Playing favourites with ideology

Carleton student union upholds decision to ban anti-abortion group

<p>Woman holding finger to lips, close-up, side view</p>

Woman holding finger to lips, close-up, side view

The Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) has decided to uphold its judgment that Carleton Lifeline, an anti-abortion club on campus, is unworthy of group status.

CUSA threatened to strip the group of its status back in November, alleging that the club violated CUSA’s anti-discrimination policy. The policy states that “any campaign, distribution, solicitation, lobbying, effort, display, event etc. that seeks to limit or remove a woman’s right to choose her options in the case of pregnancy will not be supported.”

When the decision was being weighed, I argued that CUSA’s ban would amount to little more than discrimination based on religious and political belief. Yes, I used the “D” word. Here’s another word: humiliation. CUSA is no stranger to that one; it got plenty of it in 2008 after deciding to discontinue its Shinerama fundraiser for cystic fibrosis. Why? Well, members looked in their belly buttons and somehow landed upon the erroneous conclusion that the disease only affected “white people, and primarily men.” That little blunder cost CUSA some of its pride, and this one should too.

CUSA’s own constitution states its aim to uphold an “environment free from prejudice, exploitation, abuse or violence on the basis of, but not limited to, sex, race, language, religion, age, national or social status, political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation or marital status.” Indeed, on paper CUSA purports to defend a campus environment where prejudice based on political affiliation or belief is not tolerated. However, in practice, CUSA not only yields to such intolerance, but acts as perpetrator by denying club status based on the beliefs of its members. Ironic? (That creaking sound you hear is the collective twinge of CUSA’s decision-makers cocking their heads.)

Carleton Lifeline has been criticized for its methods—particularly its graphic displays and comparisons of abortion to Holocaust. I happen to agree with many of those criticisms. I really don’t see the need to invoke Hitler in the discussion of terminated pregnancies, especially when doing so is a pretty sure-fire way to shoot one’s self in the foot. But CUSA should not be the one to take away the gun. Pro-choice positions were once in the spot pro-life positions find themselves on campuses today; that is, in the minority. Imagine we forced those students silent for fear they would infringe on the rights of the religious majority? (Actually, that was often the case.) While Carleton Lifeline is not being silenced today, it is effectively being sent the same message by being denied club status.

The union needs to stand by its principle of defending the rights of all students, regardless of ideology. Or else, it should stand by none at all. While Carleton Lifeline’s message might make us feel a little uneasy, it does not infringe on a woman’s right to choose. CUSA should be ashamed of its blatant ideological favouritism, and lambasted for its discriminatory action towards its own students on campus.