Abortion comments spark anger and complaints after debate

Comments made by two Life Matters representatives were called ‘inappropriate’, ‘misogynistic’ and ‘offensive’

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]


  1. Student reads out a phone number on a radio station. Big deal. You don’t have to call that phone number yourself, because it’s your own phone. The people on the show and writing this article need to get over themselves.

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  2. Jesus Christ I’m so happy I’ll soon be leaving this Uni. Have fun in the real world, you crybabies, it definitly ain’t tumblr out there.

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  3. This has to be the most pathetic article (and list of complaints) I have ever seen.

    A phone number? Oooh, it hurts, take it away please!! As for the rest, well. What a load of garbage. Wonder how you lot are going to cope with real life and jobs..?

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  4. Surely the pro-abortion participants on the show were aware before hand that the pro-lifers would argue that abortion is wrong because it is the killing of a human child? If they are unable to form a coherent argument that goes beyond saying their opponents’ arguments are “offensive” and “inappropriate”, and they are so emotionally unstable they have to run to YUSU because someone hurt their feelings then perhaps participating in a radio debate isn’t for them?

    And don’t give me that rubbish about a “safe space”. You do not have the right at university to be insulated from differing opinions and points of view. If there is one place that should be a truly “safe space” it is a mother’s womb.

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  5. Disappointed that the article doesn’t mention the extremely graphic, several-minute-long description Wynn read of an abortion, with zero warning.

    And it’s less that she read the number out, and more that she was not given permission to do so in someone else’s radio show, on which she was a guest. She spoke out of turn.

    Not sure what a cis man was doing there anyway frankly, his comments are totally irrelevant.

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    • FYI it wasn’t Wynn who read out the graphic description of abortion, it was one of the Life Matters representatives.

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    • Sorry but the views of men are not totally irrelevant. A child has two parents, therefore BOTH should have a say over the issue of an abortion.

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    • Yeah Laura Doherty is the woman who read out the description, not Wynn!!

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      • 11 May ’15 at 11:00 am

        Someone who actually knows what happened

        Actually, Laura was given permission to read the number out on the show beforehand by the talk show host. That is a genuine fact. If you listen to the debate (and make up your own mind about what was said from that rather than from this article) you’ll find that she used the trigger warning, so if you didn’t want to listen to the graphic description you could turn the radio off.

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  6. 5 May ’15 at 2:10 pm

    Emily Pankhurst

    What next? compulsary TRIGGER WARNING stickers over everyones lips in case they say anything

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  7. ““Free speech is important, but not when it’s detrimental to student welfare.”

    Yet another whole-hearted and sincere commitment to free speech and liberal values that ends as soon as it starts actually mattering.

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    • Agreed. Is anyone else absolutely terrified that a lot of these people will be in roles of responsibility and power in the future? I certainly am.

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  8. If you read the majority of articles by the author Tess Pullen, the majority are about complaints made (probably from her friends) about how someone else’s views don’t agree with their own. Thus I’m making the assumption she supports the views of the people making complaints. Message to Tess: some people in life do not share the same opinion with you but that does not mean you should shut them up. Get over it. (And don’t delete this comment because it ‘offends’ you). You pay 9 grand a year to go to an institution that is supposed to challenge your views in more ways than one. I’m not saying you need to agree with these peopl, but at least listen to them. You may as well use your uni education as it was intended – to think about stuff.

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  9. The number of people who seem to think they have some sort of right to go through life without ever being offended seems to be growing, as does the number who think that their being offended should result in some sort of penalty for the offender. Pathetic. Enough of this “freedom of speech as long as it doesn’t upset me” crap.

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  10. 6 May ’15 at 10:07 am

    Good lord people

    I fail to see what was so scandalous or disturbing about Scullion’s assertion that he thinks abortion is murder in any circumstance. That is his position in the debate and it is a perfectly legitimate one; the abortion debate is over the ethics of terminating a living organism, and if you believe that organism is a sentient and full Human-being from conception, then you’re going to see the termination as an act tantamount to murder. I really don’t see what was so shocking about his statement – if you can’t put two and two together and make four, maybe debates like this aren’t for you. It’s not as if he said women who have abortions should be stoned to death in the street. Christ people, sometimes adults disagree with other adults – if you can’t handle that fact, you probably shouldn’t call yourself an adult.

    What I find so much more disturbing is Lomas’ call for the student union to basically deratify and ban Life Matters because she disagrees with their views. I appreciate that a pro-life self-identified feminist is a rare thing, and FemSoc has the right to take a collective position on the question in line with their interpretation of feminism. But I was under the impression that feminism champions the education, liberation and equalisation of status for ALL women in ALL spheres of life. Doherty is a woman, but Lomas believes her right to organise within the union on issues that matter to her should be restricted – that her campaign group should be repressed and devalued. Apparently women are only allowed to organise if they organise in a way that pleases people like Lomas; if they conform to what they think a good woman should do and think. If you are a feminist, then when you encounter women with ideas you feel are incompatible with the goals of feminism then surely it is your duty to inclusively educate, not exclude or discriminate. Participating in the debate is an example of the former; banning the opposition because you don’t like how the debate went is definitely the latter.

    And on the point of student welfare, as someone with very strong pro-life sympathies, I find the existence of Life Matters really reassuring – especially as an LGBT person (my experience is that being LGBT and pro-life is something that deeply shocks and disturbs people at university, as if my sexuality should somehow define my political or spiritual beliefs). It’s heartening to see a group speaking out to say “yes, you can be intelligent and capable and be pro-life”; “yes, you can be a woman and be pro-life”; “yes, you can be X and Y and Z and whatever you want to be and be pro-life”. There is no way in which the banning of Life Matters could not be seen as an attack on the welfare of its members and supporters.

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  11. “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.”

    Really clutching at straws at this point. I fail to see the benefit to be had in focusing on terminology in this debate when there were far more relevant issues to be discussed. While the use of gender binarism in our language is outdated, we must accept that it exists and to tiptoe around certain words is awkward and unproductive.

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  12. Free speech. But only if we like what we hear. Ridiculous.

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  13. “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.”

    How dare they! You people really are insane.

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  14. Has anyone seen baxter?

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  15. “Life Matters continued to use the term “pregnant women” throughout the debate.”

    If you’re pregnant, and have a womb, and a vagina, you’re a woman. You may wish to ‘identify’ yourself as whatever you like, but don’t expect all of us to start disregarding human biology.

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  16. A lot of bleating about “free speech” down here, can someone point me to where it’s meant to have been impinged on?

    All I can see is people exercising their own free speech by deciding they don’t want to broadcast certain individuals’ ridiculous opinions on their own platform to their own audiences…

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    • 25 May ’15 at 2:14 pm

      Nicolas Bourbaki

      The way I see it, there’s a strict, legalistic sense of “freedom of speech”, which refers to the right not to have your speech restricted by the government (specifically), and there’s also a weaker sense of the phrase, which I think people are using here. In this sense, “freedom of speech” refers to the idea that it’s a social good for people to be able to hear other people expressing the full range of opinions within the range of society (for reasons why this is a good idea, try reading, e.g., John Stuart Mill). For better or for worse, the idea that abortion is in some form the taking of a human life exists in our society, it exists among people at this university, and people who believe in “freedom of speech” in the non-strict sense will therefore believe that we shouldn’t silence people who try to express it. And I think asking for Life Matters to be de-ratified counts as silencing, since YUSU is supposed to represent the whole student body.

      If you don’t agree that the phrase “freedom of speech” should be used in this way, just mentally replace it with something like “free flourishing of ideas”, and see if people’s points still stand.

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