A divided AUTSA student council has voted to affiliate a new pro-life club, despite opposition.
Emma Rankin, the president of the newly-affiliated ProLife AUT, told Debate she knew starting such a club at AUT would be controversial.
“It has crossed my mind that I am the face of a very contentious issue at AUT but it is something I am really passionate about and care deeply about.
Because of that passion, I am willing to take the backlash that could come with that.”
ProLife AUT is the newest branch of the wider ProLife movement, which also encompasses the ProLife Club at Auckland University.
ProLife AUT, which currently consists of only 13 members, states in its constitution that it “aims to educate students on matters relating to the intrinsic value of human life”, and that it shall “engage with those affected by abortion in a spirit of compassion and empathy.”
AUTSA President, Dharyin Colbert told Debate that despite differing views within the Student Council, their job was to represent students.
“We have a bunch of students who hold a particular view and at its simplest our job is to represent them and give them the same resources as every other group of students with a particular interest or particular view.”
“There are definitely clubs we would not affiliate like hate groups and supremacist groups. For example, the European Student association which tried to affiliate here last year.
Colbert says there are controversial views and then there are dangerous views and he’s confident AUTSA can recognise those.
“If a club becomes militant or aggressive and negative and disturbs safe, open, positive, diverse spaces, then we would review what their role in student life looks like.
I’m very confident that they are sincere, they are genuine and they understand the controversy of their own views and the nature of the reactions.
I’m more than happy to give them an opportunity and a review as we go along.”
Rankin told Debate that she didn’t want the group to be judged by the behaviour of other pro-life activists.
“We condemn anybody who is being aggressive or being out of bounds with their views.
As a club, we want to convey a spirit of compassion and a spirit of kindness. So, we don’t have any interest in being aggressive”
Terry Bellamak, president of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, told Debate that AUTSA should ignore what ProLife AUT says and pay attention to what they do considering what has happened at other universities.
“For example, at the University of Auckland with pro-life groups showing gory posters or confronting people who have had abortions, their presence has not been very respectful.”
Bellamak says abortion care is safe, routine health care that women and people who can get pregnant need in order to control their own fertility.
“Contraception is great, but there is no contraception with a zero percent failure rate, even with perfect use and unfortunately, humans are not known for perfection.”
Rankin told Debate that ProLife AUT will not advocate for stricter abortion laws and has no interest in shaming women.
“I am a 20-year-old, second year nursing student, so I never want to come across like getting an abortion is a selfish choice for women because if I were put in that situation I would be terrified.
The only difference is that in a crisis pregnancy I think the crisis should be addressed not the pregnancy.
We want abortion to be unthinkable in New Zealand, not because women feel shamed or trapped into pregnancies, but because they feel supported and feel that there is wrap around care.”
Bellamak says that access to abortion services and providing support to new mothers should not be pitched against one another.
“There should be exactly as many abortions as people who don’t want to be pregnant.
“It is kind of like airbag deployments, there should just as many airbag deployments as there are head on collisions; and if there isn’t then that’s a problem.”
Bellamak says women must be trusted to make their own choices and decide for themselves whether to have an abortion.