As a result of online voting, the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) has provisionally disaffiliated the ProLife Auckland group.

AUSA members were asked if the association should disaffiliate the club and ban any club with a similar ideology from affiliating in the future.

After a week of online voting, 1609 people voted “yes”, 1034 voted “no” and 56 did not answer.

The provisional result means that Prolife Auckland will reportedly now have to pay more for rooms and resources than they would have as an affiliated club.

ProLife Auckland will also reportedly be unable to advertise in designated areas.

But the group will be able to remain active on campus, have a club stall at orientation and apply for AUSA funding.

ProLife Auckland called disaffiliation “an affront on free speech”.

“This directly punishes the club’s exercise of free speech . . . Just because the club is still able to meet in limited ways, does not mean its voice is not being suppressed.

“Students must hear all sides on vitally important issues such as abortion and euthanasia. Make no mistake, this is unequivocally about censoring voices based on ideology.”

Co-president of Prolife Auckland Jelena Middleton said that the outcome is “unjust, and legally dubious as it means that a group of students is being punished simply for exercising their legal right to peacefully express legitimate ethical views”.

“What makes this even more frightening is that it is happening at one of this country’s largest universities — which should be a place where diversity of thought is not only tolerated, but also actively fostered and protected.”

Miss Middleton criticised the disaffiliation process for a lack of transparency and a violation of natural justice.

“The referendum process was enacted by a totally anonymous person, the question was vaguely worded, there have never been any grounds given for what prompted such a drastic action, and we were only given a few days to prepare and present our case before the voting opened.”

“It’s doubtful that such an unjust process and outcome would be tolerated in any other sector of a free and open society like New Zealand. We are now seeking legal advice about the legality of this action and how it may have breached the NZ Bill of Rights.”

AUSA is reportedly seeking legal advice itself about the process.

Miss Middleton continued: “This is no longer about Prolife Auckland, this is now about the rights and freedoms of all Auckland University students to freely associate and peacefully express themselves without fear of arbitrary punishment from the AUSA for expressing views they might disagree with.”

According to a Voice for Life report, ProLife Auckland put up posters on campus and distributed flyers before the online poll. But the posters were pulled down as soon as they went up. And pro-abortion activists were seen picking up the flyers and throwing them into the bins, Voice for Life reported. In contrast, none of the pro-abortion posters were touched.

ProLife New Zealand spokesperson Mary-Anne Evers said she considered the disaffiliation of Prolife Auckland as “essentially insinuating that the students on campus cannot decide for themselves what they think about abortion. It suggests they are not capable of coping with the material Prolife Auckland presents”.

According to a statement from Prolife New Zealand, their clubs based at Massey, Canterbury and Otago universities do not face the same repeated opposition fac
ing Prolife Auckland. (There have reportedly been four attempts at disaffiliation of ProLife Auckland by AUSA).

The Massey, Canterbury and Otago campuses welcome debate and discussion of contentious issues, the statement continued, noting that the president of ProChoice Otago offered a message of support to Prolife Auckland, saying “I fear that disaffiliation will close off the support for proper discussion and an official presence on campus, which will only further the divide and prejudice on both sides”.

Family First NZ described the disaffiliation as a disturbing continuation of attempts by both the state and now tertiary institutions to shut down free speech, debate and views.

Family First is going back to the Wellington High Court to challenge a  second deregistration attempt by the Charities Board.

Bishops’ concern

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have expressed their concern over the decision of the AUSA to disaffiliate ProLife Auckland.

NZCBC president Bishop Patrick Dunn said that the Church had learned from its long history that trying to restrict free-thinking and those with differing views is a retrograde step.

“A student-led group dedicated to advocating on ethical issues surrounding abortion and the welfare and support of women should be a welcome addition to the campus life at any university,” said Bishop Dunn.

“New Zealand is a multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-race community and our universities ought to have the capacity to engage in meaningful dialogue on ethical and conscience issues.”

Bishop Dunn went on to say, “I call on all Auckland University students who are committed to human rights and the protection of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion to encourage their representative body to reconsider this narrow-minded and regressive step.”

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