Oxford Students for Life

Promoting a culture of life in the University and beyond

Month: May, 2018

The Pro-Life Movement in Latvia

While the world’s attention is currently fixed on Ireland, the pro-life battle is being fought across the globe. Here’s a chance to find out about the pro-life movement in Latvia!

  
Latvia is a country which has a rapidly declining population: the number of people living in Latvia dropped from 2.67 million in 1990 to 1.95 million in 2017. This is mirrored by the falling birthrates, with 34,633 live births in 1991 versus only 21,968 in 2016. It is also widely acknowledged that the fact that many young people are leaving Latvia to find work elsewhere is contributing to the falling population figures. Currently, abortion is legally permitted in Latvia until the 12th week of pregnancy, with 4366 legal abortions carried out in 2016. This is a significant drop from the 38 837  abortions carried out in 1991, demonstrating the culture change since the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with the fact that the falling population has sparked both governmental and non-governmental initiatives to encourage a culture of life amongst the population. This may have contributed to the modest rise in birth rates from 18,825 in 2011 to 21,968 in 2016. While the current abortion figures evidently show an improvement on earlier figures, and suggest that initiatives to promote culture of life are having a positive effect, it is still 4366 too many. Pro-life activists compare the loss of so many unborn babies’ lives to the massacre of one Latvian town.

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Discussions on potential compulsory psychological consultations for women wishing to have an abortion and on the donation of eggs for IVF have brought the issues to the attention of the public eye, and an international conference entitled ‘The Right to Life and Freedom of Conscience’ was held in the capital Riga in October 2016, with pro-life activists from 13 different countries involved. As well as members of parliament and local government officials, international groups such as ‘40 Days for Life’ and ‘Human Life International’ were present along with Latvian groups like ‘Kustība Par Dzīvību’ (‘Movement For Life’), which shows that the pro-life movement in Latvia has allies and supporters from around the world. A topical issue which came up at the conference was the lack of protection for medical students and professionals when it comes to the right to conscientious objection. A potential challenge for the future is the question of Assisted Dying. Euthanasia is currently illegal in Latvia, though there are groups which wish to diffuse the idea amongst the public and in the political sphere. Given that radical feminism has not had the same impact as in Western Europe, and in light of recent victories for the pro-life cause in areas formerly under the Soviet Union, there is particular hope that a ‘pro-life spring’ is soon to come!

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Dr. Joseph Meaney speaking at HLI’s International Congress in Latvia, October 2016. Image via Human Life International

Attempts to promote a pro-life ethic in Latvia are linked closely to those encouraging the fostering of family ties, Alongside the discouraging of abortion comes the encouragement of the use of natural family planning, with the Family Ecology Institute being the main promoter of this in Latvia. This country’s pro-life movement is currently strongly associated with Christianity, with a variety of denominations coming together to promote the pro-life cause.

Like many in the pro-life movement around the world, the ultimate aim of the pro-life movement in Latvia is to make Latvia a nation in which abortion is unthinkable.

Fr. Aivairs Licis is the chaplain to the pro-life movement in Latvia and secretary to the Archbishop. 

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Press Release: Oxford Students for Life Disappointed by the Passing of the Liberation Vision Motion by the SU

Oxford Students for Life are deeply disappointed by the passing of a controversial new motion at the SU council meeting on Wednesday evening.

The SU were implementing their ‘Liberation Vision’, which sets out their views regarding certain social and political issues.  The controversy mainly arose from the small print of the document, which suggested that societies, groups and individuals would have to adhere to the SU’s monolithic outline if they wished to work with them. Notably, the first point in the External Organisations section stated: “We will endeavour to only work with external organisations who agree to adhere to our Equality and Diversity code of practice”.  The last sentence of Appendix 2 of the liberation vision went on to say: “Oxford SU’s beliefs, priorities and resolutions for working to improve Equality and Diversity at the University of Oxford are outlined in its Liberation Vision. We expect all who work with Oxford SU to adhere to these values and reserve the right to refuse to work with those who do not.”

OSFL observes that such a motion is inherently difficult to revoke, since anyone who disagrees with it will be deemed as not adhering to the Liberation Vision values and hence no longer be in a position to effectuate change. This is highly alarming, and appears to blatantly ignore the report on freedom of speech in universities released by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in March of this year, which emphasised the dangers of “no platforming” and “safe space” policies to shut down free speech 1.

Before the motion was proposed, we were told that the next motion may be controversial and were asked to respect speakers, suggesting that the SU had predicted a certain level of opposition and was intent on rushing through the passing of the motion to prevent difficult points or questions being raised.

Members of OSFL and a number of others attending the meeting were concerned by what sort of things might count as ‘working with’ the SU, but we received little clarification on this matter.  When asked to amend the document to ensure it was clear that student societies could still engage with the SU without subscribing to its Liberation Vision, it was voted down.

Despite previous verbal assurances that the right to a fresher’s stall at the fair would still be available to societies who did not fully subscribe to the Liberation Vision, actual amendments to put this in writing in the motion were rejected.  This is particularly concerning for OSFL, as previous attempts have been made by the SU to try to censor the Freshers Fair and ban OSFL from appearing.  In 2014 the Student’s Union attempted to pass the following resolve: ‘Never to platform any group or organisation which provides directional advice around abortion or explicitly stands against women’s right to choose.’2On Wednesday evening, requests for clarification to protect the freedom of students and university societies were made repeatedly, but after rather rushed debate each one was refused by voters.  OSFL is now concerned about how the document may be used in the future to potentially discriminate against students or groups with beliefs outside of SU’s political and social agenda. Debate was further limited by a declaration that there would be no more amendments even though it seemed there were people in the room who still had questions and points they wanted to raise.

Ruth Bushell, president of OSFL, reports: ‘the SU essentially passed an incoherent motion which left many in the room confused and unclear about how this new Liberation Vision will affect the rights and freedom of students and societies at Oxford University.’

1) The Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report on freedom of speech in universities: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/589/589.pdf?utm_source=Oxford+Students+for+Life&utm_campaign=a1830afa68-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_24fd2e7b98-a1830afa68-288197693 [Accessed on 28/04/2018]

2) Written evidence contributing to the report on Freedom of Speech in Universities: http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/Human%20Rights%20Joint%20Committee/Freedom%20of%20Speech%20in%20Universities/written/75566.html?utm_source=Oxford+Students+for+Life&utm_campaign=a1830afa68-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_24fd2e7b98-a1830afa68-288197693 [Accessed on 28/04/2018]