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AUSA launches investigation into pro-life society

Anti-abortion event showed foetus’ ‘skull being destroyed’

By: Anttoni Numminen

Screengrab of ALES' Facebook event.

The Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES) is being investigated by the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) following an event the pro-life society held on abortion.

As a result of the event held by the ALES on 12 March, AUSA received numerous complaints from students arguing that it was in breach of AUSA’s Safe Space policy.

The event, titled: “Does Abortion Violate Human Rights”, was advertised by ALES as an “opportunity to understand the pro-life position in more depth” and “the chance to ask pro-lifers your toughest questions”.

However, many of those attending the event felt that its content and nature were inappropriately graphic and did not include trigger warnings, causing some to feel shocked and one attendee to start crying.

Speaking to the Gaudie, 2nd-year student Logan Machell, who attended the event said: “I went to the event because I heard about it and I thought it was going to be a discussion about the debate.

“However, they had a presentation that had no prior warnings about the graphic imagery or the sensitive topics that were going to be spoken about (being rape). There were images of aborted foetuses and in-depth examples on how abortions happen.”

"This was highly graphic material with no prior trigger warning" - complaint to AUSA

One of the complaints to AUSA, seen by the Gaudie, described the event as showing “pictures of dead foetuses as well as [the] animated depiction of abortion, including an animated baby being annihilated through a vacuum, their skulls being destroyed by a doctor and depiction of women having an abortion as extremely depressed and suffering for days from bleedings and pain. […] This was highly graphic material with no prior trigger warning”

Though AUSA declined to comment on the nature of its investigation, several complaints seen by the Gaudie refer to the Safe Space policy which aims to make societies’ events “safe, accessible and welcoming to students, in which no forms of discrimination are tolerated.”

Failure to adhere to the Safe Space policy “shall be considered as ‘conduct unbecoming of a member of the students’ association’ and liable for disciplinary action as outlined in byelaw 16 of the AUSA constitution.”

In 2019, the ALES sued AUSA for "unlawful discrimination"

AUSA was involved in a legal dispute with the ALES in 2019 over its pro-choice policy which did not allow explicitly anti-abortion societies to affiliate as societies and as a result, the ALES sued AUSA for “unlawful discrimination”.

The dispute ended with AUSA’s policy being overturned and the ALES receiving a financial pay-out from AUSA. Though AUSA has not disclosed the size of the financial pay-out due to legal reasons including a possible non-disclosure agreement, it is believed to have been in the region of several thousand pounds.

If members of the ALES are found to have broken AUSA’s Safe Space policy it may result in ‘a caution for those responsible’, in ‘being forced to pay compensation in order to make good any loss or damage arising from the offence’ as well as possible 'exclusion from any, or all, AUSA premises, services, or activities for a period not exceeding one month’.

The Aberdeen Life Ethics Society was contacted for comment several times but failed to respond by the time of publication.


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