Content Warning: Discussion of abortion
Your Full-Time Officer Team are aware of recent social media activity concerning the Birmingham Students for Life society (BSFL society) and have received numerous emails on the subject as well as being notified of a potential student petition seeking to de-recognise the BSFL society.
The collective view of the membership of the Guild of Students is clear. In accordance with our Belief and Commitments that exists as a result of a motion submitted through our democratic structures in 2019, the view of the membership of the Guild is that “the Guild should be an inherently pro-choice union” that “should aim to protect a student’s fundamental right to choose abortion as a form of healthcare, and recognise that a pro-choice stance allows students to make informed decisions regarding their bodies”. You can find the full text of our belief and commitments here.
This belief and commitment lapses on 13th November 2021, in line with the time limits set out in our democratic structures. We expect that this belief and commitment will shortly be considered again through our democratic structure, providing another opportunity for it to be reaffirmed.
We recognise the topic of abortion is among the most highly emotive, personal and controversial in society. We know that for many students who are able to become pregnant, this is not simply a topic to be debated but is a deeply personal feature of their lived experience. We also understand that many students are uncomfortable with the existence of a Pro-Life society at the Guild.
However, as a charity, the Guild of Students exists for educational purposes. An integral part of fulfilling our charitable and educational purposes is upholding and protecting legal rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and prevention of discrimination and harassment. For these reasons (and consistent with legal advice to the Guild), it would not be lawful for the Guild to take action contrary to these laws, such as de-recognising the BSFL society for holding or expressing pro-life views.
The legal rights to freedom of speech, expression and assembly are not unqualified rights. The Guild has a duty of care to its members to protect them from unlawful harassment, discrimination and hate crime. All students and student groups are therefore reminded that when discussing any contentious issue, including on the internet, it is important to maintain a respectful debate and not engage in behaviour that would amount to harassment. You are responsible for the content of your social media posts and acting in a way that is consistent with the University’s expectations of behaviour for students and student groups. Students on Fitness to Practise programmes may have further obligations placed on them with regard to their expected behaviour. To find out more on the University’s expectations of behaviour, please click here.
Under our stewardship, the Guild and its online spaces will continue to be a forum for students to engage in debate and discussion on controversial issues of all types. We are proud to offer a vibrant and diverse community of over 500 groups at the Guild and we encourage all students to join student groups that seek to provide a voice for students with similar views. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that in addition to a recognised Pro-Life group, there is also a recognised Pro-Choice group, Birmingham Students for Choice.
As a full-time officer team, we welcome debate, discussion, challenge and accountability. We recognise that our decisions on this issue may not be popular with the whole of our student community but hope that by being open and transparent with you about the legal framework we are required to operate in, you will better understand the conclusions we have reached. If you have further questions, comments or concerns, you are welcome to reach out to the Full Time Officer Team at: FTO@guild.bham.ac.uk.
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Mikey Brown, President
Josephine Conway, Activities & Employability Officer
Jules Singh, Education Officer
Wei-Lun Chen, International Officer
Danielle Murinas, Postgrad Officer
George Christian, Sports Officer
Aaliyah Simms, Welfare & Community Officer