Oxford Students for Life 2015/16: Reflections on the Past Year

This is the text of the speech delivered by Johnny and Jo, the outgoing OSFL Presidents, at the OSFL AGM

4 years ago, my friend Amy and I were doing an early morning soup run for the homeless around Oxford. We got chatting and she mentioned that she wanted to get a pro-life society running at the university and, in my naïve keenness, I offered any assistance she might need. And thus we found our first President and Secretary – the beginnings of Oxford Students for Life, the planting of the seeds of life! From the many conversations that we went on to have and the grand plans we discussed, I couldn’t imagine that OSFL would be where it is today.

We have gone from a mailing list of just 50, comprising mainly our friends as we hadn’t yet launched the society publicly, to a mailing list of over 600 names (I definitely don’t have that many friends!). From our initial trepidation faced with the opposition of governing bodies such as OUSU, we have gone on to build a great relationship with their Student Parent and Carers Officer. We’re so proud to have a number of great supporters who have shown such willingness to defend OSFL and the pro-life cause, as even the past week has shown, when with only a couple of hours notice a large group turned up to vote against an OUSU motion affiliating themselves with Abortion Rights.

This year, the society has held its first ever debate on assisted suicide and, with a very distinguished panel of professors and doctors, it was a great success! We have run another pro-life feminism week, hosting via Skype all the way from Texas the incredibly insightful and entertaining New Wave Feminists, and gained much important information in our Student Parent Hackathon which we are in the process of using to lobby colleges so that they improve their facilities for student parents. This year, a particular focus has been on equipping our supporters so that we are able to effectively communicate the pro-life message through our friendships and conversations. We welcomed back OSFL founding member Greg Jackson for two great apologetics workshops on the beginning and end of life, leaving us all far more confident to broach the topics in conversation with friends. The focus on community and our own supporters continued to grow through our brilliant college reps, as well as through termly socials, which culminated on a punt at the start of 7th. It has been so encouraging to meet so many people eager to promote the value of human life.

I would like to introduce now our newly elected committee members before Jo says some very important thank you’s. This committee is entirely new and so we are particularly looking forward to all of the new experience and enthusiasm that they will bring to OSFL. We are very excited to welcome Georgia Clarke and Ben Conroy as our new co-Presidents. We have every confidence that they will lead OSFL from strength to strength, along with Liesje Wilkinson, Henry Drysdale, and Anna Branford who make up the rest of the committee. Thank you all of you for taking up the baton and for joining us in this work. We can’t wait to see what you have planned and will always be there to offer support!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a few thank you’s are in order. Firstly to Spud, our dear senior member and biggest fan (he even got us mentioned in a book! The name of OSFL is in print!): thank you for your encouragement and support. To Meg, our poster-maker; to Isabelle, for printing all of those posters and sending them round – you have been an excellent head college rep; to Molly, our blog editor-extraordinaire; to Catherine, for booking many a room; Nathan, our brilliant debate chair; to our college reps, without whom we would not be able to reach so many people; to Toby, Sam, and anyone who has ever liked or shared one of our posts, who has invited friends to our events or come along themselves (special mention to Dane with his 100% attendance record!); our thanks too to the Alliance of Pro-life Students for the support that they give to all pro-life societies and all the great work that they do ensuring the establishing and long running of the best societies around!

And last but not least, I must thank those I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year. Thank you to Josh and Lucia, our medics in residence. Not only have you brought with you the authority and experience of your studies but, with quiet diligence and a heroic willingness to attend 7am meetings, you have helped build up OSFL this year and for that, I am so grateful.

It has been a privilege to be involved with this society during my time at Oxford. Though I may have spent more time planning OSFL events than reading Baudelaire, I do not regret it and would do it again. I can tell the new committee that you are about to take the reigns of the most important society at the university and, though you may never know it, you may help save a life in the process. What a thing to be a part of! The other night at our end of year committee dinner, we were speaking of Wilberforce and the making of history – well, friends, OSFL is making history!

Here’s to the future of OSFL – it’s going to be a bright one!