Pro-life group not ratified at Memorial U

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The battle between pro-life and pro-choice is raging again at yet another Canadian university.

At a Memorial University of Newfoundland Student Union meeting last month, the MUNSU voted to deny ratification of campus pro-life group, MUN for Life.

Matt Sheppard, MUNSU’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered representative, made the motion to deny MUN for Life’s ratification as the group’s mandate goes against MUNSU’s pro-choice stance.

MUNSU is a local chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students, which has an official pro-choice stance.

“The problem with [MUN for Life] is in the past, they haven’t been well-behaved,” Sheppard added.

“They’re known on campus for plastic fetuses [and saying] abortion causes breast cancer.”

Patrick Hanlon, president of MUN for Life, argued MUNSU personnel said slanderous things about his group without backing up their statements.

In particular, Hanlon addressed a comment by MUNSU director of campaigns, Stella Magalios who said MUN for Life group was “woman haters.”

“To say we hate women is a pretty far out there, extreme argument,” Hanlon said.

“Many women [are] hurt mentally and physically after abortion ... we want to prevent that suffering [and] make sure women are informed. Women have a right to know this information ... [they] don’t always get it from the pro-choice movement.”

Sheppard disagreed: “Pro-choice [means] giving students all the information they could possibly have about abortion, adoption, and taking the baby full-term through pregnancy.”

In a press release Hanlon said the decision “has signaled the death of free speech on a university campus.”

Hanlon said the student union should represent all students, regardless of their viewpoints.

Joanne Byfield, president of LifeCanada pro-life organization, said MUNSU’s decision is a limitation of free speech.

“It seems odd that people [who] like to define themselves as tolerant will suppress other groups that are fighting for [fundamental] human rights,” Byfield said.

“If you allow governments or courts or judges or student unions to decide who has the right to life, you’re on very dangerous grounds.”

This is not the first time the abortion debate has surfaced on Canadian campuses in recent years.

Last year at Carleton University, the Carleton University Student’s Association drafted a policy banning anti-abortion activity from using council resources.

While this meant Carleton’s pro-life club, Lifeline, could not gain official status, a subsequent vote involving representatives from 32 other clubs and associations granted Lifeline ratification in January 2007.

A pro-life group at Capilano College was denied official status in August and has since taken the case to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

Conflict also surfaced last year at Western when King’s pro-life club, Live for Life, invited Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform to speak about abortion.

During Gray’s speech, over 30 Women’s Issues Network protestors voiced their disagreement and held signs with messages such as “Choice” and “This is not a debate.”

MUN for Life is currently fighting to reverse the MUNSU decision, despite a vote of 23 to 2 in favour of denying their ratification.

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