Katie Ascough to campaign in abortion referendum

Former UCD student union president removed after students voted to impeach her

Former University College Dublin (UCD) Student Union president Katie Ascough said that she intends to campaign for the anti-abortion campaign in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment governing Ireland's abortion laws next year.

Ms Ascough who is a prominent anti-abortion activist, and the daughter of Tom Ascough, who sits of the Iona Institute board of directors, was impeached by UCD students last month.

The campaign to remove Ms Ascough from her role began after she removed a page on access to abortion information from the student union’s Winging It fresher’s magazine following legal advice. This meant the magazine had to be re-printed at a cost of between €7,000 and €8,000.

The information removed from Winging It - a magazine aimed at first year students - included the prices of abortion during different gestation periods in other countries, and a paragraph relating to how to obtain an abortion pill to use in Ireland.

While it is lawful to provide information in Ireland about abortions abroad, it is subject to strict conditions.

For example, detailed information about abortion abroad may only be made available by doctors, specific agencies or by individual counsellors.

The impeachment referendum started after a petition signed by 1,200 students.In total 4,540 students voted to impeach Ms Ascough, out of 6,572 students who cast a ballot, meaning a majority of 69 per cent were in favour of her removal.

Some 2,032 students voted against Ms Ascough’s removal as head of the union.

"Like many of my peers, I will be campaigning in the upcoming referendum," she told RTÉ's Marian Finucane Show on Saturday.

Ms Ascough recognised the fact that many Irish women travel to the UK currently to receive terminations and said Irish women must receive more support.

However, she dispelled the idea that Ireland should become like England and allow abortions to take place here.

“I don’t see the answer or the solution to that [ABORTION]to be to import England’s problem. In the UK, one in five pregnancies end in abortion and that’s a very high level of abortion and I do not think that’s what the Irish people want to see as a care here.

“What I would say and what we need to support women more and see better financial measures for single mothers and to improve our adoption services because they are abominable, and we need to show to true compassion to the women in these circumstance,” she said.

Legal advice

Ms Ascough said she was against abortion in cases of rape as she felt a child should not be “sentenced to death” for what their father has done.

“Rape is one of the most abhorrent crimes towards women and I completely condemn it. In fact I think we need to look at having more serious sentences for rapists in Ireland,”

Ms Ascough said she took the decision to remove the page on abortion from the student magazine after seeking legal advice. The lawyer stated he had “serious concerns” about the legality of providing the information on abortion services in the format proposed in the magazine under Irish law.

The information has been published in the 2016 version of the magazine.

Ms Ascough said she was not willing to face prosecution for something she believed was illegal.

“There was an article on the 19th of September, where some people were saying that I had broken my promise to delegate on the pro-choice issue. That I had betrayed the electorate and that I was censoring abortion issue. I felt that was quite unfair,” she said.

Ms Ascough said she had been alarmed by the bullying tactics of a group of students to try and discard a democratically-elected from the start of her term as student union president.

“I do not think it is fair to put pressure on someone else to break the law against their will. There was tension. I can’t even tell you the feeling I had in my stomact during those weeks. It was tense,” she added.

Ms Ascough said that she intends to pursue a career in journalism in the future as well as campaigning in next year’s referendum.