The three regional marches which took place in Cork, Galway and Bundoran (Co Donegal) on the weekend of May 20-22 were each attended by hundreds of people from across the regions. The Pro Life Campaign organised the marches to raise awareness about “Ireland’s spiralling abortion rate” and to press for proper resources to be put in place to support and inform women about positive alternatives to abortion.
Concerns were also raised by several speakers at the marches about the pressures being placed on doctors and nurses to assist in abortions, forcing them to act against their conscience and opposition to abortion.
A number of TDs addressed the events as well as well known pro-life medic Dr Calum Miller, who works in general surgery and as a research associate at Oxford University.
At all three events, Dr Miller shared his experience of becoming pro-life whilst a student in medical school in England. He told the assembled marchers that as a student he “could see that this was a living human being, with a heart that begins to beat at 2-3 weeks, a brain with brain waves detectable at 6-7 weeks, and an ability to feel pain from 10 weeks, or perhaps even earlier. I could see that there was no real difference between a baby inside or outside of the womb.”
Katie Fenton, speaking at the Cork March told those gathered that the government run My Options ‘helpline’ for women in unplanned pregnancies needs to be immediately reformed based on “the recent research by Students for Life which contains evidence of My Options counsellors advising women to book their first consultation with the abortion provider even when the women seeking help have stated clearly that they remain conflicted about whether to opt for an abortion or not.”
Ms Fenton said “there is no excuse for a taxpayer funded service to behave in this way” and she criticised the Minister for Health for refusing to answer questions in the Oireachtas on the matter.
Cork based medic Dr Brendan Crowley called for freedom of conscience protections to be “strengthened not weakened”, for healthcare workers who don’t want to be involved in abortions. He said the definition of abortion in the new law is “a procedure intended to end the life” of an unborn baby and remarked that this definition has nothing to do with healthcare and is clearly about ending human life, not protecting it.
Michael Collins TD for Cork South West told attendees at the Cork march: “I was absolutely shocked when I found out that under the new law babies have survived late term abortions and have been left to die unaided without receiving any medical care. This reality has been documented in medical journals. When I and other pro-life colleagues raised the matter in the Dáil, there was stunned silence. No one disputed what we said because they knew it was true. The fact that they don’t want to talk about it is very concerning for sure, but it’s also very revealing. The reason they don’t want to talk about it is because they don’t want the public to know what’s going on.”
At the Galway march, Corrinne Claffey told the gathering: “We are here today because we are heartbroken at Ireland’s spiralling abortion rate and the fact that over 20,000 unborn babies have lost their lives to abortion in the first three years of the new law taking effect. Women and their unborn babies deserve better than a system where all the focus is on abortion and where women facing an unplanned pregnancy are not even offered information about positive alternatives to abortion.”
The Galway event also heard from Jessica Tear, a young mother who spoke about her experience of becoming pregnant as a teenager. She described her 5 year old son as “my everything” and said she was horrified that situations like the one she found herself in are being used to push abortion.
Referring to the State run My Options ‘helpline’ she said: “It makes me very sad to think that there are women who find themselves in situations similar to mine who end up having abortion all because the State run My Options service didn’t meet their needs or tell them about the supports and options other than abortion that are available. Women and their unborn babies deserve better. There needs to be a total overhaul of how State funded counselling in the area of unplanned pregnancy operates.”
Galway East TD Seán Canney told marchers that the public were completely in the dark when it comes to “appalling tragedies happening under the law, like babies surviving late term abortions and being left to die unaided without receiving any medical care or assistance.”
He said the only reason someone like himself was aware of what was happening was because of the parliamentary questions that he and other Oireachtas colleagues were asking in the Dáil. NUI Galway student Luke Silke also addressed the Galway event.
At the march in Bundoran, Katie Ascough told attendees: “We are here to remind those in government that on the abortion issue the pro-life movement represents more than 1 in 3 voters, based on the 2018 referendum result. It is important also to point out that in some areas, there is overwhelming public support for the issues we are raising – like the finding from the recent Amárach poll showing that 89% of the public support women being offered information about alternatives prior to proceeding with an abortion.”
She continued: “Consequently, it is an unacceptable situation for the government to continue to exclude over a third of the electorate from having any say or even being represented when important policy decisions are being made with regard to abortion provision and the type of advice offered to women when they seek help when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. “
Mary T Sweeney from Donegal told the gathering that there was an urgent need for a counterbalance to the pro-abortion narrative being pushed in schools, explaining the full implications of abortion and the lasting implications of an abortion for both the mother and the unborn baby, and also the impact it has on fathers as well.
She said: “And yes, being out on the street like today has a place in all of this. We owe it to mothers and their unborn babies to make sure that abortion is never normalised in our society because it involves the ending of an innocent defenceless human life.”
Donegal Pro Life chairperson Margaret McGeehan paid tribute to all the pro-life work that is taking place around the country, and added: “Alas, it is sad that there is a big increase in the number of abortions in the country since legislation changed – it is a shame and sad, that supporters of abortion are putting pressure on doctors to help make abortions available. We have to support our doctors, nurses and our workers in the health service who believe in people’s dignity and the right to life. We will work together to nurture the culture of life again and to decrease the rate of abortions in the country.”
Cavan county councillor Sarah O’Reilly of Aontú told those in attendance: “We all know the challenges the pro-life movement faces. But we also know that we’re not going to rest until human life at its earliest stages of development is once again protected in law.
“As more and more people come to know the truth of what is happening under the new abortion regime, the pro-life movement will become bigger and stronger than ever. That’s going to take time to achieve but I have a feeling it will happen much sooner than some of our opponents think.”
She continued: “We know the public voted for repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The public never voted however for the extreme abortion regime that has taken hold. That was introduced and passed by members of the Dáil. It is one of the most extreme abortion laws anywhere in the world, where over twenty thousand abortions have taken place in just three years,. This is despite the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil promising that abortion would be ‘rare’ in the event of people voting for repeal. As someone who experienced an unplanned pregnancy in the past, I was apalled to learn recently that the government run My Options hotline advises women who are unsure about going ahead with an abortion to nonetheless book their first appointment with an abortion performing doctor. This is an abuse and betrayal of women and their unborn babies. The message we are sending today is simple. We will not be silenced or driven from the public square. We are going to insist on having proper representation at the decision-making table.”
All three marches attracted significant local media interest, including local radio interviews and local newspaper coverage.