Pro-lifers sue UVic student union

Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) seek apology, reversal of student union policy, and financial restitution


You don’t need to be a great social commentator to recognize that when you mix abortion debates with university students, you get a political hot potato. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Victoriaville or Vancouver though, because the script pretty much stays the same.

Step 1: A pro-life student club (or traveling exhibition) compares abortion in some way to murder/genocide/terrible, terrible things

Step 2: The university’s student council, in all its wisdom, decides to ban said group or club from campus.

Step 3: Gnashing of teeth commences.

It happened at UBC-Okanagan, it happened at York, it happened at Lakehead . . . it happens pretty much everywhere. Generally though, the debate stays inside the university. In the case of the University of Victoria, it’s headed to the courtroom.

Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), the pro-choice student club at UVic, has initiated legal action against the UVic Student Society (UVSS) for what they claim is “a protracted campaign of censorship and discrimination against the club, in which the Student Society has deprived YPY of official club status and withdrawn its funding to punish it for expressing pro-life views.” The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has been assisting YPY over the past year, and is seeking intervener status in the lawsuit.

Somewhat ironically, the lawsuit comes after the UVSS restored YPY’s club status. This followed two years of increasing clampdowns on the club, which culminated in the UVSS denying YPY club status in February. Since that time, UVSS elections were held, in which the left-leaning slate that had been in power for over a decade was defeated by a more centrist group, which reinstated the club last month.

It’s a moot point to YPY though. In the lawsuit, they demand what amounts to a formal apology from the UVSS, a guarantee that club status will not be taken away in the future, and financial restitution for funds refused since October 2008.

Case law on the subject is murky. In 2008, BC’s human rights tribunal dismissed a complaint by UBC-Okanagan’s pro-choice student club, Students For Life, allowing the student union to continue to deny them club status. However, at the time William Black, a law professor at UBC, said the case probably wasn’t precedent setting, arguing “It looks like it was rejected not as a matter of principle, but based on the facts.” At UBC-O, a special general meeting was held to ban Students For Life. At UVic, all decisions involving YPY have been made exclusively by the UVSS council. In America however, the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that student clubs cannot be denied funding based on their viewpoint.

Where the lawsuit goes from now is anyone’s guess, though in all likelihood will cost thousands of dollars, take months to finish, and remind the majority of students why wading into the waters of the abortion debate is an issue student governments should be wary of.


Pro-lifers sue UVic student union

  1. I think that people will probably get this from context, but Youth Protecting Youth is a pro-life group, not a pro-choice group.

  2. Hi Justin,

    Just a clarification for you by a someone who was on the old Board of Directors and who will be serving on to the newly elected one. The new board took over power on May 1st, so the decision for the UVSS to grant status back to YPY without funding was actually a decision made by the old board at the end of their term in April. That Board voted to restore the status aspect of the club after passing a revised harassment policy that made mention to abortion related advocacy. The new board has not held a board meeting yet and just concluded an orientation session.

    The newly elected board comprises of many new directors who did not serve on the prior Board of Directors. Due to the reality that UVSS board members hold many differing views on this matter, it is difficult to say anything certain about how the student society will respond to this lawsuit at this point in time.

  3. I say: way to go youth! Keep fighting for what is right and don’t let others slow you down! Abortion IS murder, no matter how you look at it. The “pro-choice” people (we must make the terms appear as POSITIVE as possible when talking about legalized murder of course) insist that a fetus is not a child … but look again! Even the FACTS cannot deny that there is most definitely LIFE in each little fetus! How come suddenly we have the right to decide to end another person’s life? Who decided to put that “right” into someone else’s hands? That’s a frightening thought…. what if it was up to someone else to decide whether you lived or not, based on whether it was convenient for THEM?

  4. Well Amanda, if a four week old fetus wants to crawl out of a woman’s body and survive all on its own, it most definitely has a right to do that. However, for as long is it requires a “host” to survive, the host has every right to decide whether it wants to be sustaining that other life or not…especially considering the demands on the host’s body. If I couldn’t live without attaching myself to someone else’s body for sustenance, I’d expect them to have a say in my survival too.

  5. Pingback: UVIC pro-life student group sues student society « Education Law Blog

  6. Well, to be fair, Mature Student, babies/children can’t survive outside the womb on their own for years. For people with certain disabilities, maybe not at all. And the demands of these people probably could well exceed the demands on a woman’s body during pregnancy. Does the “host” of these individuals have the right to decide whether it wants to be life sustaining or not?

    On the other end of the margin, with current technology, a fetus can be viable outside the womb after about 4-5 months of gestation. Not without assistance, sure, but then, there are lots of babies taken to term that can’t survive without time in an incubator either. If the fetus is viable after 5 months, is it okay to abort it after 6? The line of reasoning that you’re taking is fraught with difficulty. What if in 10 years I can keep a fetus alive outside the womb after 6 weeks? 3 weeks? A day? What if I don’t need a woman at all and can raise a baby from conception to “birth” entirely mechanically?

    The reality is that neither the puritanical pro-life nor pro-choice positions are logically or ethically consistent. There are a few positions that are, but most are far too rational for this sort of debate.

  7. @Abarlow, a baby outside the womb can be transferred to a willing caregiver and is not attached to an unwilling host. The law does not compel a mother to raise her child AFTER it is born either.

    And like I said, if I or anybody else needed to be kept alive through the physical support of an unwilling individual, I would support that individual’s right to have a say in their survival, absolutely. We essentially have that system in place in our country right now. If I get cancer and need a kidney transplant, I can not legally force my brother to donate a kidney to me, even if he’s a perfect match. Nobody in this country is forced to give up the integrity of their body to keep another individual alive, and our abortion laws are consistent with that.

    As for whether abortion should be illegal once babies are viable, well, if the baby wants to crawl out of the womb of its own accord, then no. But if it’s still attached to the woman, then yes.

    But in all honesty, why would you WANT to develop technology in such a way that it could keep unwanted babies live outside the mothers who don’t wish to raise them? Don’t we have enough trouble with unwanted children already? Are those kids who are racked with pain from abusive and neglectful upbringings so much better off than the ones who were never born in the first place?

    I’d feel a lot more sympathy for the pro-life position if, instead of protesting on campuses, you used your time and money to give loving and supportive homes to all those unwanted kids you try to keep alive.

  8. Pingback: University of Victoria Pro-Lifers Sue Student Union « University of Toronto Students for Life

  9. I never said anything about compelling mothers to raise the child after it is born. That is an entirely separate issue, and there are already avenues in place for parents who are unwilling to raise a child, and is quite apart from whether or not they have the right to terminate the life of that child. If the pro-life crowd is willing to put their money where their mouths are, I’m sure that they would be happy to adopt a 3 week, 3 month, or 8 month old fetus who would otherwise terminate it and raise it as their own. If the fetus can be removed safely from the womb, and someone else is prepared to take it, can there be any real justified reason to terminate?

    As far as the baby “crawling out of the womb”, are you saying that people should only be allowed to live if they are physically capable of mobility? A person paralysed from the neck down may have some problem with that. Are you arguing that if two people are connected physically, that the stronger can kill the weaker? Siamese twins ought to be alarmed. If I may be blunt, your position is untenable because you have already conceded the fact that the fetus is a living person. Our laws don’t permit the execution of murderers, rapists, child molesters, even if they are convicted beyond any shadow of a doubt, because we recognize the inherent value of life. We also don’t terminate the sick, mentally ill, or drug addicted, simply because they place an added burden on their caregivers or on society, or indeed, even if they would likely not survive without such assistance.

    The definition of life is the crux of the matter. As soon as the definition of the living person is established, the rights of that person are inherent.

  10. @ABarlow. None of the situations you describe involve individuals living in an essentially parasitic relationship attached to the body of an unwilling individual. There is no analogy to pregnancy involving people who have left the womb. But I guarantee you that if ever anyone was forced to make their way through life with a 35-year-old physically connected to their body and consuming their energy and nutrition, we most definitely WOULD be having conversations about the right to terminate grown-ups.

    As to your question, if every single fetus can be removed safely from the womb at any age and transferred into the hands of a family guaranteed to raise it in a loving, stable home, then perhaps we can talk. Let me know when you’ve got that one worked out.

  11. I was on the UVSS in 1989-90 when the Board first put this policy in place and it would not have achieved the 2/3 vote it required without my support. I was going to vote against it as I didn’t want it to be used to take away the freedom of the Pro-Life club of the time.

    The members of ND/CFS slate of the day swore up and down that taking a pro-life would never result in banning or restricting a pro-choice club. Five or so years ago the ND/CFS turned more Stalinist then when the UVSS had an International Socialist as it’s Chair.

    The new Board can settle the claim before a massive legal bill hits the UVSS and get to the cleaning the other messes that decades of the far left control of the Society has created.