Edinburgh University Students’ Association is explicitly pro-choice after Thursday’s vote

The motion passed with a 98 per cent ‘for’ vote

EUSA Vice President Community, Isi Williams, introduced a motion to the student council which proposed EUSA become explicitly pro-choice. This was followed by a vote which took place on Thursday and was passed on Monday with a ‘for’ vote of 98 per cent.

This was a repeat of a previous motion that attempted to establish EUSA as explicitly pro-choice, however, that motion lapsed because it wasn’t considered necessary at the time. Being explicitly pro-choice allows EUSA to publicly support campaigns and students that maintain and support equal access to healthcare, according to Isi.

The vote occurred in the aftermath of controversy surrounding an event featuring a pro-life speaker that Edinburgh University’s Pro-Life Society hosted. Edinburgh Pro Life Society held their event in 40 George Square, one of the University’s buildings, and organsied the speaker “through all the usual administrative channels involving the Students’ Union, EUSA”.

Pro-choice protestors interrupted the speaker and a debate over abortion rights ensued between the two groups. The opposition was confused as to why the university had given a platform to the Pro-Life Society, and demanded the talk be halted so as not to spread “misinformation” about reproductive health including so-called coerced abortions.

Regarding the vote, EUSA’s women’s liberation officer, Hope Conway-Gebbie, told The Tab Edinburgh that “fundamentally, the Students’ Association exists to support students, and that means supporting their right to choose!”

Hope also shared that she thinks it’s “wonderful that EUSA has reaffirmed its pro-choice position after the previous policy lapsed”. She explained that, by becoming explicitly pro-choice, it will be easier for EUSA to “support student-led pro-choice campaigns”, which Hope said she’s “excited for”, and would encourage students who want to organise anything to this end to reach out to the women’s campaign via Instagram.

Isi Williams told The Edinburgh Tab: “This paper was a resubmission of a previous motion that was in place for four years – this motion was allowed to lapse a year or two ago under the assumption that it wouldn’t need to be renewed. It seemed necessary for me to bring it back in the aftermath of the Roe vs. Wade overturning, as I saw more and more attention turning to pro-life movements in Scottish Politics, as well as the amplification of views voiced by politicians like John Mason, an MSP who has spoken out against access to abortion.

“This motion won’t stop certain events or groups forming (as long they operate within our safe space policy and have passed the Student Association vetting process) as we have a responsibility to follow freedom of speech laws, but it does allow the Association to have more scope to advocate for all students’ right to safe and accessible healthcare.

“The Association now explicitly supports the belief that all those seeking an abortion in the UK are entitled to free, safe and legal abortion, regardless of geographical location or ability to pay. We also support campaigns that oppose any restrictions on current rights and access to abortion, or campaigns to make access to, and experience of, abortion fairer for those who decide not to continue with their pregnancy. We will also ensure that all students who are pregnant and wish to access free, impartial and non-directional advice can do so through the Advice Place.

“There is great, tangible change happening through student-led campaigns. Back Off Scotland, for example, was set up by Edinburgh University students. It’s a campaign to lobby the government to create ‘buffer zones’ around sexual health clinics to stop anti-abortion protesters from intimidating women. After its start in Edinburgh, it has now become a national campaign. This motion gives the Students’ Association a mandate to support and amplify the voices of students wanting to set up similar campaigns to ensure safe access to abortion. The motion also gives individual Sabbatical Officers, such as me, a mandate to work on safe access to abortion and to run our own campaigns.”

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