YUSU have launched an investigation after several complaints were made about a live radio debate between representatives from the newly ratified Life Matters society and FemSoc during URY show That’s What She Said.
Life Matters was represented by Laura Doherty and David Scullion, the society’s Chair and Secretary. Izzy Lomas and Gina Cardwell, Chair and Social Secretary of FemSoc, also took part in the debate.
The debate, which took place on 20 April, focused on whether abortion should be legal. However, complaints were made after Scullion was asked about his views on rape survivors who had abortions and he replied: “I still feel it is murder.”
Doherty concluded the interview by sharing a pro-life organisation’s phone number which was presented by them as a helpline for people who may have been affected by the issues raised during the debate. However, listeners found error with this as the phone number was presented as a helpline without its pro-life bias explicitly stated beforehand.
Lomas told Nouse that she was “happy” Life Matters agreed to a debate but said she felt Life Matters “seriously violated the rules of the debate by promoting a pro-life helpline at the end of the show”.
She said: “Free speech is important, but not when it’s detrimental to student welfare. I don’t believe Life Matters should be ratified. The views they expressed in the interview against contraception as well as abortion were extreme and the spreading of misinformation about contraception could seriously impact on the health of students.
Lomas also called their comments “inappropriate”, “misogynistic” and “offensive”, adding that their views on rape and abortion “need to be challenged”. She went on to say: “I completely support anyone who made a complaint about Life Matters and I hope YUSU takes any complaints seriously and investigates them fully.”
Concerns were also raised over the participants treating the issue of abortion as a women’s issue. It was argued that such a view subscribed to a form of gender binarism that could marginalise trans* people.
While the issue was raised during the interview and while both parties apologised, Life Matters continued to use the term “pregnant women” throughout the debate.
Evie Paffard, LGBTQ Officer, told Nouse that she was “disappointed” by this and added: “Avoiding cissexist language isn’t easy, but I applaud the two FemSoc speakers for making the effort to correct themselves.”
Scullion said: “I’d like to say how good it is that people are so engaged with this topic. Jess [Wynn], the presenter of That’s What She Said, said that the programme with Life Matters got far more interest than usual. At university, we are exposed to lots of new ideas and we get the chance to evaluate and decide between them for ourselves.
“I think it’s great that FemSoc and Women’s Committee are willing to embrace this and invite us onto their show. It is understandable that the debate provoked a strong reaction; there were two irreconcilable ideas about the definition of human life that were presented. However, I would hope that, instead of shutting off debate, the fact that people have such strong views would encourage further understanding of the topic on both sides.”
Speaking of the debate, Wynn said: “It was certainly a very thought provoking debate that has raised some very important issues. I am pleased that the debate has sparked conversation on this issue and that it has allowed people to make an informed decision about any further action that they might want to take.”
Chris Wall, Student Activities Officer, told Nouse: “It is an incredibly difficult and sensitive conversation to be having. At this stage it is too early to say what will come from this but we are committed to our equal opportunities policy and want to encourage anyone who is affected by the issue to seek independent advice.”
Students seeking further support can email [email protected] or contact the Women’s Counselling Centre.
“URY have received no complaints about the show to either Management or the Programme Controller and are happy that no editorial or Ofcom guidelines were broken during the broadcast. Any complaints or concerns can be sent to [email protected]”