“I think that ultimately a stall like this has no place in a university. This is supposed to be a place of, like, higher learning. Umm, they suck.”
Or so ran the standard argument put forward by the Wom*n’s Collective as they attempted to shut down a pro-life stall during O-Week at Sydney University — already shamed in this magazine less than a fortnight ago as the worst for freedom of speech in the country.
Since its conception (so to speak) in 2012, LifeChoice Sydney has regularly been targeted by the Wom*ns Collective. One wom*n commented that “we’ve tried to get it de-registered a lot of times, similar to German cockroaches, but for some f—ing reason they just keep going.”
Despite trying to put an end to free speech, the Wom*n’s Collective has an unexpected foe, and LifeChoice has an even more unexpected supporter. Professor Peter Singer, abortion and infanticide-supporter, has said it would be wrong to stop LifeChoice groups existing on university campuses.
“I have been an advocate of legal abortion since I was an undergraduate myself, when abortion was illegal; but I am also a strong supporter of freedom of speech,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald back in 2012.
“A university, in particular, should be a place where ideas are able to be freely expressed. Students should be challenged to defend the ideas they take for granted.”
I don’t often agree with Peter Singer, but he’s right. Of all places, University should be the place for young people to think (or at least learn to think) critically. Certainly, I tried to use my time as a student, to do just that, and to learn those very skills. But if we are never even given an opportunity to hear views which differ from our own, how can we form authentic views on the wider world?
The effect of the Wom*n’s Collective’s assault on free speech turns the university from a seedbed of ideas into nothing more than an echo chamber – yet another Facebook page we can post things we like and, hopefully, get a few “likes” from similarly-minded friends.
For too long now universities have been heading down the trajectory of coddling students, rather than educating them. The very presence of groups like LifeChoice should be a corrective to this and should encourage students to think critically about serious issues in our society.
But instead, in the O-Week action, LifeChoice Sydney students were harassed by members of the Wom*n’s Collective. They threw glitter bombs at the pro-life information table, broke a bucket (used to carry water to wash away abusive chalk messages), hurled insults at LifeChoice members, and called for fellow students to “Tell LifeChoice they suck.”
In true uni student-style they also staged a lie-in, which conveniently covered over some of the abusive chalk messages, and inflated condoms, hilariously releasing them around the stall. A few of the wom*n also gave me and the other LifeChoice members lessons in female anatomy, which was unnecessary, but kind of them.
The behaviour of the University of Sydney Wom*n’s Collective is completely contradictory to the core value of feminism: respect for women. As a young, pro-life woman, I want everyone to know that they do not represent me or my values. By shutting down civil conversation, these women are not advocating for real choices for women. When it comes to abortion women deserve to know the facts and the risks involved. To say that abortion is just like any other medical procedure is dishonest and unscientific. I’ve met too many women who have suffered because of abortion, I will not stand by and let more women experience this pain while the Wom*n’s Collective declare in chalk that “abortions save lives.”
Even though I do not agree with much of what the Wom*n’s Collective stand for, I still support their right to peacefully exist at Sydney University.
I just ask for the same respect in return for members of LifeChoice Sydney.
Rebecca Gosper recently graduated with a Bachelor of Human Science and is the Director of LifeChoice Australia.
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