Carleton students council bans 'anti-choice' activity

Carleton University student groups that want to debate abortion rights will not be able to receive money or recognition from the students council.

Student groups at Ottawa's Carleton University that want toquestion abortion rights will not be able toreceive money or recognition from thestudents council.

TheCarletonUniversityStudents' Association (CUSA)voted in favour of a controversial change to its discrimination policythatrequires that"no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding" be allocated for anti-abortion activities or displays.

The wording of the motion:

"CUSA further affirms that actions such as any campaign, distribution, solicitation, lobbying effort, display, event, etc., that seeks to limit or remove a woman's right to choose her options in the case of pregnancy will not be supported. As such, no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding will be allocated for this purpose."

The decision came after a five-hour debate in a meeting attended by more than 150 students and supervised by two security guards.

The motion was tabled after astudent anti-abortion club, Carleton Lifeline,held an on-campusdebate on abortion—an emotionally chargedsubject— in October. Some women's groups complained that female students were harassed during the debate.

HowCUSA votedon the motion:
No 6
Abstained 1

Council executives argued that campaigning to criminalize abortion, which has been legal in Canada for more thantwo decades, discriminates againstwomen.

Some students agreed, including graduate student John Baglow, who spoke in favour of the motion.

"This campus is supposed to be about human rights, diversity, mutual respect," Baglow said. "Well, there isn't respect when you want to throw women into jail for choosing abortion."

Stifle debate on campus?

But Adam Coombs, head of the Carleton University Debating Society, argued the motion will stifle debate on campus.

"You're preventing groups from organizing and assembling and effectively lobbying their particular view, which does limit their freedom of speech," he said.

Former student David MacDonaldgave a personal story —about how he and his girlfriend decided 20 years ago that she would have an abortion.

"It was the worst mistake I ever made and she would say the same thing," he said. "And there was no voice on campus to represent that."

Meanwhile, some students asked what the motion would mean for religious groups on campus.

Council executives responded that those groups won't be affected because while the groups might include members who hold "anti-choice" views, limiting the right to choose an abortion is not the groups'main focus.

Isaac Cockburn, the council's vice-president of student issues, said religious groups have existed on campus in a "harmonious way" for over 30 years, and that should assure them that the new motion will not oust them from campus.

After the meeting, Carleton University issued a news release, stating the university "has always been committed to the free expression of ideas in an open and respectful way," and that groups that aren't recognized by CUSA will still have the opportunity to book space on campus that is not controlled by the student council.