Over 10,000 people sign petition to dissolve Manchester Uni Pro-Life Society in just two days

Manchester Students’ Union has said it is not legally able to dissolve the society


An anonymous petition to dissolve the new University of Manchester pro-life society has gained over 10,000 signatures in just two days.

Created on February 12th, the petition was created by a “concerned” student who claimed to be “deeply troubled” by the potential harm that could be caused by the society.

This comes following the establishment of Manchester Pro-Life Society on January 11th, which claims to “create a Pro-Life culture on campus, to engage students on life issues and promote respect for the dignity of human life from conception”.

With 9,644 signatures added today alone, the description explains how the creator of the petition believes that the Pro-Life Society adds to “an already prevalent stigma surrounding abortion”, and that women studying at the University of Manchester “should not have to face additional pressure or judgement on such personal matters”.

The petition adds that the Students’ Union should be a place which supports all student rights and wellbeing, rather than “endorsing societies that aim to abolish these rights.”

Asking for support in the dissolution of the society, the anonymous writer explains that its existence has “potential to cause distress among students who may require access to abortion services now or in future”.

“Please sign this petition if you believe every woman should have her right respected without fear or stigma within our university community.”

University of Manchester Students’ Union has since released a statement addressing student concerns and confirming that the society was officially affiliated as a society on 11th January 2024 in accordance with its society registration processes.

The statement, issued on behalf of student executive officers, assures students that it is “here to support, encourage and assist students in running counter campaigns on issues that matter to you.”

It continues: “As a students’ union, operating as a charity, we must also ensure equitable access to resources, participation in activities, and the formation of groups for all members, irrespective of their lawful views.

“As a result, diverse societies and students with conflicting perspectives coexist on campus. Despite these differences, various precautionary measures are implemented to manage risks associated with certain society activities. These measures may include specialized training for groups, establishing event protocols, or other relevant interventions.”

The statement also explains that for a society to be created, there must be a group of at least three students register their interest and that there are only two questions the Students’ Union ask which could lead to the decision being no: “Question one: Does this society’s activities duplicate another society’s activities? If yes then we will ask them to reconsider their aims/consider joining that other society.

“Question two: Are the society’s activities lawful? If yes, we have no discretion as to whether to allow them to affiliate – it’s not a choice based on personal or professional opinions, as we are required to affiliate the group.”

With reference to the 1994 Education Act, the 2010 Equality Act, and section 43 of the 1986 Education Act (2), the statement continues to explain that it is unable to dissolve the society or prevent it from sharing views which are disagreed with by others.

“From a legal standpoint, it’s not possible to stop a society from affiliating for their legal views that are contrary to the views of other students. That means, despite concerns over student safety, the students’ union can’t block a society from forming because of their beliefs,” said the Su.

The University of Manchester Students’ Union continued to explain how the existence of a society that has or is creating a community around pro-life views has made students “feel unsafe” and as such, has communicated with the society the importance of conducting themselves in a way that “is line with acceptable standards of behaviour (as in the members’ code of conduct), the union’s safe space policy and the societies bye-law, and they have complied”.

Despite these complaints and the anonymous petition made in support of the dissolution of the pro-life society, the statement from student executive officers added that this is “not enough of a legal basis for the SU to ask the society to disband”.

It would only be if the actions of any society amounted to “hate speech, unwanted attention, harassment and caused harm as a result” that the SU we would challenge that in line with the process and procedures they have.

If are a student at the University of Manchester and feel you have been affected by any of the issues discussed, you can find support here.

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Featured image via Google Maps.