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.