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Students’ Association to vote Thursday on becoming explicitly pro-choice

Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) will hold a vote to become explicitly pro-choice during the Student Council meeting to be held at 6pm on Thursday on Teams.

Submitted by VP Community Isi Williams, the motion would, if passed, make sure that students can access “free, impartial and non-directional” advice through the Association’s Advice Place.

In addition, the motion would cause the Association to support campaigns which make abortion access more equitable, and campaigns which oppose restrictions on abortion access and abortion rights.

The motion would also make the Students’ Association “[s]upport the belief that all those seeking an abortion in the UK are entitled to free, safe, and legal abortion” no matter where they live or whether they can pay for care.

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It is a resubmission of a previous motion, approved by Student Council, which had lapsed.

Williams’ motion comes as pro-life activity has surged in Edinburgh over the past weeks. 

Edinburgh University Life Society held a talk by a member of a pro-life group in 40 George Square on Monday, 17 October, which was disrupted by counter-protesters.

Last week, a so-called “crisis pregnancy centre” opened in the city just over 300 metres from Chalmers Health Centre, a reproductive health and abortion clinic in Edinburgh.

And, over the past three weeks, protesters with the US-based 40 Days for Life pro-life prayer movement have held regular protests outside Chalmers.

Isi Williams, the Students’ Association’s VP Community told The Student that she had decided to resubmit the motion after the recent developments in the pro-life movement in Scotland and the US.

“Following the recent Roe vs. Wade overturning and attention being brought to pro-life MSP John Mason, it seemed more relevant to bring it back and ensure that the Association remains pro-choice for the next four years.”

She also explained that the motion would give students voting at Student Council “more grounds to grant pro-choice groups or individuals funds” from the money available to the Association.

Further, she said that the motion would cause the Association to support various pro-choice groups and campaigns.

Responding to a question as to why the Students’ Association had not condemned the Life Society’s talk in 40 George Square, Williams replied:

“The event doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the Students’ Association, but we also have to follow freedom of speech laws, and our structures are as such to welcome activity from all spectrums of life, opinions and beliefs.

“We, as Sabbatical Officers, have a duty to ensure that we are following freedom of speech laws.

“If the motion passes, we’ll have more scope to speak out on the issue of abortion, but not the existence of the Life Society, as freedom of speech laws will still be in place.”

Williams provided a link to the Students’ Association Safe Space Policy (available here), which describes EUSA’s zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and events that create unsafe spaces.

Some students have been dissatisfied with the Students’ Association’s response to the rise in pro-life activity in Edinburgh.

One student, who spoke to The Student, said they had not accessed care at Chalmers Health Centre due to feeling intimidated by the ongoing protests there.

Williams said: “Student responses like this one are exactly why I submitted this motion to student council.

“I want to ensure that for the next four years, student groups fighting on behalf of the pro-choice movement are given support by the Association to do so.

“We don’t want a single student to feel unsafe accessing health clinics and can explore the idea of setting up a ‘buddy system’ to allow students to get the care they need.

“We definitely don’t support any groups who block access to healthcare.”
Students can sign up to receive mailings from the Council, and learn how to attend, by clicking “Join Student Council” on this webpage.

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By Joe Sullivan

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