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Pro-life societies shouldn’t be granted SRC affiliation

By Katarina Zivkovic

Katarina discusses why the SRC should not concede to legal pressure from anti-abortion societies.

*The author recognises that some people who may get an abortion do not identify as women and fully supports the right of any pregnant person to an abortion.

The Student Representative Council is affiliated with over 300 student societies on campus. Affiliation with the SRC is not necessary for a student society to form or hold events on campus, but it comes with several benefits, such as access to SRC grants, the right to book rooms on campus, being allowed to apply for a Freshers’ Fair stall, and the ability to run official Freshers’ Week events. In December 2018, the anti-abortion society Glasgow Students for Life sought affiliation but was turned down. In a letter to the society, the SRC stated that Glasgow Students for Life does not align with the SRC’s values of bodily autonomy due to their belief that pregnant people should not have the right to an abortion. The following year, the society threatened to sue the SRC for discrimination against anti-abortion beliefs, which they claimed to be a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act and EU case law. The SRC folded and re-affiliated the Students for Life society.

The SRC, as a body representing and supporting students at the university, must first-and-foremost consider the impact that their decision not to affiliate with a society has on student well-being, particularly when it comes to vulnerable student populations. Female* university students are a particularly vulnerable group as most are young and often financially dependent on their families. The age demographic of university students makes the debate surrounding anti-abortion societies on campus particularly salient. A fifth of all abortions in 2020 were carried out for women aged 20-24, making female university students one of the most common demographic groups to get abortions. Yet the independent healthcare provider Marie Stopes UK has found that just a third of women in the UK would tell their family if they were considering an abortion. Equally, a third would tell their friends, less than two thirds would tell their sexual partner(s), and 6% of women would not tell anyone apart from a medical professional. Many university students are for the first time responsible for their healthcare in an unfamiliar city, making it all the more concerning that many of them cannot count on support from their friends and families if they get an abortion. 

Young university students deserve support from their university in their right to choose whether to have an abortion. Ensuring that students wanting an abortion do not face ambivalent messages about whether the organisation representing them supports their bodily autonomy is important for protecting their mental health, as links have also been found between stigmatisation/lack of support and an increased risk of mental health distress among pregnant people wanting an abortion. The SRC, as an organisation which has student support and well-being as one of its key pillars, should ask itself whether affiliating anti-abortion societies is reconcilable with its responsibility to support and advocate for vulnerable student demographics.

The main argument put forward by the Glasgow anti-abortion society, as well as other anti-abortion societies at UK universities seeking affiliation with student representative bodies, is that denying them the same platforms and opportunities granted to affiliated societies goes against their right to freedom of speech. The SRC may not agree with their values, the argument goes, but should affiliate them nonetheless in the interest of promoting academic debate. Freedom of expression and debate is indeed vital at academic institutions, and as a body which represents the student population, the SRC should promote constructive debate between students with different views. However, allowing anti-abortion societies to form and express their views is different from supporting their attempts to prevent pregnant people from accessing abortions, should they choose to do so. Platforming and financially supporting anti-abortion societies promotes the idea that women’s right to healthcare as an issue up for debate; it perpetuates the idea that abortion rights are a political issue, rather than an issue of allowing pregnant people to determine their own healthcare. The SRC cannot have it both ways by claiming to support pregnant people’s right to bodily autonomy and the depoliticisation of their bodies, whilst simultaneously providing financial and public relations support to societies which deny this right and politicise bodies.

By choosing to end its affiliation with anti-abortion societies, the SRC would be sending a message in support of women’s right to bodily autonomy. Such a decision would not, as explained above, ban anti-abortion societies. The SRC may well face another lawsuit should they choose to unaffiliate Glasgow Students for Life, but that should not prevent it from fighting for an academic environment in which women and other pregnant people feel supported and empowered, rather than ashamed, in their right to make decisions about their healthcare.


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what about the rights of the unborn child? also src have funded for decades groups which oppose workers rights such as tory groups, and political groups opposed to each other, church groups such as catholic charismatic, all operated at stirling uni and strath in the 80s in harmony when i was a student and gcu which shared rc chaplaincy with strathclyde, rc, c of s, se, baptist, muslim, jewish chaplains all in harmony – many were opposed to lgbt rights and behaviour but all together. abortion is also a personal and emotional issue not a social one alone.


Does the author think her view is the only view that should be heard? Censoring groups because we do not agree with them is NOT forcing their opinion on anyone… Ironically forcing YOUR viewpoint (that abortion is healthcare rather than desruction of an embryo / foetus) is doing just that.


Hello Scott, I wish to emphasise what I tried to clarify within my article as well. I in no way support the silencing or banning of anti-abortion societies as I fully believe in freedom of speech. The article regards the question whether these societies should be affiliated by the SRC, in other words, whether they should benefit from the advantages of affiliation with this body whose goal is to represent students as best as possible. Like every other student organisation, the SRC is not a fully neutral body and assumes certain values, and this article is about why I believe that the pro-life society does not fit the values of the SRC.


I find it rather odd that in one breath a person could pretend to support open debate within academia while also highlighting that this debate is only acceptable if everyone is on the same side. People have different beliefs and should be allowed to express them. As far as their constitution states, GSL make no effort to barricade women from entering a hospital to have an abortion, but rather they affirm the ‘inalienable right to life’… Perhaps researching your target would provide slightly more balanced journalism.


Hello Sophie, regarding the first half of your comment, please see my reply to Scott. Moreover, please explain the second half of your comment to me. Nowhere in the article do I claim that GSL has attempted to physically stop people seeking an abortion from entering abortion clinics. GSL does however express its view that people should not legally be allowed to get an abortion, and hereby denies that they should have the legal right to decide what happens to their bodies and the fetus they are pregnant with. In your own “myth buster Monday” post, GSL states that the society opposes abortion rights on a legal basis.


Typo: in *their* (not *your*) own “myth buster Monday” most


‘supporting their attempts to prevent pregnant people from accessing abortion’. Don’t blame a reader for being unable to understand your veiled message hidden behind words as plain as day. GSL have said they want to support pregnant students and affirm the right to life through activism… which doesn’t include forcibly preventing a woman from having an abortion. They have also posted on their social media saying they are less interested in changing the law than they are changing peoples minds and attitudes towards abortion… I can see that looking through their social media in a matter of minutes. I don’t understand why you say ‘your own’ as I am not a member of GSL, rather a recent graduate of the Uni who is not really surprised that the Glasgow Guardian is continually recycling the same story about how they believe in free speech and expression… except for people that dont have the same opinion as them. I just wish that the magazine offered a genuine openness to discussion. Have you ever messaged GSL? Have you ever met with their president to discuss your argument? Until you have I cant see how you seek to genuinely understand both sides to this story.

Daniel Toye

I take it by “concede to legal pressure” you mean “comply with the law”?

It was no doubt the SRC’s own legal advice that their peg was not only shoogly but had actually become detached from the wall. Perhaps they had some doubts as to whether the peg even existed.

Katarina Zivkovic

I mean that the SRC should not “fold under pressures and threats to sue made by anti-abortion societies”. Apologies for the lengthy delay.


Sophie, your main issue with my article seems to be a brief passage in which I criticise GSL for advocating for legislation that bans/would ban abortion which constitutes a small part of the overall article and argument. Meanwhile, about half of my article is dedicated to why the SRC is compromising its commitment to respecting people’s bodily autonomy by affiliating GSL, and a significant part is dedicated to ensuring that vulnerable student populations feel they can get non-judgemental support and help from the SRC. In my previous reply to you, I mainly talked about what problems I see regarding GSL’s support of anti-abortion legislation because that is the section of my article which you have chosen to criticise, not because I believe it to be the most important reason why GSL should not be affiliated.

Fabiano Correia

This article clearly reflects a poorly minded opinion, the author doesn’t demonstrate consideration for the wider implications opposing affiliation to societies such as Glasgow Students for Life has in the overall debate for freedom of speech. It seems as if the author thinks the SRC should break the law and prevent a society from affiliating because it doesn’t match with their opinions. The SRC has respectfully done and continues to do the right job by affiliating with societies that represent the views of the diverse student body.


Hello Fabiano, no representative organisation I know is completely value-neutral, but requiring that SRC-affiliated societies respect bodily autonomy and don’t take up a stance that questions whether everyone has an equal right to bodily autonomy, would really only require societies to comply with very broad values of bodily autonomy and of not framing medical issues as political questions. I cannot imagine a representative body that is completely value-neutral in whom they grant affiliation, feminist or not.


I cannot imagine a representative body that is completely value-neutral in whom they grant affiliation, be they feminist or not, be they pro bodily autonomy or against, etc.