Pictured above: Aisling Brennan wearing the removed abortion information on a tshirt during Freshers’ Week
The removal of abortion information from UCDSU’s “Winging It in UCD” handbook has sparked angry reactions from members of the UCD student body. Several incidents of guerrilla-pamphleting and postering have occurred. The information removed from the handbook is also being shared across Facebook and Twitter.
Posters and pamphlets were first witnessed on UCD campus on Monday. The posters show the original page 59 of the Winging It book containing pricing information of obtaining an abortion and information on where to obtain abortion pills online, as well as pictures of President Katie Ascough’s campaign manifesto. The posters read “The info UCDSU Ascough spent €8000 of your money to hide from you.” The posters have appeared on pillars along the main concourse through campus.
Pamphlets have been distributed in UCD buildings. The pamphlets contain extensive detail about how to obtain abortion pills, and the legality of doing so.
The group behind the Facebook page “Impeach UCDSU President” have claimed responsibility for some of the posters and pamphlets. UCD for Choice were “not involved in the proliferation of the leaflets or posters.” Nevertheless, the group believes “that their existence and presence across campus reinforces our belief that UCD students are passionately opposed to the censorship that Katie Ascough has employed to suppress information about abortion services.”
UCD for Choice have published the abortion information removed from the handbook on their Facebook page. The file has been shared across Facebook and Twitter. UCDSU published a photograph on Facebook of two sabbatical officers, Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhnaill and Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy, holding printouts of abortion information supplied by UCD for Choice on Monday evening.
During Freshers’ Week, UCD graduate, Aisling Brennan, protested the removal of the abortion information by printing a portion of the information and wearing it on the back of her t-shirt in the Freshers’ tent. Brennan’s protest is just one of many, but demonstrates a feeling amongst the student body that this information is being censored.
With the rampant availability of the abortion information now physically across campus and in the virtual world of Facebook and Twitter, the decision to remove the information from the handbooks resulted in the distribution of the information being amplified, showing that there are those who feel strongly about this information being made available to the student body. However, not all feel this information should be distributed.
The University Observer spoke to Saibhe Ciara Ní Bhróic, an eye-witness of an incident where a man gathered up pamphlets from the Newman Building, “ripped them up, and threw them in the bin. He went to all the tables and did the same [with the other pamphlets].”
The decision to remove the abortion information from the handbooks was made based on the illegality of supplying that information according to the Abortion Information Act 1995. According to the act, when supplying information in journals, public meetings and magazines etc., the information must be about services that are legally available in other countries, it must be truthful and must not promote or advocate abortion. Providing the information on public noticeboards, or in unsolicited books or newspapers is illegal.
Whilst SU President Katie Ascough is unwilling to risk the SU’s legal reputation, it is clear that there are those based in UCD who feel strongly enough about students receiving this information that they are willing to put themselves at risk of being sued for breaching the Act.