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Picture it ..Mary is twelve weeks pregnant, in her final year at University and desperately in need of support.  She goes to her tutors and pleads for help, at the very least asking for extensions for her work and special consideration during her exams. The response from her teachers is cold and far from helpful.  Instead of receiving their full support, she is just told that she has two options, either to leave University or ...  Although the word abortion is not actually mentioned, it is strongly implied as the most satisfactory course of action.  This is a true story.  How did it end?

Fortunately, Mary was strong-willed and had a very supportive boyfriend.  She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and completed her degree with an impressive 2:1 grade.  As the students cooed over her adorable baby, few were aware of the dilemma that Mary had faced so courageously.

Another pregnant student, Ann, sent an email recently.  She is a second year undergraduate, three months pregnant, expecting twins.  She lives with her husband Simon, in a house which is rent-free simply because it is unfit for habitation.  Their funds are rapidly diminishing and to keep going they rely on one meal a day from relatives.  Their instinctive dream to create a secure and comfortable home for two new babies is almost impossible to realise.

As students, they are not entitled to any extra financial assistance before the babies are born, and once they are born the only assistance they will be entitled to is child dependency allowance.  The lack of financial support makes them feel, like Mary, that university and parenthood are almost incompatible.

Students are not classed as unemployed, so cannot receive job seeker's allowance or housing benefit, nor are they entitled to milk tokens, maternity grants or income support.

These are two examples of the actual reality of 'A Woman's Right to Choose' when at University.   It is likely that there are hundreds of sad stories waiting to be told.  How many students find they face the bitter options - abortion or leave?

Students are supposed to have a strong campaigning voice through those million pound institutions, Student Unions.  As I am sure most people are aware, student unions have always been the loudest at screaming the slogan 'Woman's Right to Choose'.  But the reality as demonstrated by the stories of Mary and Ann, show the emptiness of that slogan, which only translates into a right to abortion. Even to the extreme that some Unions are actually prepared to finance abortion.

Student LifeNet is currently aware of at least four Student Unions in the UK that part-pay abortions fees.  One of these was questioned recently by a pro-life student, who was concerned that her money was being used to finance abortions.  She received confirmation that this particular Union paid up to 200 towards individual abortions.  When she asked what sort of support was available to women who wanted to keep their babies, the response was vague.  'Hiring a cot or pram has sometimes been offered.'

According to the President of this particular Union, they do not 'as an organisation discriminate under any circumstances'.  By paying for abortions, the Student Union is certainly discriminating against the unborn baby in the womb.  Their oversights do not end there; by funding half the cost of an abortion and failing to fund half the cost of looking after a child, the Union is obviously discriminating against those who do not have abortions and continue with their pregnancy.  By offering financial support towards abortion, the Unions are clearly facilitating the abortion decision.  How viciously Cardinal Winning was criticised for offering financial support to women in crisis pregnancies. 'Paying women not to have abortions.  How awful!', the headlines have read in recent months.  Paying students to finance their abortions, while offering no real help to support them during pregnancy, is surely the real scandal.  Either by omission of real help during pregnancy, or by the deliberate financial support towards abortion, it is blatantly obvious that the student environment is promoting abortion.

In such a negative climate, it is hardly surprising that so many students do have abortions.  To go through pregnancy and have a baby at University, is a heroic fight that all too few feel capable of facing.

In March 1999, Serrin Foster, Executive Director of Feminists for Life of America, came to Britain to deliver the pro-life feminist message to students at a number of universities around the country.  The philosophy, history and work of Feminists for Life was a real eye opener to many of us who heard her presentation.  Many who listened were astounded to discover that the founders of the feminist movement were all pro-life and viewed abortion as a form of ultimate oppression against women.

Early feminists saw it as their duty to solve the root causes of abortion, i.e. the social pressures and circumstances that compel women to abort their children.  In the words of Mattie Brinkerhoff, a women's rights campaigner;  "when a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society - so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child it is an evidence of the fact that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged."  (The Revolution, 3(9): 138-9 September 2,1869)

With its uncompromising pro-life philosophy, Feminists for Life's major initiative is to find practical solutions to unplanned pregnancy within the student environment.  They encourage students from different backgrounds to put aside their differences, and recognise and solve the real dilemmas that students face.

We liked this message.   Inspired by Serrin's visit and realising that there are many pro-life students scattered around the UK, some of us met last year and decided to form a pro-life student coalition.  The name of the coalition is Student LifeNet.  It hopes to provide pro-life students with a sense of unity and a national identity.  As most students are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet and e-mailing facilities, we have set up a web-site where there are regular news updates and articles contributed by students.  E-mail allows us a facility to exchange ideas, respond rapidly and support each other.

The preliminary findings of our research into the situation at Universities demonstrate that there is enormous pressure on students to abort their babies, while little is known about alternatives, local support groups and so on.  Student LifeNet has started a research project encouraging pro-life students to investigate all available resources. The next step will be to negotiate change and try and improve the situation.  Feminists for Life in America have had huge success in some Universities, establishing real rights for pregnant students, even facilities for them to have video link-ups with lectures when the baby is crying!  As Serrin said during her British tour, how many Universities are even pram-friendly?

In the year 2000, we are surrounded by technological progress supposed to make our lives easier, yet we have failed to change the social environment, so that a woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant can both keep her baby and continue with her life.  This is what we hope to achieve in the student environment, and I have no doubt that with hard work, commitment and a sensible strategy, we will achieve our aims and will reduce the abortion rate.

Student LifeNet is predominantly concerned with pro-life initiatives within the student environment, and our main focus will remain there.  However, our mission statement, "to work together to protect and defend human life from the moment of conception to a natural death", also leads us to contribute and participate in the wider pro-life environment when we feel it is necessary.

We are always looking for new ideas and new approaches to promoting pro-life opinions.  To give you just one example, last October (1999), we discovered that Marie Stopes International, Population Concern and  IPPF, along with the misguided Clare Short MP, were using the birth of a baby (supposedly the six billionth child) to promote and perpetuate abortion.  We could not let their message go unchallenged, so in conjunction with their balloon releases and photo shoots, we held a party to celebrate the baby's birthday, draped banners around Trafalgar Square, sang Happy Birthday and distributed leaflets.

You can see a report of that event on our website, as well as the graphics from an anti-cloning Valentine Card which was sent to MPs as one of our most recent campaigns.

We are in the very early stages of development.  We have lots of ideas, enthusiasm and a desire to act.  If you would like to get involved with the work of Student LifeNet or would just like to know more, then contact us at the address below, or through our web-site at www.studentlifenet.org.uk.

It is our hope to train speakers, to send representatives to debates and to organise protests.  Later this year we are planning a conference aimed at students with an interest in prolife and student welfare issues.  It will be an opportunity for students with a common interest to get together and build a strong pro-life youth movement.

We are, of course, aware that there are in the UK already many wonderful pro-life groups who are tirelessly committed to helping women facing crisis pregnancy situations.  We look forward to learning from these friends, and working with their groups.

Currently we have very limited resources and our activities to date have been backed by the very generous support of a small number of individuals through gifts of time and money.  Student LifeNet is eternally grateful for all that we have received so far, but with greater financial backing we would be able to expand our activities and develop a really effective pro-life student movement.  Hope you get the hint!

If you feel that you would be able to contribute towards the work of Student LifeNet, you can be assured that your donations would be very gratefully received and put to good use. 

Donations can be sent to:

Student LifeNet
PO Box 30304
London
NW10 2ZB  

Tel: 020 8830 2086

e-mail: info@studentlifenet.org.uk

 

 

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This Page was Last Updated on Thursday, 25 May 2000.