The points we are responding to in this post were made in the comment section on the University Times page beneath an article that  I co-signed with two other Students For Life – Dublin members. We are responding to some of the points made in that comment section across a number of posts in the hope of having a productive conversation. So we invite replies to these responses!

To the points!

(1) We claim to be committed to helping student parents on campus. Yet last year, we did not get in touch with or help with any of the SU’s Student Parent Officer’s Programmes. Our claimed support is just words.

(2) We are pro-birth and many of us spend our time giving out about single mothers bleeding the system when this group is among those most at risk of poverty. We say that women are selfish if they get abortions. We only ever seem concerned as to how someone got pregnant in the first place.

The person who made these points made others that we will address later. We are dealing with these in the same post because they are related.

We will start with (2). While there are pro-life people who do this, we just do not. In fact, if you scroll down our page, you will see examples of us highlighting how at risk of poverty single mothers are, as well as sharing articles relating to homeless families, or discrimination against pregnant people in the workplace. Here are a few examples.

We also have never said that women are selfish if they want abortions. We have always encouraged people to be aware of abortion testimonies and the difficulties faced by women who have abortions or who face unplanned pregnancies.

We are only concerned with how people got pregnant insofar as it is unjust that sex can lead to unplanned pregnancies and responsibilities for women that men can just walk away from. This is true whether abortion is legal or not: an abortion is also something a man can walk away from.  Even on a pro-choice view, a woman still has to bear the costs of a pregnancy, or an abortion. We want to minimise this injustice as much as possible. Like everyone, we are concerned about cases of rape and incest, where how the pregnancy happened is also relevant. But if you scroll down our page, we are not obsessed with how often people have sex, or why. (And we don’t think most pro-life people are either: for example, contrary to common misconceptions, it does not seem that many pro-lifers are necessarily against other forms of contraception.)

As to (1): first of all, it is worth noting that a lot of us are involved in activities other than Students for Life – Dublin. For example, I used to be chair of DUGES—Trinity’s Gender Equality Society—and during that time, I did get in touch with Lynn Ruane, the Student Parent Officer at the time, about co-organising events, though no joint events ever came through. Some of us are involved with FLAC, VTP, or VDP. There is usually no reason to highlight our opinions on controversial issues in these other contexts. It could also be argued that sometimes, it would be impractical to do so. For example, I’m not sure if it would have been good for us, as ‘Students For Life – Dublin’, to participate in SU-run Student Parent events. Not everyone going to them would agree with us. The then-student parent officer, the organiser, would not have agreed with us.

As a group, we were only set up this year and the process was lengthy. It was a while before we all found each other, establishing a core membership body and leadership group. Then we had problems because the CSC does not permit us to use the TCD acronym. As a a single issue group, we are denied official society status, so weren’t sure about how to book rooms, or use stands in the arts block without society status.

Despite this, we have done some small things. For example, we organised an event for our members with a young woman talking about her own experience of crisis pregnancy and ways to support pregnant students. As a group, we wrote emails together to send to our TDs about supporting Catherine Martin’s bill to extend maternity leave for the parents of children born prematurely. At the start of the year, we asked if the TCD Policy for Students Experiencing Pregnancy and Student Carers could be more visible. Following this, it was eventually added to a weekly email (on 5/12/2016)—though we really wanted it to be more widely shared. (I should probably add that it was only not added in immediately because they forgot, and that no one refused to share it more widely, it was just that that was an easy suggestion.)

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Though there are limits to ‘social media activism’ we have also shared petitions like the petition against the closure of the crèche in IT Tallaght.

This isn’t enough, we agree. Next year, now that we’re more established, we intend to be a much more pro-active on all fronts.  But it is certainly more than I did for student parents in DUGES and no one ever accused me of not really caring about student parents then.

That being said, I did not get in touch with the student parent officer in a personal capacity last year. I do not know if any of our members (among them at least one student parent) did either (Edit: Actually, one of our members was in touch last year (2016-17). And she was in touch in previous years as well. Further edit: in 2017/18 several of our members unofficially helped the student parents officer.). Maybe this was a failing on our part, and I’m happy to admit this and rectify this mistake in the coming year, if the next Student Parent Officer is open to this.

But we don’t pretend to be perfect—which brings us to our concluding point.

We think these accusations are unfair. Some seem to be directed at an imaginary straw-man pro-lifer rather than us, the real pro-life students on campus.

But we also think that if they were true, it would not affect the truth of the content of what we believe.

As a further response to both (1) and (2): Whether we as people are hypocritical, uncompassionate, or uncaring does not affect whether or not the content of what we are saying is true or false. Sometimes even terrible people believe things that turn out to be true. While we’re reasonably confident we aren’t terrible, we’re just not the main issue here.  The issue isn’t whether pro-life people deserve your respect.  The issue is whether preborn humans deserve legal protection. It wouldn’t be their fault if the only people advocating for them happened to be terrible people! To wrap up, the main issue is whether or not we are correct when we say that preborn humans are human beings deserving of equal status and protection, and finding the best way of respecting that while also respecting women’s rights.

Ciara O’Rourke