The argument between pro-choice and pro-life infected the lives of every person who has ever possessed a womb, as a writer who does not fall into that category my voice on the larger issue itself is largely irrelevant. That being said, bodily autonomy is a necessary human right and the idea that a woman must carry a pregnancy to full term and then deal with the resulting infant is an outdated fascist concept – in my opinion.
So why do I disagree with Edinburgh University’s Student Association becoming explicitly pro-choice? One word: Interference.
I’m largely of the opinion that large bodies such as governments should restrict themselves to matters only important to the state they run, leaving matters such as healthcare and right to privacy to the people. Does that mean I disagree with the NHS? Absolutely not, it is the concept of government interference itself that bothers me.
Student unions and associations are meant to be the counter to the rule of University bodies, the voice of the students – all students. For EUSA to place themselves firmly in one camp on a divisive issue that is largely out of their purview is at best desperate pandering and at worst an exclusion of a portion of it’s students.
I firmly believe that women should have the right to an abortion - but notice the pronoun ‘I’. I am not a union or a governmental body. I am one person expressing an opinion. These organisations taking stances that I personally might even agree with does nothing but alienate and inflame those who don’t. There are some who are unsure of where they fall on the issue, and making the EUSA explicitly pro-choice when they themselves had no input would likely only increase their support of pro-life agendas.
A student association has no responsibility or right to wade into the murky waters of this kind of debate, and now we can only wait for those cursing the ‘tofu-eating wokeratis’ that roam university campuses.
Recently, the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) put forth a notion to vote if they should declare themselves pro-choice or not. This is a bad idea that not only poses a threat to student confidence in expressing their opinions, but also poses a threat to the Association's reputation in the process. Universities and student unions have often been accused of being echo chambers that filter dissenting opinions. Despite all the media hysteria, it is not 100% true. Yes, student unions do have more “left wing” student clubs, but there are also plenty of right-wing students being represented, based on the presence of conservative societies. So, it makes sense that there might be students who do not support abortion for various reasons.
Any Student Union that implicitly discards and ignore students who don’t support a certain social cause are not considering the long term repercussions of this. Given the unfair smear campaigns against the Higher Education sector and their vast student body, Student Unions staking claims in controversial issues other than Higher Education specific ones fuels "culture wars" that are already reducing the public's faith in Higher Education. And EUSA really need to consider the importance of including every student, as it exists to improve student experiences through tackling university specific issues directly impacting students, including the quality of education and accommodation. It’s one thing for Student Unions to target support at students who are pregnant or who look after children, and they do a fantastic job of this. But in the age of the internet, women and minority groups finally have a way of standing up for their rights which did not exist back when the National Union for Students revolutionarily campaigned for gay rights back in the 60s/70s/80s.
I do not want an organisation that represents me a massive body of university students claiming that everyone has certain beliefs on issues that they might not even care about. No matter what side of the issue you're on, the second that powerful organisations discard one side of an issue, we should all be worried.
There is no denying EUSA’s choice has highlighted the issue of exclusion, and I would never wish for people to feel misrepresented and alienated by their own university community. But how can I, someone who has the ability - and fear - of carrying a child, not be supportive of a pro-choice stance?
I think it is important to note that this article isn’t intended as a debate on abortion rights, merely a comment on the positives of EUSA’s decision. I also think that I should emphasise the fact that pro-choice implies exactly what’s on the tin. Choice. Edinburgh University isn’t forcing its students into abortions, the aim is merely to offer better access to abortions and support for those who wish to have one. And in terms of information, The Advice Place (EUSA’s advisory centre) will be providing “free, impartial and non-directional” advice in regard to pregnant students.
For those unconvinced, I implore you to truly consider this issue. There are many reasons someone may have an abortion. It could be a case of an accidental pregnancy, where the student does not wish to keep the child or a case of rape. Or it could be a situation where they cannot keep the baby, financially or even medically. Why is it so wrong to make access to abortions easier, especially when being forced to give birth may be physically and mentally traumatic, and let students know that they are supported even if they want to keep it?
In any other situation or case, I would be completely against a students’ association or any such organisation taking a side. But when it is a question of a person’s right to choose what to do with their own body, I firmly believe it is only a step in the right direction.