In a campus referendum special Politics editor Oisín MacCanna and Editor Jack Power sat down with both sides of the campaign to get their views, motivations and arguments. Hazel Nolan is leading the Vote side, to keep the Students’ Union pro-choice stance.
Hazel, who is a second year History and Politics students. She firmly believes the attempt to change the Students’ Union policy stance from pro-choice on the issue of abortion to neutrality should be opposed and fought. “The SU has been following a mandate of being pro-choice since 2013. We feel like they should continue on with that because we feel that neutrality is a stance no matter what way you look at it. Being neutral is still saying something. UCDSU have been amazing pioneers for change in their history”.
“The SU has been following a mandate of being pro-choice since 2013. We feel like they should continue on with that”
Hazel drew on examples where UCDSU led political change from the front, such as the campaign to legalise contraceptives. The controversial campaign saw the SU bring contraceptives and condom machines into the campus at a time when they were still illegal in Ireland.
Hazel felt claims from the ‘Vote Yes for Neutrality’ side that students who were pro-life, or undecided on the contentious issue were not being fairly represented by the SU were misguiding. “I don’t think fairness is the true issue here” she said. The SU she said was a “political structure”, which decided its stances based on majority vote. Personally for her she said this vote was about being “pro-choice and nothing to do with being neutral or fair, as stated before, being neutral is taking a stance in itself” she claimed.
“We democratically elect our government to represent us, we do the same with the Union. And sometimes not 100% of people at happy” but that doesn’t mean those individuals views are disregarded or invalid she said.
“The Students’ Union has always represented as many people as who vote on these issues. There is still room for different views to exist in UCD. Say if this passed, that wouldn’t make me neutral on the issue. It’s not this high body that governs us, you have your own brain, it doesn’t take away from your own opinions” she said.
Hazel believed the SU should keep its pro-choice stance, as it could be a powerful voice in the upcoming debate around the Eighth Amendment. “The Students’ Union is quite a powerful thing, nobody else is out there marching on the streets for us. The Union have changed things in the past, we could help this change. For someone who is on the fence I would encourage them to vote No.”
It was put to Hazel that those on the Yes side arguing for neutrality and others who opposed to the SU’s pro-choice abortion stance did not sign up to the SU, and involuntarily capitate it from the Student Contribution Charge. Therefore they shouldn’t have to pay towards something they disagreed with on such a contentious issue. But Hazel responded to say the same could be said for Repealing the 8th Amendment, “they say it’s their money, well like it’s our bodies, let us decide what we do with them.”
Outlining her own political opinions she said she was firmly pro-choice. “I’m a firm believer in bodily autonomy, I don’t believe I have the authority to make a decision for anyone else regardless of what the decision is. I feel the 8th is such a restrictive and oppressive law. It’s an awful, awful, awful piece of legislation. That we have to export people, and not offer them any support when they come back. Forcing people to leave to do something so tough and heart-breaking, I’m just glad that change is gaining momentum at the moment.”
She felt that voting for neutrality was in essence censoring the Students’ Union on the issue of abortion. “By silencing the Union, you’re just censoring it, it’s not something that I would ever welcome, and by being neutral you as censoring our Union.”
“By being neutral you as censoring our Union. It’s not something that I would ever welcome”
On the motion of the referendum Hazel felt the wording was “a bit tricky” because it wasn’t a decision between pro-choice or pro-life. She continued to say “but I think everybody knows what the real issue is at play. We just want to continue on what the SU have been doing, it’s been their mandate since 2013.”
Looking forward to the coming week and campaigning on the ground across the campus she said she felt confident people who support the No side and that they would win the vote. “I think so, we’ve gotten such a great response so far, so many people have been excited to get involved. I think the best way is to focus on getting people involved and the voter turnout, so we were thinking of having information stall and mythbusting.”
“Voting No means you are being pro-choice, you are striving towards everyone having bodily autonomy”
The No side representative put the genesis of the UCD Students for Fair Representation and their efforts to bring in a neutral SU policy on abortion down to the momentum the group UCD for Choice had gained on campus. “We knew this was going to happen, you’re never going to get 100% of people agreeing with you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t begrudge them for doing so, they’re exercising their own political rights”.
Image: Hazel Nolan, Head of the Vote No Campaign.
Concluding her argument Hazel said, “I think voting No means you are being pro-choice, you are striving towards everyone having bodily autonomy.”
Voting takes place next week on November 2nd & 3rd.
Jack Power & Oisín MacCanna