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Written by Student Rights on 18 January 2013 at 8pm

The anti-abortion student group and its links to intolerance

This Wednesday saw the London launch of a group called the Alliance of Pro-Life Students (APS) which claims to be an umbrella group for those students who wish to express pro-life ideas, and to aid them in setting up pro-life societies on campus.

Whilst this is of course something students should have the right to do, we have since uncovered connections between the APS and a group called the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) that should set alarm bells ringing.

SPUC claims to be regularly invited to speak in the UK’s schools and universities, yet has been criticised for its intolerant and misleading activism.

The group has made a point of opposing gay marriage, and its material on the topic includes claims on 15th January that, should gay marriage be made legal, “schools will become a focus for the promotion of radical and explicit homosexual material to schoolchildren” and that “it is becoming socially unacceptable to object to the negative influence of homosexual material on young people”.

Compounding this, the evangelical group Christian Concern was also mentioned on the APS Facebook page, thanked on by founder Eve Farren for helping promote the APS launch event.

Its CEO Andrea Williams believes that “homosexuals can change...let’s speak the truth in love”, and that there are attempts to silence those who suggest that “we need to turn away from sin or that sexual orientation can be changed”.  

The group has also suggested that there is a “militant homosexual lobby” and lamented that after “homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder...academic discussion of the adverse effects associated with a homosexual lifestyle has virtually ceased amongst psychologists”.

The links between SPUC and the APS revolve around Farren, the former head of Bristol Students for Life.

She claims that “it was not until she attended a student pro-life conference in her first year of university, organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), that she grew passionate” about opposing abortion.

Whilst still a student at Bristol University she spoke at a SPUC Maternal Mortality Conference in March 2012, and in the same month twelve students from her group attended SPUC’s annual Youth Conference.

Anne Howard, the MC for Wednesday’s event and another former Bristol Students for Life member, has also addressed a SPUC Conference, giving the welcome address at the group’s 2011 event.

Since October 2012 the APS have also shared material from the SPUC website on several occasions, including promoting an anti-abortion protest organised by the group in Edinburgh on 19th October.

In a statement to Student Rights, the organisation Education for Choice said that “we remain concerned about the messages the organisation [SPUC]is giving to young people about sex and relationships, as well as abortion. We support the right of SPUC to state its moral position on abortion but not to use medical misinformation to support this viewpoint”.

In March 2012 it was reported that SPUC had been showing teenagers a presentation which claimed that "For some people who've been raped and had the baby, even if they don't keep it, something positive comes out of that whole rape experience".

The group has also stated that an abortion increased a women’s risk of developing breast cancer, despite a Cancer Research study of over 40,000 women finding that “pregnancies that end in an abortion do not increase a woman's chances of developing breast cancer later in life”.

In 2011 SPUC were also accused of linking abortion to infertility despite no recorded links, and have suggested that, rather than preventing pregnancy, some forms of contraception “cause an early abortion”.

The association of the APS with SPUC suggests that this campaign is not simply about creating a space for students to discuss pro-life views, but a potential student front for intolerance masquerading as activism.

Given that the group’s aims includeproviding educational resource packs and databases of speakers and reliable sources” and connecting students with “pro-life organisations for internships and volunteering opportunities” and “specialist training days”, the likelihood that these will involve SPUC material and speakers seem high.

This also seems to be the opinion of a number of students, many of whom braved the cold on Wednesday night to protest against the formation of this new group.

Here at Student Rights we support the rights of students to express views on both sides of this debate, but this should not extend to associating with groups that deliberately misinform and mislead vulnerable people.