Give pro-Repeal activists a level playing field: Guest blogpost in response to an Irish Times Article by Doris Murphy

Pro-choice Wexford image

In response to last week’s article in the Irish Times:

I live in Wexford, hardly a metropolitan bubble. I cofounded Pro-Choice Wexford and we invite all locals to our events. We have never insulted anyone for their beliefs, and are cognisant of how emotive this issue is. We are under no illusion that a referendum to Repeal the 8th Amendment would easily pass; the current government are reluctant to even allow a referendum. We’re working hard to explain why a referendum is needed.

We’re grateful to all of our supporters. We are not overly swayed by celebrity endorsements, but they have a platform that allows them to reach more people. This is why we laud “celebrities” (people) like Hozier, Gavin James, Cillian Murphy, Roz Purcell, Angela Scanlon, Louise O’Neill and Ellen Page for supporting the Pro-Choice Movement. However, in my opinion, the bigger stars are the ordinary people who have lived through abortions and have shared their story with the public.

I’ve always found this campaign to be very inclusive. You can actually talk to the people running it. I appreciate the comparison to Hillary Clinton, who ran a classy campaign, despite ardent tone-policing and misogyny. She was judged extremely harshly for being a woman , for being pro-choice, and for actually fighting for human rights and equality issues.

The Pro-Choice movement in Ireland is held to unreasonable standards in the media and is not allowed to be angry or passionate. We are criticised for alluding to blatant bias in media coverage while the tone of the other side is not questioned, nor are the ‘facts’ they present ⎯ many of which are contradicted by medical research. For example, the Sunday Business Post recently interviewed a Finnish researcher, Mika Gissler, whose work was quoted by Cora Sherlock as evidence that abortion causes psychological harm. “Unfortunately, the anti-abortion people have missed the main message of the study,” Gissler said to the newspaper. The same article reported that the authors of another international study into fatal foetal abnormalities had been misused by anti-abortion groups, with one of the chief scientists involved, Dr Andrew Watkins quoted as saying he was “hopping mad” when he saw how the study had been misused. Anti-abortion propaganda is apparently acceptable, but a woman telling her own lived experience is “too personal and biased”.

It is bizarre that a movement is castigated for making things personal or taking things personally when the issue is about people and their human rights. Repealers are framed as extremists rather than the human rights activists that we are. We are not automatons who can avail of 100% effective contraception. Even planned pregnancies can lead to unforeseen health issues, or couples can experience drastic changes in circumstances that preclude starting a family. No contraception is 100% effective. It is always worth remembering that not every foetus was conceived in consent and that the 8th Amendment has troubling effects on maternal care as a whole in Ireland – allowing healthcare workers to override a pregnant woman’s consent without medical cause

I understand The Irish Times must represent both sides, but the Editor must be diligent in checking the accuracy and intent of all featured pieces. Please consider which side of history you want to be on. Trust women. At least give us a level playing field. It’s not much to ask. Trust and respect women and their right to choose.