As anyone who will be reading a blog written by a hack and publicised on Twitter and Facebook will probably know, the USU Board recently approved of a club called ‘LifeChoice’ that aims to (1) “promote the dignity of human life from conception till natural death”, (2) “foster discussion on the issues of abortion and euthanasia”, and (3) “provide information about alternatives to abortion and euthanasia”. The club is also, in order to achieve its aims, planning on “regular small group discussion on life issues aimed at group members” as well as “the holding of public fora on issues related to our aims aimed at the university community at large”. (All quotes taken from the ‘LifeChoice Sydney Constitution’)
In other words, an anti-choice – or, what people called inaccurately pro-life – group (although I feel as though many people haven’t focused on the equally-sinister-goal of opposing euthanasia. Both issues are issues of bodily autonomy).
But enough of that – there is enough very accurate and very meaningful material floating around the social networks about why this is disgraceful, a lot of it written by people who have more right to talk about it, i.e. women and male-identifying people who can become pregnant. What I want to focus on is the ‘purpose’ of the USU, or University of Sydney Union. A lot of debate has invoked things like ‘free speech’, ‘diversity’, ‘safety’, ‘progressive politics’, etc. I think the purpose of the USU has been called into question, and what role it has in the university, and also why it seemingly allows any club to exist on campus. Obviously this will be tied into the LifeChoice issue too.
The spirit of the union
A lot of people often say the USU has two main purposes: C&S (Clubs & Societies) and retail outlets (inc. bars, kebabs, coffee, and the rest of the crap on campus). I think it has three, the addition being ‘debate’. The history of ‘student unions’ on campus (as opposed to ‘representative councils’) has been one of free speech, with Oxford Union and Cambridge Union existing to facilitate student debate and promote free speech. Obviously this has lead to controversial issues, including things like the Holocaust debate. As a strong proponent of free speech, I think this is great. I also think if there is a place to debate abortion, there’s no better place than the debating program.
C&S is different though. C&S is there to promote campus culture and to promote safe spaces for students. That’s why you see things like Queer Revue, SHADES, Creative Anachronists Society, and Amnesty International existing side-by-side. It’s also why you see clubs like Chocolate Society, Captain Planet Appreciation Society, and the Leprechaun Society – despite being single issue clubs – existing: they feed into campus culture, keep it lighthearted, given students an opportunity to gather around fun issues and be merry etc. etc. Comparing LifeChoice to this is disgraceful. USU Board Director Mina Nada did this to an extent when he consistently compared LifeChoice, a club against reproductive and body autonomy, to the Ukelele Society, a society about ukeleles. Read his response and defence to the issue here (EDIT: unfortunately his original post was deleted, read the new one here – http://minanada.tumblr.com/post/24252768933/comments-at-usu-board-meeting-june-01-2012).
C&S also uses student money, especially know that money from SSAF is going to the USU. The activities of this club will in essence be funded with student money, even though the motives of this club are an affront to ethics.
Trust me, LifeChoice is fucked
Now, one argument proposed by this club and some defenders of this club is that it will be about creating discussion around the issue, as they mentioned in their ‘aims’ and ‘activities’ mentioned earlier. Wow, intellectual!, right? I found this strange, because a Bioethics Club would be far more suited to this. So, here’s a few reasons why this is bullshit, and why I think LifeChoice actively deceived the USU board:
1. You don’t need a club/society to fund small discussion groups. Feminist Discussion Group was doing it for a while without any issues (albeit having Women’s Collective support, I believe). Other discussion groups never needed it.
2. They claimed they wouldn’t go out of their way to publicise anti-choice stuff on any materials. This contradicts the fact that in their aims, (1) was “promote the dignity of human life from conception till natural death” and (3) was “provide information about alternatives to abortion and euthanasia”. How could they do this without actually going out of their way to provide this information, considering it isn’t like they have an office where people can go and talk to them?
In fact, one a thread regarding this, in defence of the club (click)…
Choice quote: “abortion is essentially killing innocent people”. Also, admits they will be going around handing stuff out. I’m sure there will also be posters. They deceived the board by stating all they will do will be have small discussion groups.
3. Also, no one has a club to just have discussion groups. They’ve also admitted they want public speakers and other forms of activism regarding anti-choice issues. They will be on campus telling women they are murderers. Think about it, its activities agenda won’t look like: Week 1: Friendly discussion on whether or not a fetus is human, Week 2: Friendly discussion on whether or not a fetus is human, Week 3: Friendly discussion on whether or not a fetus is human, etc. etc.
4. Again, this group has a specific agenda. It is using an organisation’s brand name (not sure if this organisation is big or anything, but it is still using a brand name as opposed to a thematic name c.f. Amnesty International Society to Chocolate Society). It comes with added baggage. It can’t change its focus. It won’t end up changing its constitution to ‘we’ve found consensus on the pro-life issue!’ unless its been stacked out. It’s a anti-choice activist organisation, full stop.
I mean, when was the last time Amnesty International was used to have a debate on the morality of the death penalty? When was SHADES used to talk about whether homosexuality was a disease or not?
5. Don’t believe me that LifeChoice is sinister? Let’s go through their Facebook which, despite being in its infancy, hints at the scariest form of aggression – the naive, colourful, bullshit form:
And if you think it’s going to be all lovey-dovey talking, you’re wrong: they clearly glorify anti-choice activism, and this may even extend to campus, so watch out!:
But thankfully we have amazing people without enough insight to see past their bull:
As you can see, this anti-choice group isn’t all they made themselves out to be, as their intentions are deceptive, threatening, and unwanted. They are a threat to our campus life.
Yeah ok I like free speech. In fact in the predecessor to this blog I wrote an article about why I thought free speech is absolute. Anyway, while other people may be against anti-choicers right to speak at all, I disagree. But I agree they should not be allowed to have a club on campus. The USU is not the government and their role isn’t to facilitate all forms of speech, only forms of speech that benefit students and are democratically decided by students, not the kind of violent speech this group will produce. Democratic organisations are controlled by people, and those people have rights to see where their resources are going.
Otherwise, I could go into a church and force them to let me use their funds to start talking about how great Buddha is. Not that the church is a democratic organisation, though.
But other groups have done anti-abortion stuff, right? Right. Groups like the EU and Catholic Society. They should be punished for these events, but their overall goal isn’t anti-choice and their members can decide if they are to do anti-choice stuff or not. On the other hand, LifeChoice is all about anti-choice activism i.e. calling people who have abortion murderers. I hope that part has sunk in.
So, basically, anti-choicers have a right to free speech, but not a right to the money students have put into the union nor a right to the spaces won by students and administered by the union.
I’m sure they could find a platform on a street corner somewhere.
Anyway, after a long time making sure my pictures in the layout weren’t fucked, I lost my flow. If you agree that this group shouldn’t be on campus, leave a comment and e-sign this: http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/how-about-i-make-my-own-life-choices-stop-the-anti-abortion-society-at-usyd, come to this https://www.facebook.com/events/397767586929040/, and join this https://www.facebook.com/events/397867360259626/.
If you don’t, I don’t know, fuck off (or leave a comment!).
Let’s just make sure we keep this campus safe from people who want to go out and harass others, who want to hijack student funds and resources to attack people, some of whom have been exploited or are vulnerable; free speech has its place sometimes, but this isn’t a case about free speech, this is a case about whether we want our student organisation to endorse and facilitate something which is contrary to the values of the organisation.
P.S. I hope this debunks two things: one, that we have to respect every fucking moral position (relativism is bullshit, especially in spheres like the USU); and two, that the USU is apolitical. Clearly it is political. At least with political candidates who run for board, you know how they are going to vote on board, so you know if you want to vote for that position or not. Told you so.