A Rally For Life, organised by anti-abortion groups, took place in Dublin on Saturday afternoon with participants celebrating the US supreme court’s recent decision to strike down Roe v Wade.
While there was no official estimate as to how many people attended the rally, the number easily ran into the thousands with the crowd stretching the length of O’Connell St from the monument to Charles Stewart Parnell close to the Garden of Remembrance to the statue of Daniel O’Connell by the Liffey.
“Bye Bye Roe Hello pro-life future” read many of the placards being handed out by organisers as the rally got under way while a young woman with a megaphone grew hoarse as she encouraged marchers with the chant “Roe v Wade is overturned, come on Ireland it’s your turn.”
There was no counter-protest, although a lone woman called Kate Murphy did stand close to O’Connell Bridge as the marchers filed past holding up a banner which read “The Christian Far Right Can Go And Sh*te”, a sign which attracted some disapproving looks and the occasional comment of condemnation.
When one man berated her, she said, “We’ve already voted darling,” to which he responded, in error, “so have the Americans”.
On a stage in the shadow of the Custom House, speakers heralded the efforts of anti-abortion campaigners in the US after the striking down of the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, and promised that Ireland would reverse the decision to legalise abortion following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
The Irish 2018 referendum resulted in the repeal of that amendment — which had placed a constitutional right to life on both the pregnant woman and the foetus. The subsequent Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 came into force in 2019 and allows for terminations up to 12 weeks gestation and later in circumstances such as a risk to health or if there is a fatal foetal abnormality.
The founder and director of anti-abortion group Precious Life Bernadette Smyth told the crowd it was the “pro-life generation” and said, in the wake of the US supreme court ruling, anti-abortion campaigners across the US had “taken on a new level of hope and joy”. She said “today we share their joy. We commend and applaud all the pro-life groups in the US and we now celebrate the beginning of the end of abortion”.
She vowed “to make abortion in Ireland north and south” illegal and, directing her comments at Sinn Féin’s leaders on both sides of the Border, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill, she said legislation had been introduced in Ireland to “murder little babies in the womb but, trust me Sinn Féin, our day will come”.
The leader of Aontú, Peader Tobin, a former member of Sinn Féin, said in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade the “tide is starting to turn” as he compared the anti-abortion groups to the “abolitionists who brought the slave trade to an end” in the US.
In advance of the rally the Catholic Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh Archbishop Eamon Martin described recent developments in the US as “hopeful and encouraging”.
He was speaking at a Mass in St Saviour’s Church, Dublin. “Often you face setbacks, because the pro-life message is countercultural, and is falsely portrayed as negative, ‘anti-women’, ‘anti-choice’, or lacking in compassion,” he said.
“Sometimes, as in the recent decision of the United States supreme court on Roe v Wade, there are hopeful and encouraging signs that the context is shifting and that the rebuilding of a culture of life is possible.
“We know, of course, that the right to life is not given to us by any constitution or by any law. All human beings have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, young or old, born or unborn.”
He said the promises of help for women in crisis were made during the referendum campaign but “it seems that a mother in distress is often left feeling that her only option is to choose to end the life of her unborn baby girl or boy”.
He said there were many questions about the legislation introduced three years ago such as what options were offered to people during the three-day reflection period.