By Dan Satherley
The president of an anti-abortion club at Auckland University says she is “very pleased” after an attempt to disaffiliate the club from the Auckland University Students’ Association failed yesterday.
Pro-Life Auckland was facing exile after complaints were laid alleging it was harassing students and spreading misinformation about abortion. If the vote had passed, the club would have lost access to AUSA-supplied benefits like room booking and funding.
After an hour of speakers and debate, the motion failed: 125 for and 227 against, with 12 abstentions.
“We had support from many students who are not members of our club and have no intention of joining,” says Ms Blowers, “but clearly they recognised that freedom of expression is a right worth protecting for everyone, in particular in a university setting where academic freedom must be paramount.”
The meeting was called after a complaint was laid over a flyer distributed by Pro-Life claiming abortion procedures can lead to death, infertility and mental health problems. Pro-Life maintains there was only a single, anonymous complaint and the group was not given the chance to respond before AUSA called for the vote.
Ms Blowers says this was “inconsistent with the principles of natural justice”, but is pleased with the publicity, adding “this attempt to shut us down has given us the chance to reach a far wider audience with our message, and that’s the whole reason that we exist as a club”.
A blog posting last night on Pro-Life’s website states “it is time to ask some serious questions about how such an unjust act was even allowed to happen in the first place”.
“No matter how they now might try to fudge and spin their way out of this incident, there is no doubting that [AUSA president]Arena Williams and the AUSA executive have some serious questions to answer about why they instigated this shameful act of bullying and harassment against a group of their fellow students, and why they did so based on grounds that are patently false,” wrote ‘The Radical Feminist’.
AUSA clubs and societies representative Kit Haines said yesterday he was on the fence on the issue of abortion, but electing to disaffiliate Pro-Life was not an attack on free speech – and that Pro-Life had never actually applied for any funding from AUSA.
AUSA women’s rights officer Angela Smith took a stronger stance, saying: “I for one don’t want to be affiliated with a club that’s pro-life… that wilfully misconstrues medical procedures in New Zealand in a way that’s harmful to the public.”
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