Despite the fact that most Universities are winding up for the summer, it is at this time of year that planning is already taking place for the 2019 September/ October Freshers’ Fairs. For the last two years, Life has made a concerted effort to visit as many fairs in our local regions as we can. Our intention has been to educate students about our local services, as well as celebrating the development that takes place in the womb. Regular readers may be aware that we have been met with mixed reactions to our applications. This was predominantly because some Student Unions didn’t like the fact that we were a prolife charity and felt willing and able to refuse us on this basis.
For the Universities that did give us the benefit of the doubt last year and allowed us to attend, I think I can speak for all my colleagues when I say we were overwhelmed by the generous and encouraging reactions from a variety of students who found our presence at the fair to be a positive experience. In one University we were surrounded by midwifery students who couldn’t get enough of hearing about the development of the baby in the womb and kept picking up the Touch of Life Fetal Models. One of my favourite experiences was when a group of lads walked by the stall and one grabbed the other shouting, “Hey come and look at this, isn’t your baby about this big?” – they then proceeded to take photographs of the father-to-be holding the baby to send it to his partner.
When Student Unions deny us entry to Freshers’ Fairs they do a number of harmful things.
- They deny help to any of their students who might be looking for alternatives to abortion.
- They isolate student parents and deny them support that they might find invaluable.
- They discriminate against prolife students and make them feel like they must hide their own opinions or risk the wrath of their own university.
Today, while reading an article in the Daily Telegraph we were heartened by the responses from David Isaac, the chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who was criticising Student Unions that have refused entry to prolife societies – for which he used Life’s experiences last year as evidence. He said: “Universities should be ‘bastions of debate and defenders of expression’. He added that Student Unions which have attempted to bar Christian and pro-life societies from having stalls at Freshers’ Fairs or hiring rooms for events – “This is not consistent with ensuring freedom of speech on campus, and the EHRC guidance makes clear that it should not happen. We are living in an age of hypersensitivity where it is increasingly easier for people to feel offended – or others to be worried about protecting minority groups.”
Life will be renewing our efforts to visit Freshers’ Fairs this year. We can only hope that Universities will be more receptive to our applications and that fear does not prevent them from doing what is right.