Pro-life students continue to be censored in UK universities

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.”

Court of appeal upholds censorship zone outside abortion centre criminalising speech, assembly and charitable support

The Court of Appeal has upheld a censorship zone outside of an abortion centre in Ealing, London. The appellant, Alina Dulgheriu, has said she will appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Court found that the appellant’s rights to assembly, religion, thought, expression and the reception of information were violated by the Ealing Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). Nevertheless they ruled that such violations were justified because of the right to privacy of Marie Stopes attendees not to be seen in public.

Alina Dulgheriu, a mother who herself had been helped by a local vigil, unsuccessfully challenged the order at the High Court last July after Ealing Council introduced a censorship zone around the Marie Stopes abortion centre.

Alina said:

“My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I am going to appeal this decision to ensure that women in Ealing and all across the country do not have this vital support option removed.”

Alina has challenged the Ealing censorship zone because it prevents the help women need to escape an unwanted or coerced abortion. The broadly-worded Ealing PSPO criminalises, among other activities: any act whatsoever of approval or disapproval regarding abortion; prayer; handing out leaflets with an offer of practical support to women who wish to keep their child; ‘Interfering’ with a clinic user in any way whatsoever

Elizabeth Howard, Be Here For Me spokesperson said:

Eight years ago, Alina Dulgheriu found herself jobless, homeless and alone after an unplanned pregnancy. She’d been fired from her job as a live-in nanny and abandoned by her boyfriend. 

She went to Marie Stopes to get advice on her options, but all they could offer her was an abortion. She didn’t want that  but didn’t know where to turn.

Her life was changed when she met a pro-life volunteer at the gates of the abortion centre who told her that she did have options, that there was help available, and that she could keep her baby if she wanted.

She accepted the offer of help and her daughter Sarah was born. She is now seven years old, a beautiful, lively and beloved child.

Ealing Council has banned pro-lifers from helping women like Alina. Alina has challenged their decision in court, but twice the court have ignored her story.

In five years of the pro-life vigil’s work in Ealing, more than 500 women accepted an offer of help and chose to keep their baby rather than have an abortion. These women have tried again and again to have their voices heard, but they are ignored.

In today’s Appeal Court judgement, there is literally not a single sentence, not a single word, dedicated to the women who have been helped by the vigil, who are grateful for the vigil, and who have given the other side of the story.

This is a very sad day for vulnerable women.

BMA support abortion censorship zones

The British Medical Association (BMA) has voted to support the implementation of censorship zones around abortion centres in the UK.

This vote comes within the context of a prolonged battle over the legality of abortion censorship zones introduced by both Ealing and Richmond councils over the last year.

These censorship zones around abortion centres, come in the form of broadly worded Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) which make it illegal to have conversations about or offer alternatives to abortion; pray; offer leaflets that outline the practical help that is available for woman who do not want abortion; and to manifest any “act of approval or disapproval” of abortion.

In speeches during the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) claims were made about the harassment that women seeking abortions have faced.

However, the PSPO in Richmond was in fact introduced in the absence of any evidence of harassment outside of the clinic with not a single person prosecuted. When harassment occurs, there are various legal options already available to prevent it. Since no evidence of harassment has been brought forth, there has been no cause to apply such laws.

The BMA case in favour of censorship zones surrounding abortion centres appears not to rely on any actual evidence of harassment.

In September 2018, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, rejected calls for nationwide “buffer zones” highlighting that “the majority of activities are more passive in nature”. He made clear that there are a wide range of existing powers already available to local authorities and the police to deal with any problematic behaviour outside of abortion centres.

Clare McCarthy of Right To Life UK said: “It is not clear why the BMA think they need to take a position on this. This is not a medical issue. Rather, it is clearly a political issue which the BMA, as an official body, should take no stance on.”

Social media platform, Pinterest, accused of censoring pro-life group

The image sharing social media platform, Pinterest, has banned the pro-life group Live Action, from its website for spreading supposedly “harmful misinformation”.

Live Action originally found had their content blocked as it was listed as pornography. After they appealed this verdict, Live Action had the Pinterest account permanently suspended.

In a follow-up email, a representative of Pinterest said that the problem was “misinformation related to conspiracies and anti-vaccination advice, and not porn.”

Others have pointed out however that Live Action has no view on vaccines and the only thing they have reported on in that respect is the issue of using aborted foetal cells to create vaccines.

The Pinterest whistleblower employee who first drew attention to the alleged censorship of Live Action, Eric Cochran, was sacked shortly afterwards.

This is not the first instance of pro-life groups being concerned about social media censorship. Live Action itself boasts 3 million followers across their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and formerly, Pinterest) and it remains one of the methods by which pro-life groups spread their message to supporters and people who might not otherwise see it.

The whistleblower suggested that big tech companies, like Pinterest, do not want the pro-life message to be allowed on their platforms. The pro-life position however, is not the view of a radical minority in the US or in Britain.

In Britain 70% of women want to see the legal for abortion to be lowered from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or less and 91% of women want an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion.

So far pro-life groups in Britain, such as Right to Life UK, have not had their Pinterest accounts shut down.

(Photo credit – Youtube:screenshot)