Former UCDSU President Katie Ascough has been selected as a recipient of the Westminster Award for Human Life, Human Rights, and Human Dignity. She will be receiving the award for her “integrity, courage, and public witness in favour of the open society, and the equality and right to life of unborn children.”
Ascough was impeached last October, following her decision to withdraw the “Wingin’ It in UCD” handbooks from circulation, so that a page providing abortion information could be redrafted and the books reprinted, the total cost of which came to €8,000.
During the impeachment campaign, Ascough said she was being “bullied” for holding pro-life views. Many who campaigned in favour of impeachment maintained she should be impeached as she was allowing her pro-life views to affect her actions as President of a pro-choice union.
Ascough has denied claims that the information was removed due to her own pro-life views. She has said that she made the decision as distributing the information was illegal, in breach of the 1995 Abortion Information Act, and that thereby anyone distributing the books could be fined “up to €4,000.” She consulted with UCDSU’s lawyer Richard Hammond prior to making the decision, who provided a letter of legal advice where he said: “The prudent course of action would be avoid proceeding with the current handbook, whether through redesign… or cancellation.” The final draft of the handbooks was not shown to Hammond before going to print.
The Westminster Award for Human Life, Human Rights, and Human Dignity is presented by the UK group ‘Right to Life,’ in honour of their founder, Phyllis Bowman. The award began in 2013, following his death in 2012. Phyllis Bowman was also a founder and director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) who took legal action against UCDSU in 1989 for publishing abortion information in their “Welfare Guide.”
On the Right to Life website, they say: “Since her impeachment, Ascough has spoken in favour of freedom to speak and to associate on campus for those with views that do not reflect the Student Union orthodoxy, such as right-to-lifers, becoming a symbol of the difficulties and determination of the student right-to-life movement. Ascough has also signalled her intention to campaign in favour of Ireland retaining the Eighth Amendment.”
The award recipient is “chosen by the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group and the Trustees of Right To Life, having taken advice from senior MPs and Peers in both Houses of the Westminster Parliament.”