Not your uterus, not your opinion

Credit: Kirsten Colligan

Laurie Clarke
Views Editor

The Glasgow University Protection of Unborn People Society – misleadingly known as GUPUPS – slunk into campus debate last November. Sadly, the society is not dedicated to a love of puppies, but to telling women – and for that matter, anybody with a vagina – what to do with their bodies. A bold, new endeavour to be certain, and a thrilling novelty in the lives of we Views editors who have nothing better to do than defend our right to bodily autonomy.

Last year, The Glasgow Guardian reported on the controversy surrounding the society’s launch, prompting GUPUPS to claim that their presence on campus was already “showing people that there is an alternative to abortion.” An alternative to abortion. Abortion, a hard-won right which has seen women protest, riot, risk their lives for – and one which is yet to arrive for many. The alternative to abortion is pregnancy and if that’s a source of revelation, you need to resit sex ed.

To visit the GUPUPS Facebook page is to disappear down the rabbit hole. Plastered with pictures of foetuses in various stages, it makes for awkward public viewing and is not unlike the bullying practice of forced ultrasound by many American doctors. After just four months, however, GUPUPS announced that they would “no longer be functioning as a society”, redirecting members to what appears to be the rebranded and somewhat classier page: “Glasgow Students for Life”. In an open letter to Glasgow University Magazine, the newly reformed society claimed that they enable women to make “a real choice”.

What the society is trying to do is put forward the idea that abortion is not only widely accepted, but callously abused. Why then do women across the globe continue to fight for access to equal, comprehensive healthcare? You don’t need to look as far as America to see how far there is to go. According to Amnesty International: “any woman who has an abortion in Ireland faces up to 14 years in prison. The only case in which a woman is legally allowed to terminate her pregnancy, is when her life is deemed to be in immediate danger of death. That’s it.” Amnesty International goes on to make the case for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest; pregnancies which would not qualify for abortion.

GSL adopts an altogether more palatable tone than its predecessor, a transparent attempt to rebrand after the initial backlash. It is crucial not to forget, however, that the GSL has an agenda and that agenda is not the promotion of education surrounding abortion (the good, the bad, and the ugly), but the promotion of “the inalienable right to life of every human person from conception until natural death.” This begins to sound familiar. Revisiting Ireland, Amnesty International describes the “policing” of information surrounding abortion, where “any material that is seen to ‘advocate or promote’ abortion is banned. […] Healthcare workers seen to have advised a woman to seek an abortion abroad face a criminal conviction and a fine of up to €4,000. Police can get a warrant to search counselling or healthcare premises if they believe materials ‘promoting’ abortion are inside.”

I won’t tell you that abortion is a necessary evil which must be defended for the sake of rape survivors and individuals for whom pregnancy could be a life-threatening endeavour. I don’t believe the issue of abortion should be soft-pedalled into public attention by adopting the most vulnerable as a justifiable figurehead. The ability to make decisions regarding your own body, your own future, should not be a competition. We should not be discussing how deserving one woman is of an abortion at the expense of another. In the eyes of far too many, however, the subject has become the focus of a pious debate, pitting the worth of a potential life against an existing – and crucially female – life. This is far from an exaggeration: in Ireland, since 1983, the right to life of a foetus has been legally considered equal to that of the mother.

What we see here are women whose bodies are held for ransom, women who are criminalised for taking matters into their own hands.

The used and abused debate on freedom of speech would have you believe the GSL are at risk of having their beliefs suppressed. This is in and of itself an oxymoron, as there is nothing that could be less of your business than somebody else’s abortion. If you’re considering abortion, you should be in possession of all the facts, not only those that court religious and political ideals. Having a womb is happenstance, not a social obligation to pump out babies on cue.

GSL may claim that it is possible to be “pro-life and pro-woman”, but as long as the rights of women take a backseat to those of the unborn, this will continue to be a fallacy.