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Abortion debate cancelled

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A scheduled Oxford Students For Life debate on the topic of “This House believes that abortion culture harms us all” was prevented from happening on Tuesday evening following pressure from student activists.

The debate, which was due to be held at the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre in Christ Church, was described on Facebook: “Last year in Britain, over 185,000 abortions were carried out. What does this say about our national culture? Is it a sign of equality, or does it suggest we treat human life carelessly? Joining OSFL to debate the issue are two prominent journalists.” Prior to its cancellation it had been subject to heavy criticism from student activists, and in particular members of the feminist Facebook discussion group Cuntry Living.
Criticism on social media was followed by moves to shut down the debate, with Christ Church JCR Treasurer Will Neaverson bringing forward a motion at Sunday’s GM which resolved to “request our college authorities and our elected officers to try and cancel an event hosted by Oxford Students for Life”, and the college responded to the request the following day with a decision to cancel the debate.
An email sent around the Christ Church JCR mailing list by JCR President Louise Revell stated that the decision of the College authorities had been not to grant OSFL permission to host the event in Christ Church, for the reason that “there was insufficient time between today and tomorrow to address some concerns they had about the meeting”.
The GM motion, which originally questioned the legitimacy of the OSFL debate itself, was amended following a three-hour debate to mandate JCR Officers to raise “security concerns, both physical and mental, of Christ Church students” with the college. The amended motion also noted the JCR’s “strong concern with the practical format of the debate”.
Neaverson told the OxStu: “I’m relieved that Christ Church passed the motion, which sends a strong message that the welfare and safety of our students is more important than an outside group’s access to use our space.”
Other Christ Church students disagreed. One Christ Church undergraduate posted on Facebook: “How can you claim this is in favour of free and fair debate when you propose shutting down an event because you disagree with their ‘narrative’? Where is free debate if the Christ Church JCR should decide which narratives are acceptable and which are not?”
However, Charlotte Sykes, editor of Cuntry Living, criticised the event, posting: “Why are both the speakers (apparently) cis-men? They will never have to directly experience an abortion and so are speaking for a group of people they do not represent.
Another example of decisions about women’s bodies being outsourced to men…”
The debate had already come under fire from OUSU’s Women’s Campaign, which released a statement on OSFL’s debate: “This Tuesday, a debate called “This House Believes Britain’s Abortion Culture Hurts Us All” will be hosted at Christ Church, where two men journalists will be joining with Oxford Students For Life (OSFL) to discuss ‘abortion culture’.
“The Women’s Campaign (WomCam) condemn OSFL for holding this debate. It is absurd to think we should be listening to two cisgender men debate about what people with uteruses should be doing with their bodies. By only giving a platform to these men, OSFL are participating in a culture where reproductive rights are limited and policed by people who will never experience needing an abortion.
“The event description seems to suggest that increased access to abortion contributes to a ‘culture’ of ‘[treating] human life carelessly’. Framing the debate in these pro-life terms denies people autonomy over the choices they make regarding their own bodies.”
WomCam called “for an apology from OSFL for hosting this event and urge them to cancel it” and supported a “disruptive protest” if the event goes ahead. WomCam further added “we also support those within Christ Church who are working to stop the event going ahead”.
In response to criticism, OSFL released a statement, saying: “Free speech is a vital principle of a democratic society, and at a university of all places it should be protected. We’re very happy to discuss people’s concerns about the event, but it would be a shame if open debate was shut down.
“While we recognise that this is an issue which affects women especially – and partly for that reason we have hosted two all-women panel debates in the last year – Tim and Brendan are two well-known commentators coming to talk about an issue which has an impact on the whole of British society.
“As a sign of our commitment to dialogue on this challenging issue, we’d like to invite WomCam to co-host a debate next term.”

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. yossarian

    20th November 2014 at 17:13

    worth reading the pro-choice speech students werent allowed to hear at the link above:

  2. Sidney

    4th June 2015 at 16:06

    Why do intelligent people oppose open debate? If you believe in your cause, speak for it. How does reverting to bullying tactics (disruptive protest) help your cause? It only gives the impression that you cannot hold your own in a conversation without getting aggressive. I would like to think that WomCam had the integrity to agree to this co-host.

  3. Sam Russell

    4th June 2015 at 19:09

    So pathetic! Why would Oxford give in to these complacent jerks who oppose the discussion of ideas? For shame!!!

  4. sarah

    4th June 2015 at 20:31

    It was right to cancel this talk, just like it would be right to cancel a talk asking whether or not white supremacy is acceptable. It’s ridiculous to suggest that women should be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will. So there’s no reason to waste everyone’s time.

  5. Leo White

    5th June 2015 at 17:19

    What’s ridiculous, Sarah, is your equating laws proscribing abortion with racism. But at least you didn’t compare pro-lifers to Hitler…

  6. Matt

    5th June 2015 at 17:43

    A large number of abortions in a society cannot be a good sign, and we should encourage men and women to make choices that spare them the horror of it.

  7. BfromRI

    5th June 2015 at 19:45

    Actually it’s also ridiculous to ban a debate on whether white supremacy is acceptable. Sarah, if it’s a silly and stupid idea, then surely there’s no danger in calling it out, dominating it through argument, enlightening and broadening listeners’ minds, and maybe changing an opinion or two? What are you afraid of?

  8. BfromRI

    5th June 2015 at 19:51

    And I hasten to add, Sarah, that how any particular person chooses to waste his time is none of your concern, and one should be free to spend that time without interference from hectoring, fascist, SJW busybodies such as you.

  9. Anonymously Opinionated

    8th June 2015 at 01:57

    Any topic with dire impact and opposing views is worthy of debate. Those responsible for the cancellation would be hard pressed to cancel an equal debate from the opposing point of view. I feel it is quite fair to say freedom of speech is only as free as you allow it to be. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it doesn’t match yours. With all of this said, men should be allowed to voice their opinions on abortion. As long as they aren’t physically forcing an abortive procedure or intentionally impregnating a woman against her will, there is absolutely no foul occurrence involved in their opinion being defended openly and without fear. Notice, this was a debate that was cancelled. It wasn’t a lecture. Society is so afraid of being closed minded that it closes it’s eyes to how narrow they are actually being.

    Hopefully this doesn’t anger anyone. But, if it does, I’ve done something right.

  10. Bentley Maniac

    8th June 2015 at 06:53

    why is it that the objections to holding the debate are all coming from people who are (supposedly) pro-free speech such as the feminist movement? It’s a STUDENT debate, not an argument for the house of Commons. If you are so actively against debates on this topic, then there must be something you are afraid of. (such as the truth?)

  11. Dex

    10th June 2015 at 00:37

    It sure sounds like it wasn’t really a debate. It sounded like a narrative being told against the backdrop of a debate. That would be fraudulent, and shouldn’t be allowed to be called a debate. Call it a speech, so people can dismiss it as usual.

  12. saiman92

    10th June 2015 at 10:57

    “It was right to cancel this talk, just like it would be right to cancel a talk asking whether or not white supremacy is acceptable. It’s ridiculous to suggest that women should be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will. So there’s no reason to waste everyone’s time.”
    What? What do you care how someone else waste his time? the issue on abortion is complex, there are many different views, and while I personally support the righ of women to chose abortion, discussion is always welcome.
    the only objection to the debate i somewhat share is that there weren’t actual women invited to the discussion as speakers. Inviting two women, maybe ones that experienced an abortion, one in favour and one against, in addiction to the speakers already invited would have solved any reasonable objection to the matter.

  13. Helen

    10th June 2015 at 11:14

    Two anti abortion commentators ‘debating’ abortion rights in a forum held by Oxford Students for Life isn’t a debate, it’s proselytising.

  14. Joe

    30th July 2015 at 06:20

    “It was right to cancel this talk, just like it would be right to cancel a talk asking whether or not white supremacy is acceptable. ”

    “Nice” analogy Sarah. However, “proof by analogy is fraud” (Bjarne Stroustrup).
    Critical thinking and reason appear not to be among your skills. Yet you seem have compensated that by developing a hysterical personality.

  15. Seamus

    17th August 2015 at 16:00

    There is only one true response to this news: “Sieg Heil”. Cis-gender to describe a man who is a man? Cuntry Living as a real descriptor for an activist group? Sorry, but you are playing to all the ugly, hairy-legged, unwashed, man-hating, eff-witted lesbian stereotypes of my 1980s university life. You think you are smart, original and new – but your arguments are urbane, ill-educated, malformed and ultimately a by-line in the timeline of human evolution. You think you are relevant – but you the Homo Erectus of our times – nearly there, but in reality just an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

    Don’t be surprised if we dismiss you as an irrelevancy while (just to be safe) attack you to neutralise you as we would the second coming of Hitler (because you do have so much in common with the Nazis).

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