USU / LifeChoice: Free speech, diversity, and campus safety

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:

Someone dying from abortion apparently means women shouldn’t have abortions?

Oh snap re: comment.

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!:

Yay, pro-life rallies!

A man who intimidated and harassed women while trespassing.

But thankfully we have amazing people without enough insight to see past their bull:

Next: KKK Klub, Holocaust Denial Club, Colonialist Club

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.

Free speech?

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.

@rafialarm

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.

Comments closed.

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59 comments

  1. Mohammed Abu Nasir

    Everyone can have a choice except for PRO-LIFERS

    Only Allah is the dominion over life and death.

    Freedom hating communist spastics…

  2. God Save The Queen

    What would be wrong with having a Colonialist Club? I’d be down for that.

  3. Clare

    So much anger and angst here. I find it incredible that pro-lifers are apparently considered the ‘violent’ ‘aggressive’ and ‘sinister’ ones. I certainly don’t have to agree with the views of every club and society at Sydney. But I’m certainly not going to impede anyone’s rights to form a society to express their views and what they believe in – THAT is how a democracy works. When people are ‘punished’ for expressing those views (as suggested above) – THAT is called tyranny. Think about it.

  4. Rafi Allah

    What a scurrilous piece of deceptive rubbish. Throughout your entire article you make libellous assertions about “violent speech” and “attacking women” without even once demonstrating that this is indeed what will happen. Your one example of a man you claim “intimidated women while trespassing” was standing on the footpath praying. If you are intimidated by people praying, or standing on sidewalks, the one with a problem is you.

    Especially if you are not disturbed at the idea of babies being torn to pieces within their own mothers.

  5. Mohammed Abu Nasir

    Allah Wu Akbar, Allah Wu Akbar, Allah Wu Akbar, Allah Wu Akbar, Allah Wu Akbar, Allah Wu Akbar, Allah Wu Akbar

    Allah will punish all people who believe it is their choice to murder babies

  6. Nick

    What a load of pinko commie drivel.

    The basic thrust of this article is that you can do whatever you want at uni just so long as it gets Comrade Lee Rhiannon’s seal of approval. Why bother arguing and debating those who have different views to you when you can just do what Stalin did by shutting them up with force and threats.

    Someone ship this drongo of to North Korea. He and Kim Jong Un would get along like a house on fire.

  7. Lara

    You are the sort of person the world should be scared of. You are filled with so much hate that you bothered to write a massive post about the issue. Grow up and go find something else to occupy your time with! Let people believe what they want to believe. You have completely misunderstood the intentions of the group and you have made it out to be this horrible and evil club. You are so wrong! The club was voted for and WON 6-5. How is that for a club that is democratically decided!?!?!?! No one asked you to come to any events or told you that you needed to be pro-life too. It is just a group of people that is trying to inform people who are interested about the case against abortion. No one invited you. Just stay out of it. How is it even a threat to anything else you do at uni? Why should you even bother to care so much?

    • rafi alam

      First of all, I’m aware you won the vote. I’m friends with many of the board directors. You won by one vote by misleading the board (saying it’s only about discussion groups when your Facebook page and your responses to people’s questions shows that it’s about pro-life activism), by working on broken confidentiality (C&S isn’t meant to tell clubs about what has happened), and by invading the board and putting it straight on the table. Clubs aren’t meant to do that, but LifeChoice did. But right, let’s see how democratically decided it is when the student population decides to get rid of your club.

      Secondly, I can do whatever I want with my time, and considering I spend a lot of my time doing activism and politics, this really makes sense. No one is trying to stop you from believing what you want, but you don’t need USU resources and approval to believe what you want, only to go out and threaten people with what you believe.

      And I’ll stop caring what you believe when you start letting women choose what they do with their own body. Stop complaining about your freedoms apparently being compromised when all you want to do is compromise other’s freedoms.

      • Clare

        No one pro-life stops women doing what they want. when a woman decides to not have an abortion, its because she has CHOSEN not to. Alternatively there are mountains of evidence of women who have been forced into having abortions.

      • rafi alam

        Forced abortions isn’t good. That’s why we are PRO-CHOICE. What is it about the word ‘choice’ you morons don’t understand? If a woman decides NOT to have an abortion, that’s THEIR CHOICE. A pro-life group aims to tell people that what they’re doing is MURDERING or ENCOURAGING MURDER. So stop acting holier-than-thou, and go off and defend doctor killers.

      • Paul

        Do you seriously think that that makes sense? At what point do you think that a human being, with human rights, comes into existence? Is it at birth, or earlier? Because what you are effectively saying is that unborn children don’t have rights. There is no-one who has the right to take the life of anyone, especially someone as defenseless as an unborn child. A mother’s womb should be a haven not the dangerous place on earth. How can you over look so blindly the rights of those children. It is undeniable that they are human beings.

      • rafi alam

        A fetus becomes a human being probably around viability to birth. It becomes a person after birth. They are not human beings. They are clumps of cells. Do some research.

      • Paul

        This debate just isn’t about allowing women to make decisions about their own body, if you think that then you’ve missed the whole point. This debate is about women making the choice to kill someone else, another human being who, if they were given a chance at life, would be the kind of person who’s rights you would respect. But instead you would have them brutally murdered for the sake of the woman. That is not right. That is not something our society should even consider allowing.

      • rafi alam

        Chance at life is right. Because they’re not alive. Spend time protecting people who are alive (people in war zones, people facing death penalty, people in poverty and hunger, people in places with no accessible healthcare, etc.) instead of people who aren’t. Peace.

      • Paul

        Excuse me? I am actually a science student. I have studied human biology and physiology, developmental physiology etc. at USYD so I know what I am talking about. If you actually think that the baby is just a clump of cells then your disagreeing with just about every professional in the field. The cells form a living organism and that organism is an unborn human being. Name one credible, scientific source that disagrees with me. One.

      • Paul

        Of course they are alive!! The have a heart beat, a functioning nervous system, and every other biological system that you have keeping you alive right now. How is that not life? How? How then can you define life? You have obviously studied very very little basic biology.

      • Paul

        No reply? Because you can talk the talk but you’ve got nothing to support your arguments. Your expertise is completely lacking yet you ask me to do some research? Get off your high horse.

  8. Enoch Powell

    I for one cannot wait to eat murdered babies while I stomp on the rights of people to form clubs. Raar you’re all women hating Tory scumbags.

  9. Andrew 'RightsNow' Woodley

    As a homosexual with many female friends that have had abortion, there is nothing I want to do more than smash the face of pro-lifers in to brick walls and watch the cunts die. They think they can force their agenda on me? I will fucking force my gay big ass penis down their throats and they can go cry mommy. Fucking pro-lifers. All cunts should die.

    • Clare

      Please. If you want to defend your friends then show a little respect for them (and for yourself) by learning the facts, managing your anger and arguing rationally.

  10. David

    Would you like your head crushed, limbs ripped off and then your body sucked up by a sharpened vacuum cleaner? NOT a threat bro.. the reality of abortion.

  11. David

    Religious / Moral / Pro-Lifers pay the compulsory union fees as well. Why Should my fees go towards Murder, incest and gay fisting?

  12. Robert

    As a heterosexual man who has counselled several women after both abortion and rape, I believe the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that I have no right to contribute to a proper debate on life issues.

    But you seem far more interested in threats, bullying, and intimidation than genuine discourse. Your claim that the LifeChoice representatives “misled the board” is particularly disgraceful, in light of the fact that you repeatedly misrepresent their activity as “violent speech” and “shaming women” when they repeatedly explain that they actively work to provide women with MORE choices than just killing their own children.

    If you truly had the best interests of women at heart, you would be trying to help them cope with pregnancy, not marching them to a butcher.

    • rafi alam

      You’re a disgusting person. I love how you began it with ‘as a heterosexual man’, as if that gives you any credence on this issue. Women may need counselling after abortion and clearly after rape. This does not take away from the fact that if a woman chooses to go through with abortion, it is her choice, and her choice to be ok with it or her choice to go to counselling or her choice to forget about it. How you are entrusted with helping women when you say they are KILLING PEOPLE is beyond me. Pro-choice is about giving CHOICES; your side is about shaming, demeaning, and vilifying women.

      • Clare

        Rafi: as a woman, I have the choice to do whatever I want with my body. Don’t I then have the choice to express my rationalised view on abortion?
        Or do I only have the ‘choice’ to stay silent for fear that I offend other people? (Even though I use no violent words, have no intention to offend but speak what I believe, and use logic and rationality to prove my arguments)
        I suggest you review you concept of ‘choice’.

      • Clare

        Why, because you believe using the university to express this particular view is somehow unjust to its members? How do you justify this belief, given that every other society is granted the rights to do just that – express their particular views?

      • rafi alam

        how many of these societies are so heinously offensive they can cause mental illness, trauma, or suicide, all of which pro-life has been shown to achieve?

      • Clare

        That’s a pretty big call. Forgive me, but I think you may be getting confused with the after effects that abortion has on so many women. If you can provide definitive evidence that pro-life groups cause this mental illness, trauma and suicide rather than the abortion itself then please, enlighten me.
        Facts and logic are crucial if we are going to argue rationally about such an important and sensitive issue.

  13. Jazz

    Hi man, not sure if you’re getting the point! We do live a democratic country after all, people are entitled to their own opinions, this protected under our constitution- don’t undermine, buddy! peace xo.

    • rafi alam

      people ARE allowed to their opinions, just don’t use my uni to voice them. i don’t go into churches to talk about how delusional they are, don’t come into my uni to threaten women

      • Jazz

        You go girl (at julia), chill out rafi! you are entitled to voice your opinion, buddy. Don’t be so discriminatory dude, and “threaten women”- man, they arent forcing their opinion on anyone, you can choose to listen! please, be civil!

    • Robert

      Mr. Alam, you are quite a disappointment. What exactly makes me a “disgusting person”? Is it the hours I have spent helping women with the numbing grief? Is it my scientific observation that abortion kills an innocent human being in the place where she should be safest?

      If “pro-choice” were truly about giving women choices, then you would fully support any initiative that furnishes volunteers willing to spend time, money and effort giving women what they need to achieve the choice they have made. If you were truly “pro-choice” then you would raise money for crisis pregnancy centres, you would get a knitting circle going to provide blankets and booties for the unexpected babies. You would be undergoing training in your spare time and at your own expense to provide volunteer counselling to women who are alone and afraid.

      But no. You do none of these things. You are not in the slightest bit interested in women, nor the children they carry. You are only interested in proving how right your “side” is, and how evil mine. The only choice for you ends with a dead baby and a broken mother. Last I checked, a single choice is no choice at all.

      By the way, I started with “as a heterosexual man” because the prior comment to mine started with “as a homosexual man”, and felt my heterosexuality was just as relevant.

      But what do you care about the reasoning of a “disgusting person” from the internet?

      • rafi alam

        Um, I support any group that promotes choices for women and helps women post-abortion OR post-birth. But it is up to the woman, not a self-described ‘heterosexual man’ like yourself. I’m more interested in changing the culture around abortion from a pro-feminist angle. Read my blog post on charity!

  14. Zacc

    Rafi how dare you call yourself a ‘muslim’. Your views are idiodic, self interested and plain dumb. You dirty the the words both ‘Islam’ and more importantly ‘muslim’. To me and the islamic community you are a disgrace.

    You are not a muslim!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. john

    just coz u put choice and women in the same sentence u cant justify everything
    yes women should have the same choices as men in many regards. but how does that mount to giving the choice to end the life of their own child? thats like saying a woman’s right to choose suicide should be provisioned. only a sick society would consider this good and well

  16. Hazzer

    As logical and civilised self identifying pro choice-er, this must be the most undignified piece of dribble I have ever read. Rafi you are not doing our cause any good, either shut up, or get educated!!!!!

  17. john

    original poster “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.”

    whose harassing who?

    umm… u mean the values of free speech?

  18. jeremy

    Rafi you are the must be the most illogical idiot i have encountered. Please shut up. Abortion is murder. By condoning you are condoning murder.

    Your sick

  19. Mohammad

    Bro you deleted my brothers comment. Please stop, everyone must now you are dirtying islam with your leftist viewzzz. Please, your no longer our brother

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