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McGill students approve pro-life club

By Archives November 4, 2008

MONTREAL (CUP) – A controversial anti-abortion group has won club status at Montreal’s McGill University.
The Student Society of McGill University voted 21 to two in favour of granting the group club status at a meeting on Oct. 28.
After an animated debate from councillors, concerned students and the club’s supporters, Choose Life was granted interim status and will be able to apply for full club status after three months, the standard for all new clubs at McGill.
Natalie Fohl, Choose Life’s director, defended the group’s legitimacy at the meeting stressing that SSMU club status will facilitate “pro-life” discussion at educational events and will ensure that a variety of services and options are available on campus for women and partners faced with decisions about pregnancy.
Fohl felt there was a lack of support on campus for women who decide to carry their pregnancy to term and are worried that refusing Choose Life a campus voice would silence pro-life issues.
“The more options there are on campus, the better off [women] will be with making decisions for their own care,” said Kathryn Sawyer, a Choose Life representative, at the meeting.
Councillor José Díaz disagreed with a gallery member who questioned the legal and moral implications of SSMU’s decision to accept a group with a controversial definition of conception.
“Universities are the best places for this kind of debate. SSMU can’t stop anti-abortion groups just because of their definitions,” Diaz said.
Based on tactics of outside anti-abortion groups, students watching the meeting said they were worried Choose Life members would distribute graphic pamphlets hostile to abortion.
In response to these accusations, Fohl assured council attendees that Choose Life’s activities would be non-incendiary.
“[We’re] against using graphic pictures or circulating literature that could be construed as hateful,” Fohl said.
Devin Alfaro, SSMU VP external, assured the room that if Choose Life was to circulate hateful material during its interim period, the society would stop its activities.
Women’s studies student Andrew Thorne, who watched the meeting, said he opposed the club’s legitimization by the SSMU.
“Pro-life is inherently violent against women and against human rights,” he said.
Alexandre Shee, SSMU law students’ representative, supported granting Choose Life interim club status.
“SSMU should not limit freedom, thought, or opinion as defined by the Canadian Constitution,” Shee said.