A row over abortion at Cardiff University remains unabated. How did it start and is anything new going on?
Isadora Sinha, a 22-year-old university student, is not a stranger to death threats.
It all started from a pro-choice motion she presented last year when she was sitting in the annual general meeting, unafraid to debate with some outraged Catholic men.
In the end, the proposal passed by a large majority, which prompted the Students’ Union to adopt the pro-choice stance. For Sinha, the result was a huge victory.
“I felt very happy and excited,” she said. “But I didn’t have much time to enjoy that.” Following the motion, an unexpected backlash and hostile comments started coming in rapidly, with people calling her a murderer.
Facing all the trolls and threats, Sinha said without hesitation, “But I don’t regret it.”
She is a courageous fighter and passionate activist for those who’ve had abortions and gripped by unrelenting fear of being rejected and judged.
“Many women and men privately messaged me and said how happy they were since someone was standing up for this,” she said.
Trying to help these women overcome depression in their darkest moments, Sinha knows a pro-choice ideology would not be enough. They need a more complete support system.
In January, she set up the Cardiff University Pro-choice Society, aiming to provide a safe place for women who’ve had miscarriages or abortions to open up about their personal stories without feeling ashamed.
“Pro-choice is not pro-abortion,” Sinha said. “I want to create a community that will respect their rights, their decision, whether it is to be a mother in the middle of education, to terminate, or to give birth.”
However, since the motion was passed in November 2019, an anti-abortion group, CBR-UK started to protest against the decision by displaying a shockingly explicit foetal image outside Cardiff University on a regular basis.
As the spokesperson of CBR-UK in Cardiff, Caroline Farquhar said, they will continue to do “the educational display” until the motion is reversed.
This sparked the clash on the streets as dozens of pro-choice students dashed to the scene, counter-protesting against the campaign.
Students, including Sinha, were attempting to block the graphic of a 10-week foetus in the womb, which can trigger the emotional trauma of women who’ve had terminated their pregnancies.
“A lot of students have stopped going to lectures,” said Sinha. “One of these students have had an abortion. She saw it one day. Got very upset and then she couldn’t bring herself to go into classes.”
Sinha then said the display is more of a potential accusation than an educational tool, hindering the girl from recuperation but end up worsening her mental health condition all the way to self-harming.
Similar cases have constantly arisen. Even some students who have no personal experience feel uncomfortable due to the provocative image.
As a Bioinformatics postgraduate student, Sinha was one of the counter-protesters who confronted those campaigners with scientific understanding.
“If you try to give them medical realities and facts from studies, they’re just kind of in denial of it because it goes against their beliefs and what the Bible says about,“ she said.
Anti-abortion groups believe life starts at conception, implying that abortion is an act that decapitates a human being, while pro-choice side claims that DNA itself is not equal to a life.
“Our display is educational, factual and peaceful,” said Farquharthe from CBR-UK. “Images that show the reality of what they wish to endorse. Why would they do this if they think abortion is OK?”
Based on different fundamental values, the communication tends to fail and the row between two sides seems unlikely to be brought to an end.
The pro-life group said they have encountered many women who have undergone abortions but lived with the regret of their decisions for years.
However, according to the latest study, up to 95% of women said they don’t regret their terminations, even after five years.
“I don’t want the students to feel like they should have an abortion. They need to make their own decision, but their decisions should be informed on accuracy,” said Sinha.
Now as the president of the pro-choice society, she said, “One of the core values of this society is to activate critical thinking because in this world of social media, what you see just fake news all the time.”
In order to avoid women being misled by some shoddy, dodgy scientific research, she invited experts such as Dr Pam Lowe, a professor at Aston Univesity, to deliver knowledge about abortion underpinned by the trustworthy scientific evidence.
Also, she wants to make the society become a welcoming community where people can feel supported and secure.
There are some relatively lighthearted social activities, ranging from watching a movie to spending quality time talking to each other, sharing their inner burdens.
Sinha said, “I want to make sure there is a solid support network. Not always in such a manner where they feel they have to conform to being very respectful to everything.
“They can just openly say, I don’t like the way the anti-choice side of treating me. I feel upset about it.”
According to the current legislation, abortion can take place in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy in England, Scotland and Wales.
Despite the fact that the UK is generally pro-choice, Sinha urges people to stop taking women’s rights to bodily autonomy for granted.
As external anti-abortion groups started interfering students decision and a pro-life society has existed in the university for years, “I need to put my foot down,” she said.
Meanwhile, CBR-UK started to attend the pro-choice meetings for the first time, with two sides finally having a rational discussion on abortion.
Sinha said no matter what their motives were, she was happy to see a peaceful debate in the last conference.
“I think it’s healthy. I mean debating about ideas. One thing I will not debate is whether I have the right to my own body. Because this is not something you need to debate. You assert and keep it.”
For further information, visit Cardiff University Pro-choice Society.