ago, it is no surprise that pro-abortion students are anxious to stop the pro-life voice being heard on campus.”