As a pro-choice activist, a Right2Life poster advertising a public meeting caught my attention. Naturally, I was curious as to what the other side of the on-going campaign had to say. I decided to attend the meeting, respectfully, quietly and making no disruptions throughout the duration of it.
A lavish venue
I entered the hotel, walked up the stairs and what immediately struck me, was that the people in front of me were those of the elderly demographic. When I took my seat, it was evident that the audience was dominated by 70% elderly men. There was maybe five or six women of childbearing age. Two of these women had babies with them, no more than a year old. Perhaps this acted as a form of propaganda. 8pm on a Friday night would not be the most conventional time to bring your child to a public meeting. Or perhaps they could not find adequate childcare, another matter on which this State fails women. There was also five or six priests scattered throughout the audience. The attendance of the clergy was a clear reminder of the dominance of the Catholic Church in the lives of women, and the urgent requirement for religious interference to be removed from health matters.
The speakers consisted of a doctor (whose name I do not recall), Niamh Ui Bhriain, spokesperson from the Life Institute, and a local TD, Peadar Tóibín. The doctor went on to say any self proclaimed democratic TD who is pro-life and supports a referendum is full of “crap” (direct quote). This statement was met with cheers, whistles and applause from the audience.
The second speaker, Niamh Ui Bhriain, used persuasion techniques that would make anyone who is on the fence about abortion think that it was either her way or the highway. She began sentences with “Would you agree that…” and finishing them off with “isn’t that right?” She called the possibility of an abortion referendum a “ludicrous situation”. She encouraged the attendees not to let the belief of “free, safe, legal” abortions become the majority. The spokesperson then threw in a statement saying that women who have abortions are more likely to become depressed. However, she failed to mentioned that the stigma and shame this country asserts on women who have abortions could be the real cause of their depression and distress.
I was disappointed to find my local political representative, Peadar Tóibín, not only in attendance, but speaking at this meeting. This was a strange occurrence as this representative is from the political party, Sinn Féin, who is in favour of repealing the 8th amendment, under certain circumstances. This TD, like his fellow speakers, once again neglected to remember that this is an issue that affects ordinary people. He criticised the Citizens Assembly, stating that the Dail is the citizens assembly. I’m not sure if a group of people, who are 78% male and who are paid a very large salary can truly relate to women’s lives being affected by their lack of bodily autonomy.
Pro life views on abortion
The pro-life slogan “love both” could not be anymore inaccurate. How can you love both the woman and the unborn, when there is a blatant disregard and disrespect for the ten women a day who travel abroad to access abortion services? How can you love both when you fail to mention the three women a day who order abortion pills online from doctor led websites, and in doing so, risk a fourteen year prison sentence? The inability to empathise with women who find themselves dealing with crisis pregnancies is evident from the rhetoric that was used, and shows how out of touch the pro-life campaign is with the lives of ordinary citizens. In 2016, 3,265 women travelled abroad to the UK to access abortion services. Where is the love for these woman, their partners, and their families?
After the speeches, there was a Q&A. A local priest claimed that anyone who votes for abortion is ignorant. A lady pointed to myself and my two friends and asked how do we convince people our age that we must keep the 8th amendment in place. The meeting was soon over and on my way out, I was followed by a lady who asked to spread the word on social media, as “young and trendy” people have influence on social media. So here is me, sharing the message of the pro-life campaign. They use out-dated facts, don’t consider the reasons why their statistics seem too good to be true, are out of touch with ordinary people and mock those who oppose them.