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Students left “terrified” as out-of-control mob barricades, spits on, threatens, and wishes rape on them for their pro-life views

A group of pro-life students at the University of Manchester were left “terrified” as an out-of-control mob barricaded, spat on, threatened, and wished rape on them for their pro-life views.

Last Thursday evening, Manchester Pro-Life Society held a talk at the university only to be met by an organised pro-choice protest of up to 250 people. The pro-choice mob were so aggressive that a heavily pregnant pro-life 22-year-old woman had to be escorted home in a police van due to concerns for her safety.

The pro-life students who attempted to attend the talk were subjected to a barrage of verbal abuse and threats, with one student being spat on directly in the face.

While the students eventually managed to gain entry to the location of the talk after having to make their way through the mob and be permitted entry by an understaffed security detail, the pro-life students had eggs thrown at the windows, and had their event disrupted by members of the mob who managed to break into the venue through a fire escape and displayed a banner reading “Destroy Pro-Life Soc”.

Jacob, the Treasurer of Manchester Pro-Life Society, said that “if it wasn’t for the police and security, people would have definitely been physically hurt”.

“It made me feel intimidated and threatened. I was genuinely afraid that we would get hurt physically”.

“The crowd was extremely violent – spitting, throwing eggs, screaming and swearing”

The pregnant 22-year-old alumna of the university, Maisie, who had to be escorted home by the police said she thought she was in “real danger”.

“I felt especially vulnerable, being 7 months pregnant I was terrified they would hurt me and my baby girl”.

“Leaving the building was the most terrifying part, we were surrounded and people were screaming in our faces. I knew that it would only take one person to push into me for me to fall and be crushed. It was traumatic, I was shaking the whole time and I’m still really shaken up. I really thought our lives were in danger. The crowd was extremely violent – spitting, throwing eggs, screaming and swearing. There were around 30 of us, and 300 of them. Most of them had their faces covered”.

Another pro-life student, Rafa, who managed to attend the event, said that some pro-life students couldn’t gain entry into the event and were informed by police that they “can’t let any more people in. This is just too dangerous'”.

He described the situation of leaving the event and having to face the mob: “When we were leaving, the police told everyone we had to do this very quickly, very swift exit from the building”.

“I got spat in the face by a girl who was next to me as I was leaving. I really couldn’t see her face”.

“The police were using force to stop these people because they were being very violent. They were being very threatening, both physically and verbally”.

Inge, a first-year pro-life student at the university, added “Some students even said they hoped I would be raped”.

“It’s unthinkable that at a university – where we are meant to discuss and debate important ideas about life and society – my peers and I have been threatened, spat on, barricaded and wished death upon simply for our peaceful beliefs”. 

The group protesting the pro-life event, Stop Manchester Pro-Life, also released a list of demands around the same time as the event including the demand that pro-life medical students “not be placed in abortion clinics, maternity wards and sexual health clinics due to conflict of interest”.

A pattern of censorship

Since 2017, 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 students’ 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.

Almost a quarter of pro-life students have been “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed” for being pro-life at university, according to a 2021 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 they 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 cancelled 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”.

A 2020 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.

The survey, which received responses from 1,028 current university students and recent graduates across the country, showed that 40% of students have witnessed an increase in the cancellation of events due to the views held by the speaker at their university.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “The treatment these students received is appalling. These students should be allowed to discuss serious moral issues like abortion free from such vile verbal threats and physical intimidation”.

“Student pro-life groups are often the first opportunity people have to hear the pro-life view and this should not be denied by the chilling effect brought on by threats of violence”.

“Parliament passed the Higher Education (Free Speech) Act in 2023 to alleviate censorship on campus and restore the freedom to express and exchange ideas openly in universities. The university administration at the University of Manchester must do more to ensure freedom of speech is protected on their campus and not censored by intimidation”.

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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.

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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.

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