Aberdeen pro-life society gains affiliation in free-speech win

21st May 2019

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The RCP dropped its opposition to assisted suicide after a "sham" consultation.

 But is the battle over?

In another victory for the pro-life voice in universities, a student pro-life society has achieved official affiliation after a long-running dispute with the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA).

"No-platforming" pro-lifers

Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES) first applied to affiliate with AUSA in October 2018. Their application was denied due to AUSA’s “no-platforming” policy, which denies particular groups (including pro-lifers) the right to speak at union events or on its property.

AUSA upholds several official pro-abortion policies, including a policy to campaign for abortion extension to Northern Ireland and for abortion provision including free supply of the morning-after-pill on the NHS. In a blatant attempt to censor the pro-life voice on campus, AUSA also decided to oppose the “unreasonable display of pro-life material within campus and at events”.

Illegal discrimination

After months of “repeated efforts to resolve this problem through internal bureaucratic channels”, ALES launched legal action in April, claiming unlawful discrimination and the violation of equality rights protected by UK law.

Lawyers for ALES said that both the university and AUSA were in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. Recently, another pro-life society, Glasgow Students for Life, successfully argued that pro-life beliefs are a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, forcing their students’ union to admit that it had breached equality law in denying them affiliation.

It now appears that Aberdeen is following Glasgow, with AUSA informing ALES that their application to affiliate as a society has been approved.

An AUSA spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an application to affiliate was received from Aberdeen Life and Ethics Society and was subsequently approved on the 13th of May.

“AUSA’s Pro-Choice policy remains under suspension and steps are being taken to ensure that AUSA can continue to be pro-choice.”

The successful affiliation means that the group is now considered a university society and can access funding for events, use meeting rooms, and is entitled to a stall at freshers fair.

Chance to speak out for life

Alex Mason, a PHD student and member of the Aberdeen Life Ethics society, said: "From the beginning, all we wanted was a chance to exercise our right to speak freely on campus in defence of life.

“While it was frustrating to be censored by AUSA for several months, we are pleased to finally have the ability to form our society and engage our fellow students on these important ethical issues.”

The legal action for the original discrimination is ongoing, and with AUSA already trying to amend their pro-choice policy, the battle in Aberdeen may not be over.