In Ireland, abortion activists are trying to unseat a pro-life student leader for heeding the country’s abortion laws.
Katie Ascough, president of University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU), is fighting to retain her office because she refused to illegally distribute abortion information in a student guide.
During her campaign for president, Ascough’s pro-life advocacy became an issue of concern for some among the broadly pro-abortion University College Dublin (UCD) student population. She responded with a pledge to refrain from imposing her views on the union if elected and in March was elected head of UCDSU.
As president, one of Ascough’s responsibilities was overseeing publication of Winging It, the union’s annual student handbook for incoming freshmen.
The guide, under development as she entered office, contained information on how and where to access abortion — a violation of Irish law.
According to Ascough, she was aware the handbook included abortion information but didn’t know that distribution of the information was illegal. Only after the book was published, she said, did a member of the editorial staff notify her of potential legal problems.
She sought legal advice from the union’s attorney, who suggested she would be wise to cease production of the handbook in its current form. Ascough decided to follow his advice. The tainted copies of Winging It were withheld from distribution.
It was determined that the cost of reprinting the handbooks without the illegal references to abortion would total roughly €7,000 ( $8,300).
Ascough recommended to union officers that they reprint the book online to avoid the cost. But according to her testimony, the officers insisted on moving forward with amending and reprinting the handbook.
Ascough acquiesced and the union incurred thousands of euros in unexpected costs.
The incident triggered a storm of criticism from pro-abortion students, who accuse her of being ideologically motivated. Ascough rebuked these assertions, insisting her decision to amend and reprint the handbook was not a “moral issue, but a legal one.”
Ascough took to social media to defend her decision, explaining it was based on “the extent of the risks associated with illegally distributing the abortion information.”
Each person involved in the decision to publish the information and/or involved in distributing the books would have been at risk of up to €4,000 in fines each, a personal criminal conviction and, if prosecuted, the Union could also incur thousands in legal fees. Those at risk could have included the board of directors (six volunteering professionals), up to six or more staff members, five sabbatical officers and the volunteers who helped us hand out the books. Therefore, the maximum possible fine to the Union was tens of thousands of euro, as well as the risk of personal criminal convictions for up to two dozen people. … this was not something I was able to stand over, and so I decided to follow the legal advice offered by the Union’s lawyer.
But student abortion activists are having none of it. The UCD for Choice is charging Ascough with “undemocratic” behavior and has called for her impeachment.
A vote on whether to remove her from office is scheduled for October 25th and 26th. Until then, as stipulated in the UCDSU bylaws, Ascough has been placed on leave.