We spoke to the King’s Pro-Life Ethics Society to ask them about the Repeal the Eighth campaign
‘Murder, rape and domestic violence occur on a daily basis and cannot be entirely prevented, but no one suggests legalising these crimes’
In 1983, the government of Ireland passed a law that determined abortions to be illegal and dangerous. Since this Eighth Amendment has been passed, women have travelled all over the world to maintain the right to abort and seek safe medical care as a result of the difficulty in accessing such rights at home.
Today marks a historic day in Irish medical, juridical and social terms where vote to 'Repeal the 8th' could make abortions legal and safe for women, so that aftercare and medical treatments can be administered properly.
If the vote is majority 'Yes', abortions would be legalised up until 12 weeks of pregnancy. In the UK, any person from the age of 16 can seek to abort a baby for free until 24 weeks.
Many universities are paying for their Irish students to go home and vote, including Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Goldsmiths, Essex and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Back on campus, student-led organisations such as the King's Pro-Life (now Life Ethics) Society have campaigned outside KCL Strand campus attempting to persuade students to fight the repeal. Their main campaigns have been focusing on the 'liberal' university atmosphere, where opinions can be heard and exchanged freely, and to become a safe space for those holding Pro-Life views.
The King's society pledges to support "students in crisis pregnancies on campus, as well as student parents", where guidance and advice can be offered in accidental or more serious cases of pregnancy. King's has multiple connections and affiliated societies such as Alliance of Pro-Life Students, LIFE Charity, Good Counsel Network, Students for Life America, Feminists for Life and New Wave Feminists.
We spoke to the King's Pro-Life (now Life Ethics) Society to try to understand their thoughts on this Amendment, and what would change in their campaigning if this vote was passed.
Explain to us your main beliefs and why they are important to modern day society
We recognise the intrinsic dignity of each member of the human species and wish to promote this by advocating for the consistent protection of the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death.
The right to life is the most important right, without it other rights cease to be relevant. It will always be relevant to modern day society. As the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states in Article 6: (1): Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
How has your experience been campaigning pro-life at King’s?
The SU have been really supportive of our events and have been very generous with their time whenever we had any questions. It's really great to see that King's SU provides us with a platform to speak particularly at a time when free speech is being restricted at other universities. Several Students' Unions at other universities have voted in a no-platform policy for pro-life societies, something which is completely contrary to free speech.
Why do you think it’s important to campaign this issue at King’s?
Being pro-life encompasses a range of issues, including assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryo experimentation and abortion. I'll focus on why it's important to campaign for the right to life particularly with regards to abortion. However, this is only one of the issues that we discuss because the right to life must be protected at all stages of life.
Universities are one of the most important places to discuss and challenge the ideologies that create the laws in our country. This is because the government looks to universities for research and studies in order to make informed decisions about policies on, for example, healthcare. This means that we must continue to discuss these issues on our campuses. Additionally, as NHS abortion statistics show, 22 is the most common age for an abortion. Students therefore need to be informed on this issue.
Are your members a mix of both Humanities and Medic students?
We welcome students from all disciplines and have had a good mix at each of our events this year.
Do you think that pro-life is always the best way?
Ireland is actually the perfect place to demonstrate that "pro-life is always the best way". It has a lower maternal mortality rate than the UK. This is because the 8th amendment, and subsequent 2013 Protection of Life during pregnancy act assures that while the right to life of both patients – the unborn child and the mother – is respected equally "it shall be lawful to carry out a medical procedure as a result of which, an unborn human life is ended when there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life from a physical illness".
Procedures such as these are carried out in Ireland. These are not abortions because their direct intention is to treat a specific condition for the mother, such as cancer, as opposed to directly intending to end the life of the child. This law even applies to cases such as uterine cancer were the women's uterus and baby must be removed to preserve the life of the mother.
Abortion is also not evidence based healthcare. 97 per cent of abortions in the UK take place on mental health grounds despite the fact that there is no evidence that abortion improves mental health. Both of these facts show that abortion is not needed in a country that seeks to provide women with excellent healthcare. Finally every abortion ends with the intentional killing of an innocent human being. Most abortions in the UK take place at around 10 weeks – at this stage the baby has most of its vital organs – it's heart has been beating for seven weeks. This is unjust.
Even in situations of rape?
Rape is an absolute tragedy and something that we should continue to fight against. We were really glad to see the It Stops Here campaign at freshers fair this year helping make King's a safer place for women. However a baby conceived in rape is not to blame for the horrific injustice to which his mother has been subjected. He or she should not have to pay for the crime.
When abortions are an illegality, they become more dangerous. What is your opinion on this matter?
The fact that abortion happens is not a reason for making it legal. Murder, rape and domestic violence occur on a daily basis and cannot be entirely prevented, but no one suggests legalising these crimes or allowing them to take place in a hygienic environment! Those in favour of abortion use alarming statistics, to persuade politicians to change the law on abortion but there is little evidence to suggest that backstreet abortion is a massive problem.
Poland provides an example of what happens when a country restricts abortion. In 1993 Poland outlawed almost all abortion. Legal abortion fell from nearly 60,000 a year in 1990 to a mere 174 in 2003. Did Polish women rush to back-street abortionists to get the abortions that Polish law now denied them? If backstreet abortions had risen we would expect to see a rise in the number of reported miscarriages and also in deaths associated with pregnancy. In fact the reverse happened and in both cases the figures have fallen since 1990.
At what point does a foetus become a “person”?
It's a member of the human species from its conception with its own genetic code separate from that of its parents and as such merits the right to life that we afford to all members of our species. Historically when we have differentiated between members of our species according to specific characteristics that they have or don't have we rationalised gross injustice and inequality.
Do you think the Repeal the 8th movement will succeed?
We'll see tomorrow!
What will you do if it does?
Continue to advocate for the equal right to life of mother and child and evidence based healthcare for both.
The result of the vote will be announced tomorrow. Further updates as we get them.