Hundreds attend protest opposing University of Exeter’s anti-abortion society
Hundreds of students participated in a sit-in on Wednesday 13th October to protest the Guild’s affiliation with anti-abortion society, Exeter Students For Life.
A sit-in protest began at 1pm outside Forum and was organised by Sit Down N Shut Up, a student movement self-described as ‘representing marginalised voices and creating initiatives for positive change’.
The event followed two weeks of outrage over the anti-abortion views of Exeter Students For Life (ESFL), whose existence was widely scrutinised after a petition and an open letter calling for the society to be banned started circulating online. At the time of writing, the petition has over 9,000 signatures, and the open letter has nearly 2,500 signatures.
“disaffiliation of a society based on its views would be unlawful”
The protest took place after the Guild released a statement saying “disaffiliation of a society based on its views would be unlawful” and that it is their “legal duty to ensure freedom of speech on [their] campuses.”
“The Guild has shown a total disregard towards the day-to-day struggles of women.”
Numerous student speakers expressed disappointment and criticism towards the Guild’s decision to stay affiliated with the pro-life society. Ruby Plunkett, one of the event’s volunteers said:
“We are on the steps because women feel unsafe on campus. We are on the steps again demanding bodily autonomy.”
Another student speaker said:
“The attitude of misogyny may be hard to fight, but the Guild’s approval of a pro-life society has completely undermined that fight. The Guild has shown a total disregard towards the day-to-day struggles of women.
“When it is manifested in an insular group, freedom of speech is an excuse for misogyny.”
In their speech, a pro-choice Christian student expressed their disapproval towards ESFL for using “Christian rhetoric” to justify their “pro-life advocacy”. The student described themselves as “a Christian who believes abortion should be a fundamental human right” and argued that “religious beliefs do not belong in discussions around matters that are life-altering.”
Nathaniel Guerriero, a third-year student who attended the protest told Exeposé: “I think campus feels less safe right now, especially knowing that my female friends have to tip-toe around something which should be their own issue. People who shouldn’t have an opinion are making them feel unsafe.”
Third-year student, Claudia McGettigan, told us, “I did have a lot of faith in this year’s Guild President along with the other representatives. After this, to be honest, I feel let down.”
Claudia attended the protest with Abbey Lewis, who also voiced her concerns:
“There is a fine line between free speech and hate. Calling women who have either chosen to seek abortions in the past or are considering it sinners who need to be punished is hate speech. That is against the university’s guidelines. Why are they allowing this?”
A spokesperson for the Guild said: “We were pleased to assist Sit Down N Shut Up to facilitate a safe and peaceful protest on the Streatham Campus. We’ve received their open letter and will respond shortly.”