At the SURHUL General Meeting on Tuesday 4th December, our society proposed a motion against anti-choice harassment outside abortion clinics and on campuses. This motion can be read here.The motion had been approved by religious groups on campus and passed with the result of 56 for, 2 against, 8 abstentions.
There was one opposition speech from a student who was both the Entertainments officer (at the time) and NUS Delegate. The majority of their speech failed to actually oppose what the motion outlined, which was that SURHUL would take a stand to protect students rights to sexual health services and was against Anti-Choice Harassment outside Abortion Clinics and on Campuses. Instead, the opposition spent their two minutes presenting their own stance on abortion, saying that they were against abortion in any situation and condemning women who have abortions. You can read the opposing speech here [Trigger Warning].
The speaker accused those who spoke out against him of bullying. One student wrote a note on facebook in response entitled 'Why people shouldn't be criticised for being angry and upset during last night's Anti-Harassment Motion.' The speaker decided to state that this was also abuse and later stood down from their role as Entertainments Officer on exec. It was decision they chose to take and they were in no way forced to so by the union.
Only about a third of the speech is actually relevant to the motion, so lets look at that:
"I want to begin by saying that I initially proposed 11 amendments to this motion, all of which were refused, which I believe adds evidence to the following argument of close-mindedness on the subject of abortion."
Yes, we did refuse them because we thought that they were all unnecessary and so we refused them and prepared arguments against to use at the General Meeting. Just before the General Meeting the speaker withdrew the amendments; had they not retracted them, these amendments would have been discussed.
"It states that the SU supports individuals who protest at Bloomsbury Square, but by doing so condones actions up to and including violence if it was to be perpetrated."
Counter protests against the anti choice group held by the Bloomsbury Square group has always been peaceful, within the law, and held outside clinic hours so to not distress people that need clinic services.
"It fails to mandate any officer to educate and learn about the overwhelming scientific evidence of what an abortion actually results in."
The motion mandates the VP Education and Welfare Sabbatical and Equality and Liberation Officer work together to improve accessibility of information and of the choices available for pregnant students, easier to find and locate on campus, within SHAG Week and throughout the year. Our Education and Welfare Sabbatical Officer receives training to help students and we also have welfare and medical staff who are hired by the college to take students' best interest into account.
"It states anti-abortion groups are attacking unions and harassing women but fails to mention any source of evidence for it."
Well the motion, as all motions are put up in advance, but if you, like the opposition, did not look, here are some sources [trigger warning for distressing images] :
Following on from this, on Friday the 7th of December, a student submitted a motion of no Confidence in the speaker as SURHUL NUS Delegate. You can read the motion here. This motion was not proposed the Feminism Society and none of the 30 signatures which was required to submit this Motion of no Confidence were of the Feminism society's committee. As a society, when we propose a motion we send out a copy of the motion to paid members and put it to a two thirds majority vote first; neither of these things took place. The proposer and seconders constructed this motion of no confidence independently; the argument that this motion of confidence is an attack from either 'the left', 'the right' or FemSoc has no grounds. This motion of confidence was created by students that do not believe that the speaker is fit to represent the Students of Royal Holloway at NUS Conference. This is a fair point considering:
- The SURHUL Constitution says that NUS delegates must represent the Students’ Union at conferences by using their votes and rights of speech for the needs of SURHUL members.
- The speaker said in their elections that they would put aside their political beliefs to represent the voices of the students union.
- During their speech on Tuesday 4th December that "if this motion passes it becomes SU policy which means that NUS Delegates such as me are mandated to vote at NUS conference in accordance with such a policy. As a Student Union you have no jurisdiction over my morals, my morals are mine, and mine alone."
- Therefore, the speaker has clearly stated as NUS Delegate that they are prepared to go against SURHUL decisions, which an act that they know is is against their mandate in the SURHUL Constitution and contradictory to what they said during elections.
With that said, we conclude with this: freedom of speech doesn't mean the freedom from the consequences of your speech. When you are a student in an elected position, other students have every right to hold you accountable within your mandate. Students have the right to ask after an event such as this: Do we want and trust this student to represent SURHUL's views on a national platform. The speaker says on their event page opposing this motion of no confidence:" It not fair, and its not right." Is it fair that someone that is already difficult times and is trying to get to a clinic to be harassed and shamed? Is it right to call people that believe in reproductive choice, advocators of murder?
We hope that this information clears things up, and that in the future, people feel able talk to us directly to clarify information beforehand.
By The Royal Holloway Feminism Society Committee