Notre Dame University’s Fremantle Student Association has denied affiliation to a LifeChoice group on the campus, describing the group as anti-choice and accusing similar groups of a range of negative behaviours and impacts. They offer no evidence of such claims which include that LIfeChoice groups ‘put out material that is misleading and distressing’ or that they ‘have a real and negative impact on the wellbeing of some students.’
I have been invited to speak at two events held by LifeChoice groups at their universities over the years, and my experience could not be further from these assertions. In fact, my wellbeing was at risk of being negatively impacted by the actions of self-proclaimed pro-choice students who used tactics of abuse and intimidation to try to prevent me speaking, both before and during the event.
The focus of my presentation on both occasions was two-fold; to educate students on risk factors for negative psychological impacts after abortion, and to discuss the reasons women often feel pressured toward abortion when their needs are not being met. The purpose for this group was to equip them to provide accurate, evidence-based information when they speak about the issues and to begin to develop services and supports for pregnant and parenting students to ease some of the pressures.
These were events that typified the purpose of such a group; to ensure that women experience more than just the pressure of ‘choice’ toward abortion and have real options to consider.
As I arrived on campus for my first presentation, I was alerted to the posters that had advertised the event. The picture accompanying my bio had been defaced by graphic drawings of coat hangers dripping blood and abusive language.
The next event, where I was one of a number of speakers, had to move off campus due to threats of protest and poor behaviour, but that didn’t prevent a group of students from setting up at the door of the venue. They screamed, hurled insults, drew graphic pictures and profanity with chalk on the sidewalk where pedestrians, including children were passing. As I walked up to the venue I invited a couple of the young women in, to hear what we were saying and to participate, to ask questions. The response I received was loud and abusive as was the noise the group continued to make outside the event windows for about an hour after it began.
The flyer produced by this ‘pro-choice’ group described the speakers at the LifeChoice event as being ‘notorious for providing biased and discriminatory information’, with no evidence of such a claim and no willingness to hear the information firsthand when invited.
Their flyer further asserted that LifeChoice ‘distributed incredibly misleading information about the drug RU486, exaggerating the risks and ignoring all the benefits of the medication in order to scare women out of making their own decisions’. This claim was in itself incredibly misleading and scaremongering and one that I was particularly interested in given that I had developed the Medical Abortion pamphlet that was being distributed. The pamphlet uses the drug providers own information on adverse harm and contains accurate and comprehensive information, complete with references. It should be of grave concern to anyone truly supportive of informed choice that these university students are incapable of understanding evidence and checking references and one wonders what information they would provide to a woman considering medical abortion.
Universities are supposed to be places that encourage critical thinking, freedom of thought and at the very least the ability to discern facts from rhetoric. The pro-choice groups which work to deny the right of pro-life groups a voice on campus reduce the choices available to students in significant ways. Censorship of pro-life views reduces the information and options available to students. Information about supports available to continue a pregnancy should be an integral aspect of reproductive decision making.
Pro-choice groups have a focus on availability and accessibility of abortion only, and I am yet to see any on-campus pro-choice groups advocate for those who want to parent and be educated.
Pro-choice groups are unwilling to participate in open and healthy discussion about abortion or the needs of pregnant students thereby demonstrating that they would be unable to provide full information to such students.
Where LifeChoice groups exist on campus, a pregnant student can access accurate information about the full range of options, and can have many of her practical needs met. LifeChoice groups are not just about rhetoric but about identifying and meeting the real needs of pregnant and parenting women in ways that I am yet to see a pro-choice group do.
When I toured New Zealand universities a few years ago, I spoke to audiences with the full range of ideological views. At the end of one such talk a small group of young women came up to me and excitedly announced, ‘We’re with the women’s collective and we’re pro-choice’. I welcomed them and thanked them for coming, then asked them what their group was doing to enhance services for pregnant students. ‘Well we make sure they know where to go for abortion’ was one young woman’s response. I asked her ‘what if she wants to be pregnant.?’ The rest of her group looked a little uncomfortable, and one asked ‘so what can we do?’
This allowed for a helpful discussion about ‘choice’ and what it actually constitutes: a decision made between at least two genuinely supported options. It was agreed that the lack of childcare facilities and inflexible classes at their campus was probably a barrier to parenting that could be addressed.
Pro-choice groups in Australian universities have demonstrated their complete lack of ability to research facts, resorting to censorship, alarmism and marginalisation to uphold a position even they do not fully understand. Regardless of ideological positioning, we should all be open to hearing alternate views, particularly in universities. The Fremantle Student Association are succumbing to pro-choice rhetoric that falsely portrays life groups as deceptive without bothering to check the facts themselves. Surely that latter is a skill we should expect every university student to have.