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The magazine of Alliance Defending Freedom

Julia Rynkiewicz
Julia Rynkiewicz

My View: Should A Midwife Be Pro-Life? My University Said ‘No’

You might think a commitment to protecting unborn life would be an asset for a midwife.

You might think a commitment to protecting unborn life would be an asset for a midwife. In fact, that commitment almost ended my career before it began.

I had wanted to be a midwife since I was in my late teens and started to explore university courses. Pregnancy and childbirth were fascinating to me, and I'd always wanted to work in a health care setting. More and more, I felt called to take care of pregnant women and help bring life into the world.

I enrolled in the Midwifery course at the University of Nottingham (United Kingdom). But in my final year of training, I began to face discrimination because of my beliefs. The difficulties began with my decision to start a pro-life society on campus.

I had attended a weekend pro-life conference a few months before, and was so inspired by the wonderful people who spoke at the event. It was powerful to hear how ordinary people like me had done so many important things to support unborn life — like praying outside abortion clinics and starting pro-life societies. I knew I needed to do the same sort of thing.

I returned home from that weekend and decided to set up a pro-life society at my university. I gathered my friends, and we formed Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL). But our initial application to become a society was rejected by the Students’ Union, on the grounds that we conflicted with the university’s Equal Opportunities Policy. (I don’t think the university saw the irony of this reasoning.)

We appealed the decision, but our application was rejected a second time. Officers from the Students’ Union even organized a protest against NSFL outside the building where our application was being discussed. Some held posters reading, “Don’t tell me what to do” and handed out leaflets — “Your body, your choice.”

We submitted yet another appeal — this time with the help of ADF International, and the decision was overturned at last.

I simply wanted to live out my pro-life convictions, and I was punished for it.

As an official society, we were able to take part in the Freshers’ Fair, an annual event where new students can learn about university societies. I don’t think any of the other societies at the event could possibly appreciate just how grateful we were to be there. We had such a good day. Many people signed up to join our group, and others came by to ask questions. It seemed like everything would go smoothly after that.

Then the university came after me personally.

A few days after the fair, I received a letter from the School of Health Sciences informing me that I’d been suspended from my hospital placements — a vital part of midwife training. I was stunned. The suspension was immediate, and I’d received no warning that this was even being considered.

Normally, a student has to do something quite serious to be suspended immediately, like committing a crime or doing something negligent that would pose a serious risk to a patient or staff member. I asked the School for an explanation, but had to inquire again and again before I received one.

I learned that one of my lecturers had submitted a complaint with the midwifery school after seeing me at NSFL’s stall at the Freshers’ Fair and learning about my affiliation with a pro-life society. The lecturer suggested that my professional suitability as a midwife should be reexamined.

My case would be decided by a Fitness to Practice Committee, through a process that would ultimately take four months. While I waited for a decision, I had the chance to read the report that had been produced for the investigation. I read shocking things that people had saidabout me — people I should have trusted, people I did trust.

I was really surprised by one line in particular, declaring it was inappropriate for me to be studying to be a midwife while holding such strong “anti-abortion” views. You would think a love for unborn children would be a natural part of being a midwife. It seemed paradoxical that this could actually ruin my chances of helping pregnant women bring their babies into the world.

You would think a love for unborn children would be a natural part of being a midwife.

The suspension caused me so much stress and anxiety. I was worried about the implications for my future. Would the record on my fitness to practice hinder my ability to find a job as a midwife?

I still had to attend all my lectures, but I felt so unmotivated to continue studying. I’d sit in the back and not participate in what was going on. My grades went down. The whole ordeal made me doubt whether I really wanted to be a midwife.

Ultimately, ADF International helped lift my suspension from my hospital placements. The university agreed that I had indeed done nothing wrong. But because of my four-month suspension, I was unable to complete all my required assessments, and my graduation had to be delayed a year.

Putting my life on hold because of the investigation was really difficult, both mentally and emotionally. I simply wanted to live out my pro-life convictions, and I was punished for it. I filed a complaint with the university, because what I went through felt unfair and unjust. After reviewing my complaint, the university offered an apology and a settlement.

I hope my case helps bring about change on university campuses, where censorship has been steadily increasing across Europe. Many students are afraid that their views could be considered “unacceptable” by their universities. Some fear their professors might treat them differently if they express their real opinions.

My settlement demonstrates that the university’s treatment of me was wrong — and while I’m happy to move on, I hope this means that no other student will have to experience what I did. Students should not be afraid of expressing their values and beliefs.

A university should be the place where they are invited to do just that.