University College of Dublin student body president Katie Ascough was impeached last week after she removed potentially illegal abortion information from a student handbook.
Ascough, who is pro-life, said abortion activists on campus have been trying to find a way to get rid of her since she was elected.
Last week, they succeeded. The student body voted to impeach Ascough with 69 percent in favor, the National Catholic Register reports.
“Although I believe my impeachment is a regressive step – to convict someone of the crime of refusing to commit a crime is a dangerous precedent – I hope that the light it has shone on the intolerance of some may allow us to build better campus communities, where tolerance, inclusivity and fairness are truly valued,” Ascough said in a statement
Earlier this year, Ascough angered pro-abortion students by removing information about how to get abortion pills from a student handbook. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, and Ascough said the student Union’s lawyer advised that they remove the language.
But abortion activists on campus accused her of censorship, and began circulating a petition for her impeachment.
Ascough said she just was trying to protect the university and students. The censorship accusations were “unfounded and … absurd,” she said, according to Laois Nationalist.
“I was unwilling to commit a criminal offence, risking conviction and fines for myself and anyone else involved in the distribution” of the magazine, she said.
Ascough explained the situation to the Independent earlier this month:
“The Union was producing a handbook that acted as a college guide for incoming students.
“I was aware that the handbook contained abortion information, but was not informed by the editors of the book that it was illegal to distribute this information.
“I originally delegated the sign off for the handbook to the Campaigns & Communications Officer.
“After the books were printed and delivered, a staff member pointed out various issues including potential illegality of some of the content.
“I then sought legal advice regarding the abortion information from the Union’s long-standing lawyer who is an ex-president of USI and advocate for Repeal of the Eighth amendment.
“He advised that it would be prudent to avoid proceeding with the current handbook either by having it redesigned or cancelled. I also asked the Board of Directors for advice, and they agreed with the decision to follow legal advice.
“As CEO of the company, I decided to follow the advice of the Union’s lawyer with the Union Board’s agreement.”
Ascough said she would have put two dozen people at risk of huge fines and convictions if she had kept the abortion information in the booklet.
She said she always has treated pro-abortion groups and students fairly, and not allowed her personal beliefs to get in the way of their clubs and activities. She said the impeachment vote really was about her pro-life stance on abortion. An indication of how strong abortion activism is on campus, Ascough said the UCD campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment has a budget three times greater than that of any other campaign.
The Eighth Amendment in Ireland gives unborn babies a right to life. The country also has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates and some of the best health care for women in the world. However, abortion activists and some of the world’s richest men have been pushing the pro-life country to legalize abortion on demand.
Abortion activists are pushing for a vote to repeal the amendment in May or June before Pope Francis’s scheduled visit in August. Some fear the Catholic leader’s advocacy for the unborn could influence voters to uphold the Eighth Amendment.
Polls indicate a strong majority of Irish voters oppose abortion on demand. However, there is some support for abortions in cases of rape, the physical and mental health of the mother and fatal fetal anomalies.
Pro-life groups believe the campaign against Ascough is part of a larger effort by abortion activists to censor pro-life arguments in Ireland, The Guardian reports.
“They point to the cutting down of posters advertising [a pro-life] meeting in Dublin last month by two men who said they belonged to the leftwing party People Before Profit,” the report states. “The [pro-life] organisations also allege that hotels that were due to host pro-life events were intimidated and threatened to cancel the meetings.”
Ascough said she hopes the situation will expose the intolerance that pro-life students are being subjected to on university campuses today.
“To wish to boot someone out from day one because their opinion differs from yours is not conducive to fostering a respectful and inclusive community. There must be room to respect those with different opinions,” she said.