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Outcry after anti-abortion society set up by three men

Female students at the University of Manchester have been left in ‘fear for their safety’ after three male students launched an anti-abortion society.

The Manchester Pro-Life Society was established on January 11. A spokesperson said it was “not an anti-abortion society but a pro-life society”, with the aim of promoting the “wellbeing and dignity of every human life, from conception”.

They also said they were concerned with “other threats to life”, including assisted suicide, the death penalty, and “structural issues” in the NHS.

In response, students have launched a petition calling for the society’s dissolution and voicing their concerns. As of February 25, it had amassed more than 18,000 signatures.

The SU are directly enabling misogynistic hate speech

Heather Bowling, second-year linguistics student

Heather Bowling, a second-year linguistics student, told The Independent: “The society has made me feel weak and inferior to my male counterparts. I’ve had endless messages from girls who fear for their safety. The SU are directly enabling misogynistic hate speech.”

Another student at Manchester who wished to remain anonymous said: “I understand that the SU has to treat all societies equally but in terms of the message it’s sending out to women, I think it’s continuing to perpetuate the stigmatisation of abortion and denying that it’s a part of healthcare and a legal right”.

At its founding, the group appeared to have no female members. Amid the backlash, it has since appointed two women to the society’s committee.

George Vincent, 22, serves as the society president. In October 2023, Mr Vincent, speaking to The Guardian, said: “I recognise how much pain there must be for a woman in that situation. But I don’t think an abortion solves that problem, it doesn’t make that trauma go away.”

“We need to support them. And if that means adoption, we shouldn’t ostracise people for giving up their child”.

In a statement, the University of Manchester Students’ Union explained: “From a legal standpoint, it’s not possible to stop a society from affiliating for their legal views that are contrary to the views of other students”.

The statement cited the 1994 Education Act, 2010 Equality Act, and 1986 Education Act, as legally obliging the SU to allow the society’s creation. They further highlighted the 2023 Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act, which comes into effect from August 1 this year.

17 out of 24 of the UK’s top universities have anti-abortion societies

Organisers of the petition against the new society say they accept the legal right of the society to exist, but hope that the petition will represent the large number of people who are pro-choice.

The controversy is not an isolated incident, with other Russell Group Universities having pro-life societies including Oxford, Exeter and Birmingham.

17 out of 24 of the UK’s top universities have anti-abortion societies. At present, this does not include the University of Warwick.


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