University College Dublin (UCD) students have voted against the adoption of a neutral stance by their Students’ Union on the issue of abortion. The referendum failed with 64% voting against neutrality and 36% in favour.
The failure of the referendum means UCDSU will keep its pro-choice stance that was adopted following a Union Council motion in 2014.
Polling took place over Wednesday and Thursday in a number of locations across campus. Students were asked on the ballot: “Do you agree that UCD Students’ Union should adopt a neutral stance on the abortion issue?”
The referendum was announced by UCDSU on October 21st. This came following a petition launched by UCD Students for Fair Representation. Needing 972 signatures to call a referendum, the group had collected approximately 1,000 signatures when they submitted the petition to the SU last month.
The group, established in September, challenged the constitution of the SU on the basis that, if students do not agree with the SU’s stance on abortion, they are not being represented.
The SU’s current pro-choice stance was established on the basis of a referendum in 2013. In that vote, the ballot offered four options: a stance supporting the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013; a policy of legalising abortion in Ireland upon the request of the woman; a policy against the legalisation of abortion; and a neutral stance.
In the 2013 referendum, 73% of students voted for one of the two pro-choice options, with 45% voting in favour of the union lobbying for a policy of legalising abortion on the request of the woman. 19% voted in favour of a neutral stance, and 8% voted for a policy against the legalisation of abortion. This stance was then formally adopted in a 2014 Union Council.
According to the UCDSU website, “While it is possible to submit a number of mandates to Council which build upon the general policy line established in 2013, the focus of the Students’ Union is primarily to repeal the 8th amendment.”
The SU did not comment on the referendum throughout the campaign, as they are obliged to maintain neutrality during SU referendum campaigns.