Pro-Life Club Stirs Controversy On Campus
By Alex Ellwood
Content Warning: This article contains mention of abortion and euthanasia
‘LifeChoice ANU’, a club unaffiliated with ANU, had its launch at Market Day on 17 February. The launch has been met with mixed responses from ANU students.
LifeChoice Australia is one of the most prominent pro-life organisations in Australia, with clubs on university campuses across the country, including the University of Sydney and UNSW. On their website, LifeChoice claims to “promote the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, through reasonable and informed discussion on the issues of abortion and euthanasia in Australian society”. The organisation also claims they are “building a pro-life future for our nation”.
Many students were surprised to see the LifeChoice stall at Market Day. First year student Piper McDonald told Observer she believed it was “very out of place”. Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Observer “I felt really uncomfortable with the pro-life stall being there as it was right next to the Fifty50 stall”. Fifty50 is a student-led organisation that promotes gender equity in science, technology, engineering, and maths within ANU. The student further stated, “no one can say what you can and can’t do with your body, hence why I was distressed”.
The presence of the LifeChoice stall was not met with disapproval from all students. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated that whilst “[they do not] believe many people would be interested in joining that club, [as] the demographic of students that attend ANU are almost entirely left-wing”, they thinks it is “appropriate to have the club on campus” because ANU “should allow the ability for students to convey different political opinions.”
LifeChoice ANU told Observer they “[aim] to support women on campus who are experiencing pregnancy and motherhood while at university and additionally [seek] to open up respectful, sincere dialogue about the dignity of human life”. The club further stated that “in recognition of the fact that abortion and euthanasia are sensitive topics, we spoke only with students who indicated an interest in our stall and ensured that all conversations were respectful, sincere and kind”.
ANU Women’s Officer Avan Daruwalla expressed disapproval about the presence of the LifeChoice club on campus. Daruwalla stressed the importance of a campus culture where all students can feel safe, comfortable and welcome, stating that “the nature of an anti-choice student club presence challenges this standard”. Daruwalla further stressed that giving a platform to the aims and values of LifeChoice is “undoubtedly going to have a negative impact on the wellbeing of many students”.
In a similar vein, the student union at Notre Dame University Western Australia rejected LifeChoice’s application to form a club on their campus in 2018, stating that “giving LifeChoice a campus presence would be divisive and harmful to students’ welfare”.
Daruwalla told Observer that there has been “a great deal of miscommunication regarding how the unaffiliated club came to hold a spot at Market Day”. Josh Yeend, the Clubs Council Chair, has since confirmed that LifeChoice ANU is currently unaffiliated with the Clubs Council and ANUSA, however, they have submitted documentation “seeking formal club status”.
Yeend also clarified that the club’s presence at Market Day was part of a new measure of “provisional affiliation”. This allows new unaffiliated clubs to hold a stall at Market Day “to begin establishing themselves and their membership base”. As this was the first year the new policy was enacted, Yeend noted that “this invariably resulted in a lot of confusion as to who holds ultimate responsibility”. Yeend told Observer that “moving forwards, CCE [Clubs Council Executive] hopes to fill this policy gap”.
LifeChoice ANU assured Observer they had been in contact with ANUSA “in the weeks prior to ensure [they] had met all market day requirements”.
ANU 24/7 Wellbeing and Support Line: 1300 050 327
ANU Counselling: 02 6125 2442
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Pregnancy Choices Helpline: 1800 008 463
Family Planning ACT: 02 6247 3077
Graphics by Joseph Oh
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