SFSS set to assert its pro-choice stance via policy making

A group of SFU students have reached out to the SFSS about recent events concerning reproductive rights

Chris Ho/ The Peak

By Onosholema Ogoigbe, News Team Member

After students sent in concerns about a pro-life club on campus, the SFSS Board of Directors is set to draft a policy to assert its pro-choice stance, potentially cutting funding and club status for groups in violation.

On May 30, the board reviewed a document sent by an unnamed group of SFU students, urging them to assert their pro-choice stance on women’s health issues through policymaking. Specifically, the document referred to the activities of SFU Lifeline, an active SFSS club. SFU Lifeline’s club mandate states that they “[advocate] for pre-born children, whose human rights are violated by abortion.”

During the board’s meeting, health sciences representative Osob Mohamed described SFU Lifeline as a club that believes in “. . . the criminalization of abortion across the border no matter what the situation is.”

The document stated that the club has “ . . . made numerous displays of graphic images of aborted fetuses on campus,” highlighting an event they held in November 2012 called the “Genocide Awareness Project.” It also claimed that as of March 2019, SFU Lifeline “. . . openly supports and seeks to raise funds for local Crisis Pregnancy Centres (CPCs), anti-abortion establishments known to target campus’ with similar anti-choice propaganda.”

The document argued that while freedom of expression in public spaces is protected under the Human Rights Charter, a student association like the SFSS is not obligated to fund or grant club status to any group that “promotes oppressive ideologies which infringe upon human rights enshrined in the Charter.”

As an appendix, the document included the Ryerson University student union’s operational and issues-based policy about their official pro-choice stance as a student association.

SFSS president Giovanni Hosang stated that “[the] society does have a pro-choice stance” which is apparent through the Women’s Centre’s vision and mandate. He went on to highlight the importance of the board actively enforcing such stances through policies that would refuse funding to clubs that explicitly go against them.

During the discussion, at-large representative Rayhaan Khan asked about how such a policy would affect religious clubs in general, which may have pro-life beliefs as a “sort-of component” to their values. HoSang expressed that religious clubs were unlikely to be hit simply on that basis, emphasizing that the “antagonistic nature” and active harassment of women is what would cause a student group to be in violation. He cited as an example cases of anti-choice groups posting graphic photos and equating abortion with genocide.

Overall, HoSang described this motion as: “Taking a stance where we won’t allow women to feel unsafe on this campus.”

Simran Randhawa, a student guest at the meeting, also spoke on the matter. “Freedom of religion is an important right  — however, it does not supersede a woman’s right to her own body,” she said.

SFSS Executive Director Sylvia Ceacero suggested that the policy be immediately written up and proposed to a committee or the board to enforce said policy quicker than usual.

“This is very important . . . [The board] needs to take a stance right now,” she concluded.

The Peak reached out to SFU Lifeline for comment but did not receive an answer in time for publication.