Press Release from the Abortion Rights Campaign
– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
UNCHALLENGED CLAIMS MADE BY ANTI CHOICE ADVOCACY GROUPS AT CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY
The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) strongly condemns the untruthful and offensive statements made by some anti-choice groups presenting at the Fourth Meeting of the Citizens Assembly on the Eighth Amendment, and questions a format that allowed these statements to go unchallenged.
‘At one one point, Maria Steen of the Iona Institute made the outrageous statement that “Repeal means killing an infant for profit”. This is a direct insult to the thousands of people in Ireland who have had abortions, and to the many groups and individuals campaigning for a repeal of the 8th amendment.’ said Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for ARC.
‘The Iona Institute presentation also referred to those who choose termination of pregnancy in FFA cases as “condemn[ing their babies] to die unnaturally”. This is a grotesque insult to those who choose to travel for termination in these tragic cases.
‘We also object to the presentations given by representatives of “Women Hurt” and Youth Defence,’ Ms Kavanagh continued. ‘Dr Anthony Levatino of “Women Hurt” gave no examples of women who regret their abortions, and subjected the Assembly to a gratuitous and exploitative description of later-term surgical abortion procedures, giving absolutely no context for the complex circumstances in which these procedures take place.
Rebecca Kiessling gave a completely different presentation than the paper submitted to the Assembly by Youth Defence beforehand, and made a number of extraordinary and unsubstantiated claims, including the claim that “Sex traffickers and child molesters love abortion.”’
‘We’re also concerned that the voices of marginalised people affected by the 8th were not heard. While we commend the courage and choices of the women who gave personal testimony on Saturday 4 March, people whose immigration status does not allow them to travel, people without the means or ability to travel, women in the Traveller community and those who risk a jail sentence by importing medical abortion pills were not represented’ Ms Kavanagh said.
ARC commend the many members of the Citizens’ Assembly – who should not have been put in the position of having to debunk these false claims – who asked probing questions of anti-choice groups in the Q&A sessions. Questioning by members of the Assembly showed that representatives from the Pro-Life Campaign couldn’t provide evidence for their claims that Denmark and Iceland have ‘targets’ for ‘eliminating’ certain disabilities from their population.
Ms Kavanagh continued: ‘In the so-called ‘abortion debate, there are not two polar opposite but equally fundamentalist camps. This is a media narrative that has no basis in reality. On Sunday, the Coalition to Repeal the 8th, Doctors for Choice, Parents for Choice, NCWI, Amnesty Ireland, USI, IFPA, and Atheist Ireland gave well written presentations backed up by robust facts and research. Meanwhile the anti-choice side made many outrageous and false comments with either nonexistent or dubious sources. But they were given a platform, and in the name of “Balance” a false equivalence was drawn.’
ARC are extremely grateful to the 99 citizens and to Justice Laffoy for their continued commitment to seeing this process through. We recognise that an incredible burden has been placed on them and that they have sacrificed both their time and their energy to helping our country move forward. It is only right that these citizens’ time be respected and their intelligence not be insulted by having blatant falsehoods and misleading testimony presented to them as fact. We welcomed their interjections from the floor, but we feel that they should never have been put in that situation.
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Note to Editor:
– ARC’s submission to the Citizens Assembly included the personal stories of 60 people from all different backgrounds, it can be accessed by searching for ‘Abortion Rights Campaign’ on the Assembly website (www.citizensassembly.ie)
– While the Citizens Assembly organisers stated that it reserved the right to request citations for claims made by those presenting, there does not appear to have been any requirement for advocates to back up claims they made with facts. A more robust oversight process may have led to fewer outrageous and offensive claims of the type described above being made.