Anti-abortion group suspended at McGill University

Choose Life prohibited from assembling on campus


According to CBC, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) has passed a motion to suspend the group status of an anti-abortion club. The “Choose Life” club at McGill can no longer hold gatherings on university property and will not receive council funding.

Choose Life has been criticized for distributing graphic anti-abortion literature on campus. McGill student society president Ivan Neilson also alleges that some students have complained of feeling harassed or personally attacked by the group.

The club’s president, Nathalie Fohl, says she plans on meeting with the SSMU to work out an agreement.


…yeah…so much for free speech.

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Anti-abortion group suspended at McGill University

  1. Just to clarify, the motion to suspend the Choose Life club does not result in the group being unable to hold events on University Campus. Rather, it results in the group not having access to the privilege of booking space at a reduced rate and at in an expedited fashion during the suspension period. They may still hold events if they get University authorization.
    Please correct this misrepresentation.

  2. I don’t think this is an issue of free speech. Student societies/unions don’t have an obligation to fund every group — no matter how hateful — that forms on their campuses. If I was a student, I certainly would not want my fees going toward a group like Choose Life.

    I don’t think we would bat an eye at a student society/union revoking the group status and funding of an anti-gay or anti-[insert ethnic group here] group because it would certainly make some students uncomfortable and feel unwelcome, not to mention the fact that it would go against the progressive nature of most public post-secondary institutions, especially when it comes to women’s issues.

    The members of this group can still hold their meetings and continue to compare abortion to the Holocaust (I’m not sure if there is freer speech than that), but it’s completely understandable why an organization representing the best interests of the student body wouldn’t want to be affiliated with such a group.

    Personally, I believe a much more effective anti-abortion campaign might include distributing condoms or pushing for greater access to other methods of birth control (such as free prescription birth control covered through a health plan), as well as educating students on the fact that you can have an interesting social or romantic life and still have safe sex.

  3. McGill is another example of a higher education institution which instead of promoting open-mindness it actually succumbs to political corectness due to the pressure exercised by various liberal groups of interests (in this case feminist groups).

    As a post-secondary student, this trend concerns me very much, because the people who apply censorship to groups that do not share mainstream values will be part of the future generation of politicians, judges, and leaders whose decisions will have a larger scope than just a university campus. Unfortunately, Canada is turning into a socialist country which seeks uniformity under the disguise of multiculturalism.

    The governing body of McGill should dissociate itself from the student body and it should authorize the controversial group to book rooms free of charge in order to demonstrate its values of respect, tolerance and diversity which are fundamental to any academia.

  4. I respectfully disagree with the comments of Cassandra. Unfortunately, her view that groups which espouse different values are hateful and therefore should be banned is increasingly common. In this case, she suggests that people who values the sanctity of unborn people oppose the best interests of women, or the fact that people who oppose homosexual marriage are implicitly homophobes. Probably that if I would protest against the religious persecution which occurs in Muslim countries I would be labbeled as a anti-Muslim. However, like many individuals I am not buying into this mantra. I respect all people for who they are, I do not expect them to change, yet at the same time I have my own identty and my own values which I will allow to be altered by mainstream pressure.

    The definition of what constitutes hate is left to a body of students, and that is an unfair situation towards the groups who hold dissenting views. Unless a group explicitly promotes crime against other individuals, you would hope that at least an academia should allow them to express their views.

    Since the aim of the controversial group is help people who are in the situation to abort, the university should grant the respective group the right to the same benefits as the rest of the groups.

  5. Well said, Cassandra.
    The student union suspended the club’s status because of very specific violations of the student union’s equity policy. For one thing, the club circulated literature with fabricated footnotes, stating an 11% complication rate for abortion and a link between abortion and breast cancer. The footnote led to a pro-choice organization in the UK, whose websites says that abortion does NOT cause breast cancer and that the complication rate for abortion is around 1%. This fudged footnote is damaging the good name of a credible organization. The club presented students with false health information in order to manipulate them into choosing not to have an abortion. This presents a danger to the health and safety of students.
    Furthermore, the club proceeded with an event even after the student union had told them that they were not permitted to hold it. This demonstrated that the club is not accountable to the union to which it belongs, even though it proudly displays the name of the student union on its pamphlets.
    The student union has an equity policy, which the club violated in numerous ways. The student union was left with no choice but to respond according to policy. This club should not receive special treatment. Their status was suspended because of their actions, NOT because of their beliefs.

  6. With all due respect, Cassandra you are way off.
    You say that you would not want your fees going to support a Pro-Life group. Well, if that’s a reason to ban the group, then, to be fair, we should get rid of every other group on campus that somebody disagrees with. Then the problem would be solved since there would be no groups left.

    You say that it’s completely understandable that “an organization representing the best interests of the student body wouldn’t want to be affiliated with such a group”. Last time I checked, aren’t the Pro-Life students part of the student body? Again, if the university should only be affiliated with clubs that are in the interests of the entire student body, then what clubs will be left? It’s a trade-off. Everybody ends up spending fees on groups they don’t like. I know I can personally list off dozens of clubs at my school that I spend money on that I agree with. But I don’t complain because, in return, other people are providing money for the ones that I do.

    Finally, the suggestions you listed at the end do not make a more effective anti-abortion campaign. That’s a campaign for safe sex, not a pro-life campaign at all.

    On an issue that has many students on both sides, the student union can’t take one side and claim to represent all students.

  7. So then it is IS an issue of free speech. Without access to funding or space, they will just have to do it for free :P

  8. Mike, your posts consist of little more than relativist nonsense. There is a world of difference between ensuring individual freedom of speech (“subject to such limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”) and sanctioning the distribution of disturbing, inflammatory, and hateful literature that is variously dishonest and misleading. There is such a thing as decency and civilized discourse – from the sound of it, this group doesn’t know the meaning of either, and students funds should not support that.

  9. I think that this debate is largly off topic. The issue raised is not whether or not pro-life groups should be allowed in general (which they should) it is whether or not this pro-life group should exist (something that I cannot state, since I have too little information)

    It is fine that a pro-life group exists and even if it recieves student union money for debating alternate points of view is an important part of an academic world. It is also okay if in that debate graphic photographs are used. Where things become problematic is if misinformation is given.

    One can use their beliefs, whatever they may be, to develop a cause with a reason for argument. For the argument to be a strong argument it should be supported by facts (cited of course). Where things get bad is when facts are changed, or simply made up. Then the argument is not only invalid, but really since an argument should be academic in style, they are committing a form of academic dishonesty. Not only this but they actually discredit their own cause.

    In short this argument is stupid because people are arguing with different assumptions, some based on the ideal pro-life group just using their freedom of speech, and others based on the dishonest,manipulitive pro-life group. Comparing apples and oranges so to speak

  10. Using graphic photographs is acceptable only if it can be established that consent was obtained for their use , and that appropriate context is provided. I think it’s debatable whether this group provides such information.

  11. Rationalize it all you want but this amounts to stifling a point of view in an institution that is supposed to represent a free exchange of ideas.Rather than stating that this group lies or makes things up, join the debate and show where the lies are. Otherwise you’re merely setting up a mini-dictatorship where opposing ideas are forced off campus.Clothing what amounts to censorship of an apparently unpopular idea in blather about protecting people’s right to avoid having their feeling hurt is so much mush. Students need to get out of the current academic candy land and get into the free flowing exchange of ideas called adulthood. By the way, where is the university management in all of this? Tom Carty

  12. As a student at UBC which also has a history of Pro-Life groups showing offensive graphics, I am disgusted by their choice to show them. I don’t have a stance on abortion and yet I still feel like I am being harassed. Thankfully UBC has taken a similar stance to McGill’s in that they do not allow the group to display the graphics in public settings. If Pro-Life groups want to hold an information session in which people have a choice to go, then by all means, show the graphics, but when I am walking to class and I am bombarded with photographs of dead fetuses, I feel that is absolutely uncalled for.

  13. Tom Carty,

    I equate this basically to a group putting a graphic shock picture on the side of a bus with a misleading statistic on the side saying that the additional stress is good for them when the actual site linked says otherwise.

    Essentially, this is protection against defamation. Last I checked, defamation is not allowable by freedom of speech. This news article is misleading of the facts of the situation. This group used sourced literature and completely rewrote the facts, not only misinterpreting them but entirely rewriting them to provide false information with a supposedly viable link at the bottom of the page.

    It’s like me linking to a website with anti-smoking peer reviewed papers and telling people that it’s good for them. Then showing them the pictures of someone’s clean lungs being pulled from a still breathing cadaver to “really get the message through.”

    I have a right to free speech. I also have a right to be free from harassment. This group forced upon others graphic pictures and violated those victim’s rights to be free of such harassment. Viewing it otherwise is not supporting “freedom of speech,” it’s declaring an allegiance to a group in this argument to such an extent that the facts are ignored.

    I’m from the University of Alberta. They recently let a group hold parades for the first time in years after previous ones got overly rowdy, causing adverse affects for other students. Why is this so different? Universities are a chance for students to become academically successful. Groups can put what they want up around campus and campaign for their cause, but all groups are limited to the same restraint to keep the environment academically directed.

    Rest assured, if pro-choice groups posted graphic pictures of sex on posters and asked people “Don’t you want some of this”, they would get the exact same response as this pro-life group got.

    My two cents.

  14. Keith, if they are misrepresenting facts, that is the sources they are pointing to contradict with the message they are delivering, are they not simply making themselves look bad. Not only this but they are causing people to discredit pro-life goups in general. In a fairly polarized argument, making yourself look bad is equated with making the other side look good, so what this group is doing is just raising support for pro-choice groups.

    If they want to dig their own graves, let them.

  15. Hi David,

    Not necessarily (on them making themselves look bad). We’ve got to keep in mind that on commercials and similar modes of communication, we are consistently quoted studies from leading institutions but how many of us actually take the time to follow through and read those studies? How often do the people who read the news actually read the study behind the news to get the full, first person account? I don’t think many could safely say that they go out of their way to get such first person accounts.

    Over my years on the net, I’ve found people quite easily find ways to misrepresent facts — a breach of academic protocol at all universities in Canada, a breach which could lead to your removal from school with a permanent black mark on your file. If these students were breaching academic protocol and misrepresenting the facts of this group while using the group that performed that study’s name (that is defamation) then I believe the SU of this university has it within their rights to remove funding from this group, and to remove their seal from that groups handouts.

    I don’t think they were trying to make themselves look bad. If you yell a message loud enough, people will hear it over the mutterings of the disinclined. I feel that this has hurt their argument, but then again, dozens of groups have done this in the past. I don’t feel that this should be use to discredit other groups, and if people do so than I feel that’s because they have a predilection to choose sides already.

    This group has had it’s funding removed. I think that that’s the best the SU could do at this time, and I think removing such groups which harm their “side’s” reputation is worthwhile. I am pro-choice and don’t view this as a “victory” for my side, although I feel it does represent a little bit of that decline in university level morality seen over the past decade or two…

  16. I don’t understand how people can be so upset by photographs, while at the same time support what is depicted.

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