Pro-Life Students' Union president faces impeachment for removing illegal abortion information
12 October 2017
Katie Ascough: "It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as SU President because of my views on abortion."
'Bullying tactics to try to discard a democratically elected president'
An impeachment referendum has been called against the president of University College Dublin's Students Union, Katie Ascough.
A petition was signed by 1200 students in protest at Ms Ascough's decision to remove illegal abortion information from a pamphlet given to new students.The information in the 'Winging It' magazine that was removed included the prices of abortion in other countries and information on abortion pills, including a promotion for Women on the Web. Providing information on abortion overseas is strictly regulated in Ireland, under the Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act, 1995.
Lambasted for following the law
Ms Ascough, who is openly pro-life, has maintained throughout the controversy that she took the decision after a lawyer confirmed it was illegal to publish the abortion information, and those involved could be subject to fines, not because of her personal beliefs.
She said that each person involved in publishing the content, if prosecuted, "would have been at risk of up to €4,000 in fines each, a personal criminal conviction, and, if prosecuted, the Union could also incur thousands in legal fees. As CEO of the company, this was not something I was able to stand over, and so I decided to follow the legal advice offered by the Union’s lawyer." She has now published the lawyer's letter, which stated his opinion that the information as provided was in breach of the Act.
However, students have criticised her for having the pamphlet reprinted, at an alleged cost of €8,000, and have claimed that the Union has distributed the illegal information for decades without being charged. They maintain that as a pro-life woman, Ms Ascough cannot represent the views of the Students' Union, which is officially pro-choice.
It seems clear that Ms Ascough is being targeted for her pro-life beliefs. In an open letter in which she defended her actions over the pamphlet, she concluded: "Another alarming matter is the bullying tactics of a group of students to try and discard a democratically elected SU president. Some members of the Impeach UCDSU President campaign posted pro-impeachment tweets and Facebook posts on the day of my election back in March, before I had the chance to make even one presidential action or decision. It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as SU President because of my views on abortion."
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