Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Row brews at uni over abortion pamphlet

Amy Blowers says freedom of expression is under threat. Photo / Dean Purcell
Amy Blowers says freedom of expression is under threat. Photo / Dean Purcell

A free-speech battle is shaping up at Auckland University tomorrow over a move to boot out an anti-abortion group from university facilities.

ProLife Auckland, which claims more than 400 student members, faces disaffiliation from the students' association after a complaint that it distributed a pamphlet containing "misleading health information".

The students' association is laying on a barbecue as an incentive to attract the required quorum of 200 students at a special general meeting to consider the motion in the university quad at 1pm tomorrow.

Association vice-president Dan Haines said the executive was not recommending disaffiliation but was just putting the motion to the meeting.

"People communicated to our women's rights officers that it was an issue. It was the women's rights officers who brought it up," he said.

"Personally I think that maybe having a discussion is a good thing. It is a contentious club."

But ProLife president Amy Blowers, a second-year philosophy student, said the meeting was "a direct threat to freedom of expression".

"University is about discussing diverse opinions in an open and inclusive atmosphere," she said.

"Banning a club for handing out pamphlets that simply advocate a woman's right to essential health information is discriminatory and flies in the face of everything we value about university culture."

She said disaffiliation would mean the club could no longer book rooms in student union facilities, hold stalls at the start of each semester or distribute information in the ways that other clubs do. The club's website address and contact details would be removed from the student union website.

The club's pamphlet, Right to Know, warns students that abortion carries "serious risks" to women's physical and mental health.

But Family Planning national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke said most of the studies quoted in the pamphlet dated from the 1990s or earlier and were now outdated.

"The only one of the physical things that they talk about [where there is still a risk] is premature birth. There is some small amount of evidence that premature births may be just a little more common after an abortion."

SPECIAL MEETING

* Motion: That the ProLife Club be disaffiliated for propagating harmful misinformation.

*Where: Auckland University quad.

*When: 1pm tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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