Oxford SU has passed a motion to subsidise Irish students’ travel home to the Republic of Ireland to vote in the upcoming abortion referendum.
The referendum, which is taking place on 25th May, will decide whether or not the government should repeal the 8th Amendment to the country’s constitution, which effectively bans abortion.
Oxford SU will allocate £500 from its discretionary funds to assist students in covering the cost of their travel home to the Republic of Ireland to vote in the referendum.
They will offer a maximum of £55 to individual students, which will then be matched by the NUS bursary.
The motion was passed unanimously, after three amendments were proposed and two were accepted.
The passed amendments mandated Oxford SU to ensure that anyone can access the funding regardless of which way they are voting, and to publish the funding information on the Oxford SU website. The third amendment, to publish anti-abortion information from campaigns such as ‘Save the Eighth’, was voted down 85% to 15%.
Oxford SU VP Women, Katy Haigh, told Cherwell: “Oxford SU has policy which mandates us to oppose any measures which make it more difficult for our student members to choose either to terminate a pregnancy or to carry it to term and to work to ensure that no additional restrictions are imposed at any level.
“I am very happy to have been able to support Irish students to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming Irish referendum by proposing this motion to council: the motion will provide up to £55 (which will be matched by the NUS travel subsidy scheme) to students who are eligible to vote but unable to finance their travel home to do so.
“Of course, as a pro-choice organisation, this motion came from the perspective of facilitating pro-choice allies to vote accordingly, but this funding would be available to all to facilitate the rights of our students to vote, regardless of the way in which they choose to do so.
“The bursary system, as per the amendment proposed in council, will operate without prejudice as to how students will vote in the referendum.
“However, I would encourage our student members to consider what council’s beliefs are about abortion rights and reflect upon their motivations before applying to this funding: the intention behind which is to fund travel for students with limited finances, and the values behind which are distinctly pro-choice.”
When asked for comment, WomCam’s cochairs and Irish activist Muireann Meehan Speed told Cherwell: “In two weeks times, Ireland will have a historic referendum on the 8th Amendment. For a long time, Ireland’s determination to deny women and people basic bodily autonomy, to subject us to cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, was our dirty little secret. However, due to the tireless work of activists both North and South, Ireland’s draconian abortion laws are on the agenda everywhere.
“The Oxford SU, by standing in solidarity with Irish students wishing to travel home to vote, is also standing shoulder to shoulder with the 170,000 Irish women and people who have been forced to travel to the UK since 1980, and also with the countless others who’ve been forced to break the law by taking the abortion pill at home, risking 14 years in prison by doing so.
“We are immensely proud of our SU for supporting this motion and moreover our endeavours to get Irish Students home to vote. Whether we are eligible to vote or not, the proposers of the motion are most certainly together for Yes. We have all been harmed by 8th, and we cannot accept another fifty years of the denial of choice. That is why we hope that the 8th amendment will be repealed – for care, compassion, and choice.”
The 8th Amendment, which was passed in 1983, “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
The maximum funding per student was decided due to Irish Electoral Law, which dictates that £110 is the maximum amount of money an individual can accept as a political donation without being registered as a third party.
The University declined to comment on the passing of the motion, and the ‘Repeal the Eighth’ and ‘Save the Eighth’ movements did not reply to Cherwell’s requests for comment.