Editorial: SRC is right not to affiliate anti-choice society

Published

Credit: Kirsten Colligan

Georgina Hayes
Editor

Anti-choice society Glasgow Students for Life have threatened the GUSRC with legal action for not accepting their application for affiliation, despite the fact that this does not prevent the society from meeting and speaking on campus

Last month, Strathclyde Students for Life made headlines after kicking up a free speech fuss resulting in Strathclyde University’s Students Association having to remove a clause that prohibited anti-choice societies from affiliating with the Union. Now, Glasgow University’s very own anti-choice society is attempting to force the SRC to accept their application for affiliation.

Unsurprisingly, they’re using the tried and tired freedom of speech mantra to gain support (“share if you believe in free speech”, they pontificate on their Facebook page). But this message is intentionally misleading, and the attacks being made against the SRC and its President for supposedly denying free speech are not only unfounded, but dangerous for women everywhere.

Now, let me make this perfectly clear for the anti-choicers and alt-righters in the back that constantly but selectively use the free speech argument every time someone doesn’t want to endorse them: no one is censoring you! By not granting Glasgow Students for Life SRC affiliation, the SRC has not banned them; GSL are still free to meet as a group and this right has not been denied. The only thing that has been denied is affiliation, which amounts to endorsement, from the SRC.

If anyone is still confused about this, The Glasgow Guardian has got hold of the email the SRC sent to Glasgow Students for Life denying them affiliation/endorsement. Despite what GSL are pedalling on social media, it’s quite clear that they are in no way being censored by the SRC. Here, see if for yourself – we’ve even highlighted the parts that make it clear that a lack of endorsement does not amount to a ban:

“Apologies for the delay in responding, we have had several members of the committee away or on annual leave in recent weeks, and I deeply apologise for not being able to advise on the decision of your affiliation sooner.
“After deliberation with the executive committee, I regret to advise that your request to affiliate to the SRC has not been granted. We note that there have been some adjustments to your constitution since last year but feel that the adjustments are minor and do not give us reason to alter the decision reached by my predecessor. As stated last year, although we fully support freedom of expression, we feel that your society crosses a line whereby that expression calls for limited rights for others to choose what happens with their own bodies. We continue to believe therefore that the aims of your society do not align with the ethos of the SRC and its values.
“You have the right of course to exist as a club in the University and to meet as a student society.
I’m afraid however that I am unable to grant SRC affiliation.”

The SRC grant affiliation to plenty of societies that aren’t necessarily in line with the Executive’s own views, but an anti-choice society is an entirely different issue. The SRC is a progressive organisation that recently campaigned to repeal the 8th, and they reserve the right to exercise their own freedom of speech and affiliation (yes, it works both ways) to refuse to endorse an organisation that exists to campaign against bodily autonomy.

The SRC can and has taken stances on political and ethical issues, and this function is all the more crucial when it pertains to fundamental human rights. The implication that this stance somehow hinders anyone’s freedom of speech is misleading and dangerous.

It is The Glasgow Guardian’s view that any organisation that advocates the restriction of women’s bodily autonomy – whether this be directly or by innuendo – is an organisation that advocates violence against women. On Glasgow Students For Life’s Facebook page, they frequently share articles and memes designed to guilt and coerce women against exercising their right to bodily autonomy. Their posts include statuses against the decision to repeal the 8th in Ireland (a law that caused immense suffering, financial consequences and even death to women choosing to access safe abortions). They have also posted celebratory remarks about the government’s decision not to enforce buffer zones around facilities that provide abortions – something that would have prevented women attempting to access safe abortions being intimidated and shamed by anti-choice protestors.

Make no mistake: any anti-choice group, no matter how extensive the efforts made to make it look more palatable, is a group that advocates coercion and violence against women. By advocating laws and rhetoric designed to limit a woman’s access to safe abortions, these organisations put the safety and mental wellbeing of women at extreme risk.

The Glasgow Guardian fully supports the SRC’s decision not to affiliate Glasgow Students For Life and rejects GSL’s claim that this amounts to censorship or a ban in any way. It was made clear to GSL by the SRC that they are still free to gather and speak on campus, just simply without SRC endorsement. The idea that GSL are being banned from campus in any way is a blatant lie and is being used intentionally and misleadingly to court support from freedom of speech groups.

For a society currently making an awful lot of noise about freedom of speech, you’d think that they would accept the freedom of an organisation – and its female President – not to endorse a group that threatens fundamental human rights for women.

Currently, the SRC and its President are receiving an onslaught of abuse for their decision. We urge our readers to come out and show support for the SRC, and their decision not to endorse violence against women on our campus.

To read our interview earlier in the year with students at the University who have had an abortion, click here.

SRC President Lauren McDougall has stated: “The SRC has not banned Glasgow Students for Life. This was stated in the response to their application for affiliation. They are still able to meet as a group and pursue their aims. The right to air their views, and therefore their freedom of speech, has not been denied. The SRC Executive decided not to grant affiliation to Glasgow Students for Life as it was felt that the aims of the society did not align with the values of the SRC. The SRC Executive view affiliation as a form of endorsement as affiliated clubs and societies are permitted to use SRC branding in their promotional material. Given the SRC’s campaigning on a number of related social issues over the years, including support for the recent Repeal the 8th campaign, it would be contrary to our ethos to endorse a society which calls for limited rights for women. The SRC has since received a complaint in relation to this decision, and due to the nature of the complaint this will be brought before the full Council at its December meeting for discussion by the Trustees.”