Anti-abortion club faces university ban
An anti-abortion club at Auckland University may be disaffiliated after students complained about being harassed by its members.
Auckland University Student Association president Arena Williams has called for a special general meeting next month, which could see ProLife Auckland being barred from associating itself with the university.
An announcement for the meeting said the association would consider whether the "Prolife Club be disaffiliated for propagating harmful misinformation [sic]".
"Recently we've received complaints from students after [ProLife Auckland] handed out fliers at the campus," said Williams.
"On the fliers there was information which some felt was pressuring them into making different decisions than they normally would."
The "Right to Know" flier carries the slogan: "Hands up if you've heard this before: 'Abortion is a safe, simple medical procedure'."
Williams said it was "quite uncommon" for clubs to be disaffiliated, but said ProLife wasn't being treated unfairly.
"The complaints we received were serious because it was about spreading information which could be harmful to student health.
"They were using something which was seen to skew peoples' views and had included information that had no medical grounds."
Williams said it was not appropriate for her to say how the distributed information was harmful.
"I think the issue is serious because the people who complained were being affronted.
"Some of the people they were handing out fliers to had already been through the horrible experience of having an abortion, so it's very, very concerning."
Williams said Pro Life was trying to "drum up interest in debate", and while freedom of expression was valued, the problem lies in how the message was conveyed.
ProLife Auckland president Amy Blowers said the club had not been told about the meeting and that the pamphlet was "fairly reserved" in that it featured no images or inflammatory comments.
"We're actually quite shocked that our club is being targeted with such extreme action as disaffiliation," she said.
"If this in response to the Right to Know pamphlet, then this is very troubling because it means that the AUSA is not very supportive of freedom of expression at the University of Auckland."
Blowers dismissed members had harassed other students. She said such behaviour is unacceptable on an academic campus where respect for freedom of expression is a cornerstone principle.
"Students who hold pro-life views, such as ourselves, are basically being told in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome on their campus," she said.
For the club to be disaffiliated 200 students need to attend the meeting and a "simple majority" vote needs to be reached.
Pro-Life Auckland became affiliated with the university in May 2010 after winning a majority vote against a 2002 rule which prevented pro-life students from applying for official club status at weekly student forums.
The club's vision is to promote "a world where all human life is respected".
It aims to raise awareness of abortion and its surrounding issues at the university through promoting discussion on the issue and informing students of the effects of abortion.
They also advocate for the unborn and for women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy or are suffering after an abortion.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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