“I must state that the call for my impeachment is without legitimate cause,” said Katie Ascough in an open letter to UCD students.
“We don’t have to agree on the issue of abortion, but we should be able to respect each other,” she added.
Ascough said that the campaign to remove her began before she even took office.
“It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as (Student Union) President because of my views on abortion,” she said.
Ascough, who was elected student union president for the Irish college on March 9 of this year, faces potential impeachment for following legal counsel that advised her to remove information on obtaining abortions from the student handbook.
Abortion is illegal and unconstitutional in Ireland, and Ascough said she was told by legal advisers that the abortion information in the handbook could cost the school upwards of tens of thousands of euro in fines. Distribution of the illegal information could have also resulted in criminal convictions for dozens of school administrators, who also could have been fined up to €4,000 each.
“The main reason that a group of students are calling for my impeachment is because of my decision to not break the law and illegally distribute abortion information,” Ascough said in her letter.
She wrote that she “sought legal advice regarding the abortion information from the Union’s long-standing lawyer” who “advised that it would be prudent to avoid proceeding with the current handbook,” which contained information on the illegal procedure of abortion.
She also noted at the Board of Directors agreed with this decision, and supported the re-printing of the handbooks, which amounted to nearly €7,000. Ascough believed this cost was worth the potential risk of fines the school could have received if they left the handbooks as they were.
Additionally, she noted that the change to the handbook was minimal. In order to comply with legal standards, direct abortion information was removed and replaced with contact information to agencies who could provide that information.
“That was the alteration that was needed to stay within the law and not put up to two dozen people at risk of thousands in fines and permanent personal criminal convictions,” Ascough said.
According to The Guardian, 1,200 students have signed a petition calling for Ascough’s impeachment because of this move. The vote will take place on Oct. 25-26.
While Ireland is a traditionally Catholic country with laws that protect the unborn, the conflict seen on the campus of UCD points to the country’s growing tensions over abortion. Next year, Ireland will vote to potentially abolish the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which recognizes the rights of both pregnant woman and their babies in-utero.
Moving forward, Ascough hopes that students at UCD are able to use their votes to “build a fairer, freer and more democratic” university.
She listed the goals that she has accomplished since taking office, including the securing of funding for an affordable housing project for students, and discussed the projects she is hoping to accomplish in the coming month.
“I would be honoured to continue my hard work for UCD students and build on the achievements we have made at UCDSU so far,” she said.