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UCDSU president defends removal of abortion information from fresher's magazine

UCDSU president Katie Ascough said the decision was “in line with legal advice”.

Image: Niall Carson via PA Images

THE PRESIDENT OF UCD Student’s Union has defended her decision to remove a page about access to abortion from a magazine handed out to new students.

Katie Ascough, president of UCDSU, said she took the decision to retract the information after seeking legal advice from the union’s lawyer.

According to the University Observer, the information on page 59 of the Winging It magazine provided information about obtaining an abortion safely, a price list for different clinics outside Ireland, and information about purchasing abortion pills online.

The lawyer came to the conclusion that one piece of the two-page feature on crisis pregnancies was in breach of the Abortion Information Act of 1995, which can result in fines of up to €1,900.

Ascough is an active pro-life campaigner. She is the daughter of Tom Ascough, a board member of the Iona Institute.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Ascough said that it was only after the magazines were delivered to the SU that a staff member raised the potential illegality of its content to her. From there, she sought the legal advice and discussed the situation with her fellow sabbatical officers.

“Since elected, I have carried out my duties as president in keeping with the UCDSU Constitution, which clearly states I am responsible for the administration of the Union,” Ascough said.

In line with the legal advice obtained, and with agreement from the Board of Directors to follow that legal advice, I would have been acting imprudently to put the Union and individuals at risk by facilitating the distribution of this illegal information.

“Therefore, I made the decision to redact the mentioned content,” she said.

According to the University Observer, four UCDSU sabbatical officers were opposed to Ascough’s decision to reprint the magazine.

Ascough said that they “have every right to disagree” with her on the matter and that she “understands their reasons for doing so”.

Despite objections from her co-workers, Ascough said: “I stand firm that this issue was not in the realms of my delegating an abortion issue but was my stepping up and leading as the president to ensure we are not putting ourselves or students at risk.”

In November 2016, 64% of the UCD student body voted to retain the union’s pro-choice stance.

With reporting by Gráínne Ní Aodha

Read: No second Jobstown trial as all charges set to be dropped

More: ‘Fair, balanced, impartial’: Chair defends Citizens’ Assembly at Oireachtas abortion committee

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