Union attacked by pro-life group for abortion panel of exclusively pro-choice speakers
(This article was originally published at https://cherwell.org/2018/02/17/oxford-union-attacked-by-pro-life-group-for-abortion-panel-filled-exclusively-with-pro-choice-speakers/ in February 2018)
Oxford Students for Life (OSFL) have criticised the Oxford Union for hosting only pro-choice speakers at their panel on abortion.
The anti-abortion group referred to the event as “merely a pro-choice workshop”.
The panel aimed to “question and challenge the restrictions on reproductive rights in the 21st century”, following moves made by the Trump administration against abortion laws and the decision in Ireland to hold a referendum in 2018 to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Speakers included Ilyse Hogue, Ann Furedi, and Sinéad Kennedy, all of whom are prominent voices in pro-choice campaigning in the US, the UK, and the Republic of Ireland respectively.
Member of OSFL and Lady Margaret Hall student, Katie Forkey told Cherwell: “I think that to have really fruitful conversation in these times is to take into consideration that other people have other opinions on this issue and that they shouldn’t be discounted.”
After attending the Union event, co-president of the OSFL Naoise Grenham called the panel “an opportunity lost”.
On behalf of the pro-life group, Grenham told Cherwell: “We were initially glad that the Union chose to cover the topic of abortion.
“However, their manner in doing so was very disappointing.
“An all pro-choice panel and time for a mere two questions meant that only one side of the issue was adequately represented, and thus a chance for enlightening discussion was wasted.”
During the event, Forkey questioned the speakers on whether the options they advocated, such as abolishing regulation on when an abortion can be undertaken during pregnancy so that each termination can be considered “case by case”, were representative of general opinions.
She told the panel that “pro-life supporters are not an insignificant proportion of the population” .
She claimed that only 1% of people in the UK favoured extending the possibility of abortion until birth and that 50% of Americans identify as pro-life.
In response Ann Furedi, chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) Britain’s largest abortion provider, stated she “relished the opportunity” to debate questions concerning abortion with pro-life supporters and referred to two occasions where she had already done so at the Oxford Union.
She said: “But I equally think that it is really good to have a nuanced discussion that assumes that abortion is legal worldwide, once in a while.”
Ilyse Hogue added: “Ultimately the real question is: Am I comfortable being judge and jury for everyone else, even if I don’t know their circumstances?”
The Oxford Union said in a statement to Cherwell: “We think it’s important to remember that this was a panel event rather than a debate.
“The Union has in fact held multiple debates on abortion rights in the past, which have allowed for pro-life views to be aired.
“Furthermore, on the same day as this event, the Union hosted Ann Coulter, who is known for her pro-life and anti-abortion views.
“With this panel, we felt that those who are pro-life could reasonably ask questions from the audience and engage with the panel anyway – we do think it’s reasonable for the Union to offer a space for pro-choice views to be discussed amongst themselves, touching upon the normative foundations and prescriptive solutions for pro-choice activism, especially with the Repeal the Eight Campaign that is currently taking place in Ireland.”
Cherwell recently reported that OSFL dropped two speakers from a panel discussion. Controversial pro-life activists Dr Vincent Rue and Dr Catherine Coyle both had their invitations to speak removed.
OSFL then told Cherwell: “We’re restructuring the event having looked further into Vincent Rue and Catherine Coyle’s previous research.”