YUSU welcomes defeat of parliamentary abortion amendment to reduce time limit

YUSU President Anne-Marie Canning has described Parliament’s rejection of an amendment to reduce the upper time limit on abortions as “a very good thing” for students

YUSU President and acting Academic and Welfare Office Anne-Marie Canning has described Parliament’s rejection of an amendment to reduce the upper time limit on abortions as “a very good thing” for students.

The amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was voted on by MPs last Tuesday, where it was defeated by 332 votes to 190.

Proposed by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, a former nurse, the amendment formed the first major challenge to British abortion laws since 1990, when the legal limit was lowered from 28 to 24 weeks. MPs were given the chance to vote on a series of legal limits including 12, 16, 20 and 22 weeks, all of which were rejected.

The victory for the pro-choice movement has highlighted issues of abortion and student welfare on campus. Speaking as acting Academic and Welfare Officer, Canning welcomed the outcome, saying “It’s a very good thing for students. People aren’t pro-abortion, they’re pro-choice and for those students who get to 24 weeks and need an abortion, there’s a reason for that. It’s because they’re vulnerable, because they’ve denied the issue, because they’ve been under pressure from people to keep the baby.”

“It’s the most vulnerable people, and the most vulnerable students who need late abortions, so I’m glad that it’s stayed at 24 weeks,” she added.

York University Christian Union Male President Joe Marshall refused to comment on the issue saying, “the CU doesn’t comment on abortion as it is a secondary issue.”

YUSU policy maintains a pro-choice stance, and actively seeks to support students in need of an abortion. The policy ‘Right to Choose Fund’, which was passed in June 2007 commits the Union to “[a woman’s] right to control their own bodies and reproductive systems.” The policy mandates Union officers to “actively campaign in support of the pro-choice lobby”.

The policy also renewed the Right to Choose fund, a sum of at least £10,000 ring-fenced to support any female student, or the partner of a student, who becomes pregnant and is unable to obtain an abortion on the NHS. The fund can either be used to pay for an abortion or help a student support a child if they choose to keep it.

“We have about £10,000 in the Right to Choose fund,” said Canning, “of which about £1000 is put aside for the abortion fund – the rest is for childcare. The childcare is very well used, and the abortions we get a couple of cases per year. But for the people that it does help, you can’t ever underestimate who much it helps them,” she added.

Current YUSU Women’s Officers, Sophie Harrison and Eilidh McIntosh, said: “Women’s Committee follows YUSU’s policy of being pro-choice, and we were pleased the abortion limit has not been lowered, as we do feel it would have had an adverse effect on student welfare,” they said.

Women’s Committee did not launch an official campaign against the proposed amendment. However, committee members did write to MPs, including local MP John Grogan, who voted for a 22 week time limit.


  1. When will the media learn that “YUSU” does not mean the officers but the members? When was a resolution passed to say the membership welcomed this?

    Sloppy reporting, people!

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  2. I’m pretty sure the article is referring to YUSU as a student body, after all it was the student body that passed policy saying that the SU is pro-choice, hence a statement by the figurehead of YUSU should reflect the democratically voted opinion of the student body!

    Unless you’re implying that the Exec/Senate is passing and voting policy without consulting the members.

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  3. Just a little POI.

    Are Eilidh and Sophie the current YUSU women’s officers or do they take over next year like the Sabs.? I don’t quite know whether non sab. YUSU positions work the same as sab. positions.

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  4. Dan,

    The non-sabbs started at the beginning of the Easter Holidays whereas sabbs start at the beginning of the Summer Holidays. It’s to help provide a little bit of continuity on committees etc.

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  5. Aaah. Ok. I wasn’t 100% sure.

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  6. 31 May ’08 at 12:01 am

    Nathan McGarry

    sinse when have decisions like this been allowed to be printed without an UGM being done?

    if this is the opinion of the officers, it should be stated as such not as the student union welcoming it as I, a member do not and have not voted as such.

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  7. Once again the exec spew out more political opinions which supposedly represent the views of it’s members on a sensitive issue with no consultation. (a pro-choice motion does not mention 22 weeks or 24 weeks. it is no defense for this kind of behaviour).

    The way YUSU see a 22 week limit as an infringement of womens’ rights is an obscene abuse of the term, used completely out of context.

    There is a moral problem on either side. Having to inject a lethal injection into the heart of a growing baby is as near as execution as many of us can imagine. Equally arbitrary limits don’t take into account health (life or death in some cases) of the mother and the potential quality of life for the unborn child. Most students i’m sure find this a very difficult issue to come to terms with and make a decision about. It’s not as simple as pro choice and pro-life. Most of us wish we could be both, and try and maintain that belief as far as possible. Believing in a 22 week limit is NOT anti-choice, is NOT sexist or misogynistic and is certainly not to be condemned by the union.

    Shame on those who speak for us without even knowing our opinions. I hope this contemptable attitude among officers that they can represent 10,000 people with a quick remark to the campus press ceases as soon as possible.

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  8. Monty, just a small point about your terminology: ‘a lethal injection into the heart of a growing baby’ would indeed be execution. Abortion, however, involves using one of a variety of methods to terminate a foetus, not a baby.

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  9. Monty, I don’t believe anyone in the article ever said that a 22 week limit is an infringement on women’s rights. I would also argue that supporting the pro-choice lobby give the Union an explicit remit to ensure that women get as much choice as possible.

    Nathan McGarry: A UGM was done, here’s a link to the results on the YUSU website: http://www.yusu.org/democracy/ugm/motion.html?id=142. If you want to change standing policy, then propose a motion to do so.

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  10. RS- Your term is subjective. If a ‘feotus’ can survive outside the mothers’ womb, then does this not become a baby? If not, then at what stage do you begin calling the ‘feotus’ a baby? The logic from your previous point would suggest you believe this to be at the point of birth. Therefore, do you believe allowing abortion up until delivery to be a legitimate act?

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  11. 31 May ’08 at 8:08 pm

    Anne-Marie Canning

    Chris has pointed out that I was following UGM policy when I spoke to the press.

    As an aside, I did ask Raf to amend the title of the article as I was aware that my views are not unanimous amongst the membership of the union.

    If you have a problem feel free to drop me an email [email protected]

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  12. Monty,

    I’m not entirely sure what you are accusing the exec, or anyone else here, of – The exec have not issued a statement or taken a stance either in the run up to the parliamentary vote or retrospectively. They didn’t lobby on behalf of the student body, or attempt to influence the outcome in anyway.

    Nobody has argued (least of all ‘YUSU’) that a 2 week reduction in the time limit is an infringement of women’s rights, nothing even remotely close to that is said by anybody. All that has been said by Anne-Marie (who doesn’t claim to speak for anybody else here, but is commenting as someone who is familiar with the issue) is that she thinks it is in the best interests of the most vulnerable students. This opinion is no doubt based on her own proffessional experience, and is far from being an unreasonable statement. It is her perogative to look out for student welfare.

    On an issue as sensitive as abortion it is very easy to accuse people of insensitivity, but nobody has said anything along the lines of what you are suggesting, and the exec have not ‘spewed out political opinions’. If you disagree with anything a member of the exec has spewed out in the past, then complain about that, please don’t import it into a discussion on student welfare and abortion, which deserves to be discussed in its own terms. This is always going to be a difficult discussion, it would be better for everyone involved if no-one saw it as an easy opportunity to engage in YUSU bashing.

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  13. In fairness, I don’t think the article distinguishes enough between AMC’s own personal opinion and the policy of the SU itself. On the subject of an reduction in the time limit, Monty is correct, YUSU does not have a ‘stance’ on it because supporting a reduction from 24-22 weeks is different from voting on the ‘right to choose’ fund and no vote of YUSU members was made prior to the parliamentary debate on the subject matter.

    That said, AMC is allowed to hold personal viewpoints and I feel they may have been put across in this article in an incorrect fashion. ‘YUSU welcomes defeat…’ does suggest that they have a mandate to take that stance when in fact they do not. AMC has merely given her own personal viewpoint that is not necessarily refective of the members she is President of.

    I think it can be attributed to bad reporting and more headlines that bare no actual resembelence to the story or indeed the facts.

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  14. Hi Dan,

    Thank you for your comment.

    YUSU actually does have policy on this issue, as part of the ‘Right to Choose’ motion which passed in June 2007 (http://www.yusu.org/democracy/ugm/motion.html?id=142). As mentioned in the article the motion mandates the Union “to actively campaign in support of the pro-choice lobby”. While the term ‘pro-choice lobby’ is a nebulous one, the majority of major pro-choice groups were certainly against the proposed amendment.

    Added to this both the President, the Union’s primary representative and chief spokesperson, and Women’s officers, representatives with special responsibility for this area, have said they think the defeat of the amendment is a good thing. Both were asked to speak in an official capacity.

    Based on this we feel both our headline and reporting was justified.

    All the best,

    Raf Sanchez

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  15. I realise i’m in a minority here, and don’t wish to argue purely for the sake of arguing, but i believe this issue is so much more complicated than pro-life or pro-choice. That really is the GCSE ethics way of thinking about the issue.

    I’m sure we all agree not even the fiercest ‘pro-choice’ campaigners are in any way ‘anti-life’, and it works exactly the same the other way round.

    We already limit choice with a 24 week ruling. There is no choice at 28 weeks, for example (except in medical emergencies) so i feel the YUSU pro-choice motion invalid when discussing this limit, as there is still choice at 22 weeks. The lobby in favour of changing the limit do not want to outlaw abortion, and certainly do not want to undermine anyone’s welfare. But when a foetus/baby (i wish there was a non-emotive word) can survive at 22 weeks, i think this too is a welfare issue.

    Very few abortions take place post 20 weeks anyway, its about 1%, largely for medical reasons, therefore the idea that 22 weeks would be bad for student welfare cuts no ice with the facts.

    May i also point out no officer was elected this year or last on a ‘pro-abortion’ platform. Therefore it wasn’t in any manifesto, and seeing as UGM policy is in place for 3(or is it 5? someone please correct me!) years, many incoming students havn’t sanctioned anyone to speak for them on the issue.

    I have far greater respect for the CU, despite my many differences of opinion with them over other issues,for stating it is not an issue they can speak about while representing the whole body.

    Surely the ‘right to choose fund’ should be renamed ‘access to choice’ fund, seeing as the right is already enshrined in law?

    Tom: I’m sorry about the ‘YUSU bashing’, but representitive organisations need to be questioned and held to account, whether that be directly, at a UGM, or in the media. In this case, i don’t see how a 2 week reduction affects students in their capacity as a student, which is what YUSU should lobby about. Abortion affects wider society as a whole, and as it isn’t student specific, i don’t think the union should have an official stance on such an emotive issue.


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  16. Unfortunately Monty, UGM decides decides what YUSU lobbies on (for 3 years), and as Raf pointed out, the UGM passed gives YUSU the requirement to actively campaign in support of the pro-choice lobby, and as the pro-choice lobby in general were against this amendment, YUSU were *required* by democratically voted policy passed at UGM to be against the amendment.

    I agree with you that the Union (and the NUS) shouldn’t campaign on secondary issues (insert rant here about vocal minority pursuing leftist agenda skewing the representation of students, etc, etc), however the Union is a democratic institution and has to follow this passed motion.

    Perhaps you should propose a motion to replace the current Right To Choose fund with an Access To Choice fund that does exactly the same, but without resolving the union to lobby for the pro-choice group? It’s all well complaining on here, but that’s the way to actually get change done.

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  17. 7 Jun ’08 at 12:06 am

    Caring person

    Just look around you and realize that the population of “children” is very rapidly dwindling in this province and a large number of schools are closing. Many many people will lose their jobs. What was once a very desirable and lucritive field will become less so. That will translate into many things – specifically fewer jobs for teachers and over time, possibly fewer students even being able to go to college and or university. Of paramount importance is the fact that a long standing population is not vigourously regenerating itself and no where is that more clearly obvious than at the university campus from where your article has been generated. Given the pro choice stance over the last 20 years, please take one brave moment and think about taking a very HARD look at the down side of the choice issue. In good conscience, one has to be responsible and mature enough to look ahead at what the greater consequences are to having an abortion rather than NOT having one. This is definitely NOT a secondary issue; it is very much a primary issue for the one most important reason, that each and every one of us needs to be mindful about regarding the preciousness of life as we have known it for the last few generations. With the proposed current thinking endorsed by the student union, obvious reality is that there will be fewer and fewer children and what was once the foundational long standing population will slowly die out. I’m just suggesting that students begin to recognize the wisdom in looking at this issue through another lens while also trying to imagine what the consequences will be of even fewer children in our country’s future. Why not elevate the idea of making reponsible choices for the greater good rather than selfishly thinking only from the “individual’s” self serving pleasurable perspective. Interestingly twenty-five years ago, I would have never predicted that schools would be closing because of decreasing enrolment and teachers would be getting pink slips or convocating teachers would not be able to get jobs. Perhaps, a realistic factor for consideration in weighing in the number of weeks of choice about whether to continue to save or to lose a life. Just another little something to ponder in your world of academia! You know what they say about lessons learned in hindsight. This is definitely an issue where brilliant minds need to be a little more forward thinking and apply the same principles that you would to saving the environment or the planet. Who would have thought that was a necessity 25 years ago. As a population, we do not want to face extinction!

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  18. I was not going to comment however I think there is one fact that has been neglected. No women should be forced to have a child if she does not want to she should therefore have the right to abortion on demand. However I realise I am a miority view!

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  19. Caring Person: You may have missed the fact that over the next few years, York will be increasing its intake by 50% to accommodate the ever increasing number of people who want to go to University. Where are these dwindling figures that you speak of? Abortion isn’t exactly a new thing…

    The idea that abortion will lead the human race to extinction is laughable.

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