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Oxford students defeat motion seeking to ban pro-life stalls

Oxford Students for Life turned out in force to resist the motion (PA)

A student union clause, which threatened the presence of pro-life stalls at Oxford University’s Freshers’ Fairs, was narrowly defeated on Wednesday evening.

Oxford Students for Life (OSFL) galvanized support against a clause which said that the university should not provide a platform to any group which stood against “women’s right to choose.”

The clause, which raised concerns from students of pro-life persuasions and none, read: “OUSU resolves…Never to platform any group or organisation which provides directional advice around abortion or explicitly stands against women’s right to choose.”

Oxford Students for Life were made aware of the clause only 36 hours before a vote was due on Wednesday evening.

In a blog post on their website, Oxford Students for Life wrote: “Never to platform’ sounds rather like a no platform policy. ‘Stands against women’s right to choose’ is, needless to say, a euphemism for ‘defends the right to life of the unborn’. In other words, the OUSU motion, if passed, would ban us from anything involving OUSU.

“At Oxford, the Student Union has less authority than at other universities. Still, this was a direct threat. We started getting emails from both friends and strangers, asking if we’d seen the motion and whether anything could be done about it. We quickly prepared to oppose it. And we turned up at St John’s auditorium – committee, society members, and friends of OSFL – at 5.30 yesterday to see what could be done.”

The clause was proposed by Sarah Pine, the vice-president of OUSU and seconded by Alasdair Lennon of St John’s College.

After students raised concerns about the implications of the word “platform” for freedom of speech, several re-worded clauses were suggested until a new clause was put forward to remove the first clause entirely.

The new clause was carried by 27 votes to 24, with 8 abstentions, which meant that the original one was narrowly defeated.

Daniel Hitchens, President of OSFL said: “Universities, of all places, should welcome open debate and discussion. Most students are in favour of free speech, and we’re glad that the Students Union vote reflected that.”