McGill’s controversial pro-life group has survived its suspension with its club status in tact.
On Thursday night, SSMU Council voted to add an appendix to Choose Life’s constitution, ending the group’s suspension while placing restrictions on their activities.
Rebecca Dooley, VP (University Affairs) presented the appendix to Council. She said the appendix was intended to foster an environment that is welcoming to students and conducive to dialogue.
“We don’t want [Choose Life] to be going around…trying to shame or shock students with graphic imagery,” said Dooley.
“We want to be able to have a lot of different groups under the SSMU. However, the way in which you express these views has to be respectful,” she added.
Among other restrictions, the group cannot display images of private medical procedures in public.
The group can, however, display images of such procedures in a private space, provided they can prove the images were obtained legally.
“If people want to consciously seek out information, we don’t want to restrict their ability to go and seek that out,” Dooley said.
The group is also forbidden from participating in “the production or distribution of falsified health and safety information.”
The appendix was drafted last week by the Student Equity Committee, which has been meeting with members of Choose Life since their suspension.
The Committee aimed to allow Choose Life to remain on campus without violating the Society’s Equity Policy, which outlines SSMU’s formal commitment to “Creating, promoting, and engaging its membership in an environment that fosters respect.”
The policy also states that a commitment to equity should not stifle debate or “detract from the right of members to engage in the open discussion of potentially controversial matters.”
Paul Cernek, Choose Life VP (Internal), said that while he was satisfied with the overall outcome of the process, it was grounded in assumptions contrary to Choose Life’s principles.
“The framework that they’re asking us to work within is pro-choice – [it is a] pro-choice understanding of bodily sovereignty,” Cernek said. “I think it’s important to emphasize that bodily sovereignty does not equal a right to abortion.”
Students recently voted to add an obligation to respect bodily sovereignty to the SSMU constitution.
Cernek added that Choose Life has struggled against misconceptions this year.
“People see us as a hostile group, as perhaps a patriarchal [group]…. We have the best interests of everyone at heart, including women,” Cernek said, adding that he is the only male of the club’s seven permanent members.
Choose Life is also prohibited from using SSMU resources to lobby or advocate for the criminalization of abortion.
Dooley said this restriction is partially intended to act as a check on how the fees students pay to SSMU are used.
“Students pay us money, and we have our resources because of our students,” Dooley said. “We have to be sensitive to the most marginalized of our students, and that includes post abortive students. And they should not be concerned that an organization that they are a part of is giving resources to a group that is trying to take away their rights.”
Dooley said that the appendix cannot be seen as a comprehensive solution to the controversy surrounding Choose Life and added that no discussion of abortion on campus will ever be an easy one.
“You can’t talk about this issue and not talk about women’s bodies. You can’t talk about this issue and not talk about a difficult experience,” she said.