On the 21st of November, the Student Union was filled with a with roaring applause from hundreds of students, as Cardiff University’s pro-choice motion was passed with a majority vote. The result was monumental and a moment of overwhelming pride for Cardiff University’s students; especially women.
Initially, when I first decided to interview Isadora Sinha – the women who proposed the pro-choice motion to the Students’ Union AGM – I hastily wrote down a list of questions in excitement. All my questions were laced in post-victory glee, almost like interviewing a team captain after a win at the World Cup. However, upon learning of the abuse she has faced after the majority win at the AGM, my focus turned to her welfare. I want people to know who the woman behind this motion, the reason for her advocacy and explore the way in which she has been portrayed to simultaneously restrict individuals through one-sided articles.
Inevitably, not everyone was pleased with the outcome and few were left infuriated. Isadora experienced this first-hand, as one of the main advocates for the pro-choice motion at the AGM. The majority of students celebrated the motion, posting it on social media and sharing the news with friends and family. Although, a few claimed that this motion suppressed their pro-life beliefs and their right to spread that message. Isadora, in particular, faced a flood of backlash from a number of people; some of which was anything but civil. Therefore, I decided to sit down with her and have a conversation about the events that have transpired since the controversial vote.
A common misconception is that Isadora proposed the motion to the Student Union as a way in which to shut down the pro-life society and silence their beliefs. However, this is not true, Isadora said: “the society was honestly inconsequential to me, I would have done this eventually, they were just a little nudge.” Isadora has lived in Cardiff for almost five years now, during this time she has had several students approach her and express how they don’t feel supported at Cardiff University as women who have had abortions; a few of them felt as if they didn’t belong here at all. This is one of the primary reasons Isadora proposed her motion, to because she believes everyone has a right to an education and a future. She did this for these women, their partners and their families who believe bodily autonomy is a human right. To name just a few of who stood with Isadora, were Cardiff University’s feminism society and Christian Anglican Methodist society which she believed was “proof that religion and societal progress can co-exist”.
After the motion passed, those who felt defeated and restricted used the internet as a tool to berate Isadora. The messages she was receiving from people who did not agree with her and they were so disturbing that the Student Union told Isadora to stay safe and indoors if possible. One lady on the SPUC Facebook page said “these pro-aborts should be gassed and face a firing squad’”. Isadora exclaimed, “I’ve just exercised my democratic right, I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s almost like trying to punish someone for fighting for equality.”
While I was waiting in the never-ending line outside the Student Union of people waiting to get in to the AGM, I heard murmurs behind me of students questioning the relevance of the SU taking a stance on this issue. They believed that the SU should remain neutral on matters like this to avoid the cohesion of the academic and the political realms. However, Isadora firmly believes “if the law and the NHS support this, the SU has no reason not to”. The SU has taken stances on other important issues such as, racism and the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, it is only right that the bodily autonomy of women receives a discussion as well. The current information the Student Union provides about pregnancy and abortion is not adequate. Although, this motion could inspire a lot more support and care. Isadora said “the motion reflects the law as well as the majority of the way we feel, and that’s what democracy is about, it’s also aligned with medical facts, and some people are trying to throw around information that is not backed by robust scientific work.”
Upon reviewing the criticism of the motion, something become very clear, the belief that women should have the choice to make a decision about whether to have an abortion or not is often seen as the equivalent to holding up a “pro-abortion” flag. Isadora explained “people seem to think pro-choice is pro-abortion, which it’s not, it means if you want to keep the pregnancy or not, you have the right to choose.” The pro-choice does not demean the beliefs and choices or either pro-life or pro-choice parties, but simply and yet vitality states that people should have the freedom to have either stance.
The abuse Isadora faced and continues to face online is horrific and absolutely unfair. However, her being a woman of colour adds another complicated layer. I asked Isadora, as a brown girl myself, how it felt to take such a controversial stance living in a predominantly white country. Isadora said, “Having gone through so much as a brown woman in this country, including hate crime and discrimination, I know how to get through a situation and pull it together even if I’m frightened and/or nervous. My hand was shaking the entire time I was on stage, but no one could tell!”
What Isadora did was inspiring to say the least, and although the past few weeks have been turbulent for her and for many of us who supported her motion, it is a moment of triumph to witness the majority of Cardiff University students voting for our right to bodily autonomy. It speaks volumes about how we as a collective student body have the ability to create waves and stand up for causes that matter to all of us. And understandably a lot of us feel angered and tempted to respond with a massive retaliation banner in front of the main building but with a particular finger painted across it, however like Isadora calmly advised “don’t go insulting those who insult you, rise above it, respectfully debate, but as soon as it gets ugly, just exit the situation.”
Not everyone agrees one notion of progress, but continue to stand up for what you believe in whilst respecting the fact that no everyone will agree and that is what will create real change.