Hundreds take part in anti-abortion rally outside Leinster House

Government excluding anti-abortion representatives from abortion law review process, event hears

The Government was accused of refusing to meet anti-abortion representatives as part of the review of abortion law in Ireland at a rally in Dublin on Saturday.

An independent review into termination of pregnancy services in Ireland is currently under way, three years since the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws. This gave women legal access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and later in pregnancy in cases where the woman’s life is at risk, or in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Independent TD Carol Nolan told a March for Life gathering opposite Leinster House, which was organised by the Pro-Life Campaign and attended by several hundred people, that there was “absolutely no excusing the way the Government is excluding the anti-abortion movement” from the three-year review process.

It was “wholly unacceptable for the Minister for Health to repeatedly meet with pro-abortion groups for their views on what should happen as part of the review, while refusing to meet with pro-life representatives”, she said.


“The All-Party Oireachtas Life and Dignity Group, of which I am a member, sought meetings with Minister Stephen Donnelly on the review taking place, but he refused to meet us,” she said. “They are hoping we will fall silent, but we won’t. In a democracy, we have every right to have our concerns represented at the decision-making table.”

Addressing attendees at the rally, most of them young people, she said “what is occurring under the new [abortion] law is truly horrifying and much worse than anticipated before the law took effect. As more and more people start to realise what’s going on and how they were lied to before the 2018 referendum, I am confident things will start to change for the better.”

She said “the voices of women who regret their abortions are not being listened to, or the voices of women who contemplated abortion and changed their minds at the last minute. A process that doesn’t actively encourage these women to share their testimonies can only be described as a charade.”

Senator Rónán Mullen told the rally that “this year our Government paid for 7,000 abortions, that’s 7,000 lives ended — and in the case of those children’s mothers, lives damaged — and we as a community must work so that people are healed, so that people receive support and we must work to bring down those numbers”.

It was “scandalous to think that of those 7,000, that doctors — admittedly only 7 or 8 per cent who do abortions — they got their money, but in 2,000 of those abortions they didn’t even bother reporting those terminated lives to the authorities the way they are supposed to do under the law. I think that tells you something about the callousness and the lack of regard for human life in a small section of the medical profession. And sadly it’s not something that our Government is going to put its foot down on in the near future.”

What was needed were people “to put the pressure on and be in touch with your local representatives and ask yourself, What can I do in the course of my busy life to make room for this great and noble cause”, he said.

“Others changed the law in our country and we lost one of the best things we had about our country because people colonised the idea of compassion and gave it a meaning it never had. There is no true compassion unless everybody is included in our society regardless of creed, colour, race, disability or their stage of life,” he said.

Senator Sharon Keogan was “absolutely heartened to see the amount of young people here today. There are times that that place in there [the Dáil] can be a very, very lonely House for politicians like us, politicians with a conscience”.

With support and “without the help of God up there, I certainly wouldn’t be able to have the courage to continue” or to address “those who may question what is happening to our children in gender clinics. So I appreciate all the support you give me and my colleagues here in the Dáil,” she said.

Former UCD students’ union president Katie Ascough told the rally that more than 20,000 had “lost their lives in the first three years of Ireland’s new abortion law”. She said “apparently the people running our country think that the best we can offer a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy are counsellors who facilitate abortion and have no experience in exploring other options”.

Research had revealed “a very clear and disturbing pattern of counsellors advising women who book their first appointment with an abortion-providing doctor, even in situations where the woman made it clear she was unsure that she wanted an abortion at all”, she said. “They get a fast-track route to abortion. This is an intolerable situation and it is happening every day in our country.”

Dr Brendan Crowley pointed out that “medicine has never been about deliberately ending life” and that “to deliberately end the life of an innocent, defenceless human being is a direct violation of these very principles and should never, ever be tolerated”.

The abortion law “forces all doctors to engage in non-evidence based practices which consistently end the life of one patient and is often very harmful to the woman. It very directly and intentionally tends to force doctors to radically violate their conscience and their most basic principles,” he said.

Autumn Lindsey, spokesperson for Students for Life of America, told the rally that “abortion advocates want you to play defence. So, play offence. They may have been able to pass a law, but they cannot change the culture you have created here in Ireland. Life will triumph over death, and we will see abortion abolished in Ireland.”

The March for Life rally was the fifth anti-abortion event this year. These include three regional marches in Cork, Galway and Donegal, organised by the Pro Life Campaign, and the Rally for Life in Dublin last July which was organised by the Life Institute.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times