Exeter Student's Guild under fire for promoting a pro-life society

Rebecca Sykes discusses Exeter's 'Students for Life' and the implications pro-life societies have on a national scale.

Rebecca Sykes
11th October 2021
Since when has debating a women’s right to bodily choice been a university society?

Exeter University has been in the news recently for ratifying and funding the Students For Life Society as well as allowing them to promote themselves to Freshers. Yet, they’re far from the first university to allow such a society. Numerous universities have Pro-Life societies despite the risks they present about women’s choice and the petitions opposing their existence.

Already the petition against the Students For Life Society has over 8,500 votes and counting as of the 11th October. More than anything, it shows the anger and frustration students have with universities and student unions allowing societies to debate choice.

They are more Russell Group universities with a Pro Life society than those without. Newcastle is one of six universities, the others being York, Warwick, Sheffield, Manchester, and Liverpool, who don’t have a Pro-Life Society. Although, this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2016, The Courier reported on Newcastle University’s former Life Society with the headline ‘LifeSoc Deratification Rejected’. Since then, LifeSoc has ceased to exist even though more similar societies have emerged in universities across the country.

Exploring new ideas is a part of university life. Some ideas negatively affect fellow students and it’s debatable whether they should be explored at all. Societies that explore ideas which reject women’s bodily autonomy are controversial, yet they’re still being funded by several Student Unions. Part of Exeter Student Guild’s response to the controversy was “consideration of free speech enables students to establish groups with a diverse range of views”. At a certain point, free speech restricts the safety of women, the inclusivity of the campus, and the ability the university has to empower women. Plus, there’s a growing debate if people without uteruses should actually have an opinion on someone else’s uterus. Imagine if it was the other way around.

'At a certain point, free speech restricts the safety of women, the inclusivity of the campus, and the ability the university has to empower women.'

In a nation where women don’t feel safe, having societies that foster the mindsets that a women’s right to choose is up for debate cannot be progressive or helpful. Simply allowing pro-life/anti-abortion societies to exist encourages sexism and the attitude that women are lesser and cannot choose what happens to their bodies. They risk allowing the attitude to continue well past students’ graduation.

The ratification, funding and promotion of pro-life/anti-abortion societies is becoming more than just a student issue.

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