A survey of pro-life students in British universities found that many of them face harassment and experience discrimination for their pro-life beliefs, making them feel afraid to voice their opinions. The poll was conducted by The Alliance of Pro-Life Students (APS), a UK organization dedicated to building support networks for pro-life students across Britain.
In a press release, APS said they interviewed over 200 pro-life students. Over 70% said there were times in lectures or seminars where they feel “unable to speak” about their views. Worse, almost 25% said they have felt “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed – by actions or words – by another student or academic,” solely because of their membership in a pro-life organization. One in three said their pro-life events have been cancelled. Still others said they had to battle with their campus administrators to get pro-life organizations approved.
“These statistics are alarming, yet confirm what we already know – pro-life students are being marginalised and silenced at universities,” Madeline Page, CEO and chairwoman of APS, said in the press release. “Institutional policies which refuse to allow certain topics to be discussed don’t just damage free speech – they destroy a culture of tolerance and respect on campus, ruining the chance for all students to engage with people of diverse opinions and understandings. This was made abundantly clear in the results of our survey which found that 53.7% of pro-life students have had a friendship or relationship adversely impacted because they held pro-life views.”
Members of pro-life groups across Britain said they received frequent abuse online, with female members being threatened and referred to with slurs. One student, for example, posted online that he planned to attack members of a pro-life group with bird feces. Another pro-life group received over 2,000 abusive comments on just one Facebook post, including suggestions that the members should be killed.
The results of the poll have been submitted to Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is currently asking for evidence on freedom of expression in British universities. “We trust that the Joint Committee on Human Rights will consider these results carefully as they reflect on the current status of freedom of expression in the UK,” Page said. “Intolerant censorship at our universities inevitably becomes intolerant censorship in wider society.”
And yet, despite the obstacles placed before them, pro-life students are still undeterred in their fight for life.
“Since 2012, the number of pro-life societies at universities has increased from 4 to 16, doubling from 8 to 16 in just 18 months,” Page concluded. “These societies advocate for a better future by giving practical and material help to mothers in need, while also presenting their views amongst the student body. Discrediting them and shutting them out from campus life is unjust, uncalled for and damaging. It is wrong to make students feel unwelcome simply for having an opinion. We need to reinstate a vibrant culture of learning, discussion and mutual respect at universities across the UK.”
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