Voices from ‘Rally for Life’: ‘If something is growing it is alive’

Participants outline why they are mobilising to retain the Eighth Amendment

Thousands of people from all across Ireland have taken part in an anti-abortion demonstration entitled the ‘Rally for Life’ in Dublin city centre. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Tens of thousands of people took part in Saturday’s “Rally for Life”, an anti-abortion demonstration held in Dublin city centre.

Participants told The Irish Times why they took to the streets to call for the retention of the Eighth Amendment, which guarantees an equal right to life for the mother and the unborn.

Lourda Dunne, from Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, said her desire to see the Eighth Amendment retained stemmed from the “wonderful bond” she shares with her sister Mary, who was born with Down syndrome in 1968.

“Mary is the happiest person with everything to offer this world,” she said. “She has provided for us the most wonderful family unit, being the eldest of four sisters. She has been a wonderful role model, showing us what the gift of life is, what love and joy she can bring to everyone’s life. Mary is always full of adventure, wondering where the next holiday will take us.


“I am deeply saddened to think that many other families in this country may not experience what I have.”

Dr Orla Halpenny, of the Doctors For Life group, said a "substantial" number of doctors will not want to be involved in a GP-led abortion service should the Eighth Amendment be repealed in the forthcoming referendum.

“I’m lending my support to leave the Eighth in place because once we repeal it the life within the womb has no constitutional protection,” she said. “There is some disquiet among the GPs I have spoken to, they don’t want to be involved in a GP-led service.”

Ger Mahon, from Ballyvaughan in Co Clare, said he recently began volunteering with a local group canvassing door to door to save the Eighth Amendment, which he described as a “voyage into the unknown”.

He said his group were received on doorsteps with “positivity, encouragement and courtesy”.

“The issue of unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks was of major concern and some people were shocked that abortion would be available up to full term of pregnancy in some instances,” he said.

Nurses for Life

Marie Donnelly, who is from Co Kerry and chairs the Nurses for Life group, said her colleagues on the wards were nervous about what might happen if the Amendment is repealed.

“None of us want to be involved in taking a life,” she said. “Science shows us there’s a life there at conception. If something is growing it’s alive. It’s very hard to say someone with a heartbeat isn’t alive.”

Amanda Gallagher, from Ballisodare, Co Sligo, said she had experienced a miscarriage 14 weeks into a pregnancy and that holding “the tiniest, most perfect person in the palm of my hand” was a moment that galvanised her anti-abortion views.

“Words cannot describe how beautiful she was. The memory of her is etched in my heart and mind forever,” she said. “All the pain I was in seemed to disappear. She was the most perfect, tiny, fully formed person you can imagine.”

Catriona O’Sullivan, a mental health nurse from Co Kerry, said her anti-abortion views arose from an unplanned pregnancy when she was 18 and still in secondary school.

“It was quite a scary time, a lot of people were pushing me toward abortion, they thought my life would be better without having a child to look after,” she said. “I was full steam ahead with the idea.”

Ms O’Sullivan said she spoke to her mother about it and then decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. Her daughter is 14-years-old now.

“I think there’s this initial fear you get when you find out you’re pregnant unexpectedly, the stigma of being on your own, that’s still there,” she said.