Group expelled from Acadia Students’ Union
Recent news has brought Acadia University into the spotlight. On September 1, the Acadia Students’ Union (ASU) revoked the society status of Acadia Pregnancy Support (APS) after allegations that the group was handing out anti-choice propaganda to clients considering abortion.
In speaking with the CBC, fourth year student Kendall Jones shared her experience seeking support from the group. In 2015, worried she was pregnant, Jones found the Acadia Pregnancy Support office in the ASU.
She was only looking for a pregnancy test, but when she revealed that she would likely consider abortion an option if it came back positive, she was handed a pamphlet outlining abortion risks instead.
APS, led by students but funded by the Valley Care Pregnancy Centre, advertised itself as providing “love, acceptance and non-judgmental support” to students. Christian in their constitution, the group claimed to serve all people, and invite all people to participate.
Their services included free pregnancy tests and support for students “carrying their pregnancy to term” while continuing education. Despite allegations, Bill Davenport, director of the Valley Care Pregnancy Centre, is adamant that “Acadia Pregnancy Support has nothing to do with abortion.”
Davenport also says that the group’s expulsion from the ASU is “just really sad.” The group was supposedly working to create a proposal for childcare on campus - something Acadia is, unfortunately, lacking.
Davenport also suggested that the group’s raison d’être was spurred from a lack of available resources for students, though in speaking to some of the school’s current students, it is evident that Acadia does have many other resources that strive to support students through pregnancy. According to staff and students, the Women’s Centre, as well as the Dennis Clinic and Counselling Centre, both offer services to support students dealing with pregnancy while at school.
Acadia student Sophie Chambers states that though she never accessed the group’s services, she’s “really ashamed” of the allegations that have been tied to it, and how they reflect on the school. “Acadia is such a welcoming and accepting school,” she said, and Acadia Pregnancy Support “did not carry that standard into their group.”
Chambers and Jones are only two of many students who opposed the group’s position on campus. According to an article published by the CBC, the ASU’s former executive had received a number of complaints, prompting them to reach out to this year’s acting president, George Philp. Philp has refused to speak to The Xaverian about the matter, though he has previously stated that the ASU is “investigating the matter,” and other sources have confirmed that the group has been stripped of its designation as an internal organization.
Students weren’t alone in their concerns. According to Dr. Zelda Abramson, Associate Professor of Sociology at Acadia University, ever since the group first appeared on campus
“there was deep concern among many faculty members that counselling for pregnancy should not be from an anti-choice ideology.” Though the group offered reassurance that all options would be available to students seeking their services, Abramson says that this was not the case. Looking at stories like Jones’, this becomes all the more evident.
On top of the group’s supposed false advertising, the medical information that it provides is, according to a number of experts, questionable at best. Dr. Sarah Rudrum, Assistant Professor of Sociology, points out that the group’s materials “include medically inaccurate information about abortion that focuses on risks and fails to identify how to access abortion services.”
She also brings up a valuable point about client safety, sharing that “providing quasi-medical services such as testing and counselling can lend a sense of legitimacy, but pregnancy centers are not clinics and are not subject to the same checks and balances that govern medical service provision.”
Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, a gynecologist in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, agrees. Pamphlets given out to students like Jones included information citing abortion as a factor increasing a woman’s risk of breast cancer, which MacQuarrie says is not medically accurate.
MacQuarrie shared with CBC that Valley Care, where Acadia Pregnancy Support sources their information, shares more information and studies referenced by anti-abortion organizations than from trustworthy medical organizations such as the National Institutes of Health.
Despite having been expelled from the ASU, the Acadia Pregnancy Support Group remains active online and on campus.
Davenport shared that his team had recently surveyed students to gauge interest in participation and claims that 50% of students surveyed were interested in joining the group; the other 50% of respondents cited lack of free time as reason for not getting involved. The group currently has no returning members from previous years.
StFX Health and Counselling would like to assure students that should they need support, they can find nonjudgmental, confidential services here on campus.
Margaret McKinnon, director of Health and Counselling, shared the following statement with The Xaverian Weekly:
“At the StFX Health and Counselling Centre, students’ health and wellbeing are our greatest priority, including when students come to us because of unplanned pregnancy. Our services are inclusive and nonjudgmental, and we ensure that students receive accurate information about all their options, so they can make informed decisions about their health care. We provide the highest standards of care at the Health and Counselling Centre, and we support and protect students’ rights to respect and dignity, regardless of their health care choices.”