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Monday, November 4, 2013

A Time Of Challenge - Pro Life Campaign National Conference 2013

by Cora Sherlock

Energised, focused and organised, the Pro Life Campaign’s 2013 National Conference in the RDS on Saturday, 12th October celebrated the groundswell of public support and momentum generated last year, acknowledged the challenges ahead and announced several new Campaign initiatives. 

Wendy Grace welcoming delegates to the Conference

Many of the 600 attendees were to the fore-front of the Campaign against the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill, which acted contrary to medical evidence and introduced abortion for the full nine months of pregnancy.  The theme of the 2013 Conference was “A Time Of Challenge, A Time Of Hope”, and it proved to be one that captured the mood of the room perfectly. 

Spontaneous bursts of applause greeted the video montage showing the events of the past year.  Images of the tens of thousands of pro-life campaigners that gathered in Dublin in January, June and July flashed up on the screen, followed by memories of the more somber moments like the all-night vigil held at the Dáil to witness the passing of the Bill.  The vigil was a moving tribute to a protest heard around the world.  In the RDS, the response from the audience was one of continued support and protest to this supremely unjust piece of legislation.

An excellent roster of speakers went on to provide a roadmap for the Pro Life Campaign’s future plans, including national and global initiatives.  Caroline Simons, Legal Consultant to the Pro Life Campaign, was up first, to highlight the movement’s influence in the European Union where the “One of Us” Campaign is among the first European Citizens’ Initiatives.  This write-in campaign has obtained more than 1.5 million signatures, reaching the quota required in 17 EU countries to press for legislative affirmation of the protection of the human embryo. 

Caroline Simons, Legal Consultant to the Pro Life Campaign 

In the Irish context, it is perhaps the new Grassroots Campaign which will bear most fruit and Ms. Simons spent some time explaining how the Campaign intends to work towards reaching all those who are deeply saddened and dismayed at this government’s betrayal of the most basic right of all – the right to life.  She promised that this new campaign will extend through every city, town and village – plus all the roads along the way! – to ensure that the pro-life majority have their voices heard.  Contact info@prolifecampaign.com to find out how you can get involved in this exciting new initiative!

Steven Ertelt, Founder and Editor of LifeNews.com, a US-based pro-life online news source, placed the Irish campaign in an international context.  He urged participants to keep heart.  Despite challenges, the pro-life message is taking root in the US which can act as a model for Irish pro-life campaigners who should not be disillusioned when the pro-life message seems lost.  Steven told the room “A report by Planned Parenthood’s former research arm found that the number of abortions nationwide in the US have fallen to their lowest point in 36 years!  The pro-life laws we are passing in our nation have worked!”  Steven encouraged attendees to keep the pressure on. 

Steven Ertelt of LifeNews.com addresses the Conference

There was an buzz in the air as Caroline Simons stepped up to introduce Deputy Terence Flanagan and Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames to the Conference.  As two of the members of the Oireachtas who lost the Fine Gael Party Whip for their refusal to vote in favour of the legislation, they received a rapturous welcome from the attendees.  After a prolonged standing ovation to thank them, and those other TDs and Senators who stood against the legislation, Ms. Simons assured the Conference that we would continue to be active in coming elections, supporting those representatives who hold true to the pro-life message while holding Fine Gael accountable for their broken promise.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames and Deputy Terence Flanagan thanked by delegates

Áine Ascough introduced a second important new initiative. LifeWorks is a pro-life outreach education program, designed to engage our children in this vital conversation. A team will travel to secondary schools throughout Ireland to give age-appropriate presentations exploring the right to life as the most basic and fundamental of human rights. It is a vital conversation that requires active engagement throughout all levels of society, including our young people.

Several speakers brought their own personal stories of courage, healing and hope highlighting the human side of this campaign. A moving speech from Hilary Ní Lorcáin described the support and care her family and daughter Margaret received in the US from a perinatal hospice; a “hospice in the womb” for babies with life limiting diagnoses.  “The hospice helped us to plan meaningfully for Margaret’s life,” Hilary told the Conference, “to think about how we would like to experience our time with her, to enable us to look ahead with courage, and indeed to prepare for her death.” It was a powerful call to action for the Irish pro-life movement to work towards meaningful palliative care services for families facing life-limiting diagnoses.

Adele Best brought the audience the difficult story of women’s suffering post abortion.  Many women suffer in silence the after-effects of abortion. Women Hurt (www.womenhurt.ie) provides information on counseling and healing services for women enduring loss and depression resulting from abortion. Adele’s courage and life-saving dedication to her counseling work was inspirational.

Hilary and Adele brought a human face to two very different aspects of the pro-life message.  Their courageous words were met with an atmosphere of respect and support from the attendees as they reminded everyone in the room of the importance of the work carried out by the Pro Life Campaign. 

Perhaps it was Steven Ertelt who best summed up the spirit of the Conference in his closing remarks:

“Never give up hope and always  persevere.  Do not rest until this abortion law is overturned.”

From the evidence of this Conference, the members of the new and improved Pro Life Campaign have taken his advice to heart.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Irish Times abortion story “raises major credibility issues” for the paper, says PLC

The Pro Life Campaign has said the recent apology from The Irish Times over its false and misleading story on abortion is “inadequate” and “raises major credibility issues” for the newspaper.

On 23rd August, The Irish Times ran a front page story claiming that the first abortion under the new legislation had taken place.
The paper claimed the abortion of twins saved the mother’s life and was carried out at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street. Last Saturday, however, in an embarrassing admission, The Irish Times issued an apology on page seven of its news section pointing out that “the case described in the article did not happen.”

Commenting on the saga, Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign said: “The revelation that the front-page story, which was picked up by the international media, never happened, is extraordinary.”
“It raises many serious questions, given that representatives of the National Maternity Hospital commented on the case. An apology for this extraordinary report seems inadequate and the public deserves a fuller explanation of how it came about”, she said.

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said: “This latest episode raises major credibility issues for The Irish Times. It also rushed to judgement following the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar by concluding that Ireland’s abortion laws were to blame. Despite the findings at the coroner’s inquest, The Irish Times has refused to change its tune. There are countless other recent examples of biased reporting on abortion by the same newspaper. This would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that some of our weaker minded politicians have taken their direction on the issue from newspapers like The Irish Times, instead of robustly challenging the obvious agenda that is being pushed.
Dr Cullen said: “The headline and content of the recent inaccurate report in The Irish Times was clearly intended to create the impression that the new abortion law was needed to save women’s lives. Not surprisingly, that’s how the international media interpreted the report. For The Irish Times to print its apology on page seven of the paper only adds insult to injury.”

Read a report of this story in Journal.ie here


Friday, August 23, 2013

PLC comments on Holles Street “abortion” story

Dr Ruth Cullen criticises The Irish Times over its “misleading” reference to Savita Halappanavar case in today’s report

The Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has said the recent abortion legislation was not needed to safeguard the lives of pregnant women.

The PLC was responding to media reports today that the first termination of pregnancy under the new abortion legislation took place recently at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street.

Commenting on the reports, Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said: “While the precise circumstances surrounding the intervention in this tragic case are unknown, what is clear is that the Government’s abortion legislation permits doctors to blur the distinction between necessary life-saving interventions in pregnancy and induced abortion (where no effort whatsoever is made to save the life of the baby).

“Now that the blurring of such important ethical distinctions is permitted in law, it is inevitable that abortions directly and intentionally targeting the life of the unborn child will take place, even on the threat of suicide ground, where there is no medical evidence to justify an intervention.

“This is the stark reality of what members of the Oireachtas voted for recently and why the pro-life movement was so vocal in its opposition to the Bill.

“The new abortion law was not needed to safeguard women’s lives in pregnancy. The tragedy reported today of a mother losing two children has been used again to give the misleading impression that the recent abortion legislation was needed to safeguard women’s lives.

 “The HSE confirmed today that the law has not yet come into force. On foot of this, one has to ask is The Irish Times suggesting that the law was broken by the doctors in Holles Street or does it now accept that the new law was not needed to protect women’s lives?

“In truth, life-saving interventions have always been in place. Ireland, without abortion, is a recognised world leader in safety for pregnant women. It is a tragedy that those campaigning for abortion legislation have been successful in creating the opposite impression,” she said.

Dr Cullen also expressed concern at the way The Irish Times today repeated the claim that Savita Halappanavar died because she was denied a termination of pregnancy:
“The Irish Times has obviously decided to ignore the conclusions of the coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of Savita and decided instead to stick rigidly to its original misleading presentation of what happened. This is most regrettable,” Dr Cullen concluded.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Devote energies to the repeal of unjust law, 30.7.13

Pro Life Campaign 'will now devote its energies to the repeal of unjust law' as President signs abortion bill into law

PLC volunteers at Dáil Éireann during debates and votes on abortion bill

The Pro Life Campaign has said the passage into law today of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill “is a very sad day for our country” and “for the first time in our history makes it legal to deliberately target the life of an innocent human being.”

Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Despite what the Taoiseach and others claim, the new law is life-ending, not life-saving. The Government brought forward this law in the full knowledge that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings and ignored all the peer-reviewed evidence showing that abortion has adverse mental health consequences for women.

“This is a very sad day for our country. For the first time in our history, it is now legal to deliberately target the life of an innocent human being. The Pro Life Campaign will now devote its energies to the repeal of this unjust law. We will give very careful consideration in the coming weeks to the best way to bring this about."

“The pro-life movement is mobilised and growing. We have seen the biggest ever gatherings of pro-life people in recent weeks. The passage of this bill into law marks a new beginning not an end for pro-life activism. Fine Gael has broken its solemn pre-election commitment not to introduce abortion legislation. This will most definitely be remembered at the next election.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Death of woman following Marie Stopes abortion in Britain “raises major questions”, says Pro Life Campaign


The Pro Life Campaign has said the tragic death of a woman from Ireland after undergoing an abortion in England in 2012 “raises major questions about the safety of abortion in certain clinics in addition to the obvious disregard for unborn life that abortion involves."

“This tragic story is not the first incident of a life-endangering situation involving an Irish woman at a Marie Stopes clinic”, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said.

“In December 2011, Dr Phanuel Dartey was struck off the General Medical Register in Britain for almost killing an Irish woman after performing a botched abortion at the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, London.

“In this latest story, the woman who died had no life-threatening condition before the abortion but developed grave complications within hours of the procedure. It raises very serious questions about the safety of abortion in certain clinics.

“It is disturbing the way some people are trying to use this tragic story to continue the push for abortion in Ireland when it is obvious the focus should be on what happened in the Marie Stopes clinic leading to her death.

“While official figures suggest that abortion in Britain is relatively safe for women, there have been several reports and incidents recently that challenge this claim.”

Ms Sherlock concluded: “We offer our sincere condolences to her husband and family over their terrible loss.”


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Decision to expel Denis Naughten from Health Committee 'autocratic and heavy-handed'

The Pro Life Campaign's Deputy Chairperson Cora Sherlock has accused the Government of behaving in an "autocratic and heavy-handed" way over its decision to expel Denis Naughten TD from the Oireachtas Health Committee.

Commenting on the decision Cora Sherlock said:

"It is clear that the Government is not prepared to tolerate any dissent at all on the abortion issue.  As a member of the Health Committee, Deputy Naughten raised very serious and legitimate concerns over the legislation and proposed a reasonable amendment.
Deputy Naughton also voted against the abortion Bill in the Dáil because, like many others, he was opposed to introducing abortion on the grounds of threatened suicide where there is not a shred of evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidal feelings."

Fine Gael TDs who opposed the Bill were also removed from various Oireachtas Committees yesterday.  Deputy Peter Mathews were removed from the Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions and he and Deputy Billy Timmins were also removed from the Finance Committee.
TDs Terence Flanagan and Brian Walsh were removed from the Transport Committee.

"It is unacceptable that the Government is behaving in such an autocratic and heavy-handed manner in an attempt to drive alternative voices out of the debate", Ms. Sherlock concluded.

Deputy Denis Naughten TD


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames' Speech against the Bill

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames

Cathaoirleach, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I want to thank Senators Feargal Quinn and Mary Anne O’Brien for moving my Reasoned Amendment to this Bill yesterday.

This Bill has been a momentous journey for me. I came to this debate with an open mind. I was not and am not part of any campaign, pro-life or pro-choice. From the outset, my sole concern has been to ensure that any changes are in the best interests of expectant mothers and their unborn babies.
Ultimately, this bill is about allowing abortion in the case of threatened suicide. The absence of evidence to underpin this approach for a woman threatening suicide is addressed in my Reasoned Amendment on the Order paper.
A central point of agreement at the Oireachtas Hearings was that abortion is never a treatment for a woman with suicidal feelings.
Why then is the Government ignoring this and proceeding to sanction the taking of an innocent baby’s life when there is no evidence that this will save the mother’s life? Indeed the evidence shows that abortion may damage the woman mentally. I have met women from ‘Women Hurt’, women who’ve had abortions who have confirmed this.
I have also met Ms. C who was only 13 years old at the time she was raped and became pregnant. Her harrowing testimony describes how the HB took her to England for an abortion against her family's wishes robbing her of at least ten years of her life, leaving her with severe mental health after-affects from abortion, including suicide attempts. She had been under the impression that she was going to England to 'get the baby out'. She didn’t know that her baby would die. When she asked for the body of her baby to bury it there was none. She was only 13. This is an outcome of the X decision, a side of ‘liberal, modern, compassionate and caring’ Ireland we don’t like to talk about.
A female Fine Gael member, put it rather well to me last week. ‘If we offer abortion to a woman because she claims to be suicidal and we then find that she is suicidal afterwards, what do we offer her then?’
Surely we would do what we should have done originally.
But by permitting abortion on the flawed suicide ground have we not done her a grave injustice and changed her life path forever?
I found it interesting listening to commentators on the radio congratulating male TDs for making what they termed ‘pro-woman’ speeches in supporting abortion.
It highlighted just how one-sided and prejudiced the debate has become.
What is pro-woman about pressing ahead with a law that runs contrary to the expert psychiatric evidence from two sets of Hearings? This is a serious charge which the Government has not answered.
What is pro-woman about airbrushing out of the debate the stories of women like Ms C? What is pro-woman about conveniently side-stepping the story of Emma Beck, the young English artist who died by suicide after aborting her twins? The coroner at her inquest recommended that women be told about the possible negative effects of abortion before they go through with it. Sound advice – What is pro-woman about ignoring that?
Why did the Govt ignore the real concerns of Sam Coulter Smyth, Master of the Rotunda who works everyday at the coalface? Or the statement of 113 Irish psychiatrists? These are the very professionals who treat people with suicidal feelings every day. Their statement highlighted the deception in this Bill that Abortion is a treatment for suicidal intent.
And it is not in the best interests of women and their unborn babies to railroad through legislation for abortion simply because the Labour Party wanted it.
Have we completely lost it?  Have we learnt nothing from other countries? Women cherish their babies. When women are in difficulty, why aren’t we striving to be the most ‘pro-woman country’ in the world by offering them real help and hope instead of violent solutions?
If some of the speeches I heard yesterday were made thirty or forty years ago I’d probably agree with them. We have a shameful past.. But knowing that Ireland now consistently ranks in the top five countries in the world for protecting women in pregnancy, it is disappointing the way some people continue to mislead the public, simply to justify a pro-choice stance.
The Government insists that this legislation is about ‘saving women’s lives’.
If I thought for a minute that the legislation was about preventing a tragic death like that of Savita, I would be supporting it. But it is not. It is disgraceful the way Savita’s death has been hijacked to get abortion over the line. We know that a catalogue of medical errors led to her tragic death. We know that had her infection been spotted in time, that the doctors would have intervened to save her life.
Another assertion in favour of the bill is that it is ‘restrictive’. But it’s only as restrictive as the two-most pro-choice psychiatrists in the country. I am not saying that this law will lead to abortion on request overnight. But, the legislation is based on bogus grounds that in other countries has led to wide-ranging abortion.
The assurances given by the Minister that this will not happen here are just assurances. They carry no weight once the law is passed. There is nothing in the legislation itself to prevent two pro-choice psychiatrists from signing away the life of an unborn child once they claim it is their “reasonable opinion”. Given that there are no appropriate clinical markers to judge whether or not the intervention is necessary, they are free to sanction as many abortions as they wish. This absence of any objective standard by which medical practitioners must form an opinion is in my Amendment.
What does this say about our concern for the right to life of a defenceless unborn child? To me, it shows a failure to recognise the humanity and existence of the unborn.
The legislation before us, for the first time in our history, allows the direct and intentional destruction of unborn human life in situations where there is no medical evidence to support that intervention.
It saddens me that some who voted for the legislation in my party call it a ‘pro-life’ Bill. The Labour Party has campaigned for 21 years for X case legislation. Their campaign was never about life-saving treatments for women. It was always about the provision of abortion in Ireland where the life of the baby is ended.
That’s exactly what this Government’s bill provides for. Let’s not pretend otherwise. And Labour won’t stop there, they are already campaigning for repeal of the 8th Amendment.
And it is significant that the decision in X is not binding because the X case was not argued, a fact clarified at the Hearings from legal experts. Furthermore, the ECHR, does not require Ireland to legislate for X (Section (iii) of RA), but rather to clarify the existing provisions for pregnant women. We can do this w/out legislating for X.
This legislation, I contend, is unconstitutional. It provides no advocate for the unborn. There is no equality for the baby consistent with Article 40:3:3.
The Bill fails to adhere to international standards about conscientious objection.
There are no time limits. The bill allows for abortion up to birth. If as Minister Reilly says that viable babies will be delivered alive, why wasn’t an amendment taken on this in the Dáil? This is a horrendous scenario.
The legislation will have a profound impact on our culture. There is absolutely nothing consoling or hopeful in the Bill. It sanctions the ending of human lives rather than trying to do everything possible to safeguard life and in the process it deceives the expectant mother .
There has been far too much emphasis placed on the assurances given by the Minister, to assuage people’s consciences, and far too little focus on what the bill actually permits. There are no ‘pathways to care’ offered for suicidal women. They were refused at Dáil Report stage despite Lucinda Creighton’s best efforts.
My own personal story has shown me the great chance life is. Today I am a mother of two great kids because two other mothers chose life. I know that life is a gift. Our responsibility as citizens and legislators is to look out for one another, particularly the most vulnerable in society. This legislation goes to the core of everything we stand for. We have an obligation to welcome everyone in life and protect everyone in law. The very least we can do for future generations.
The amazing advances in ultrasound technology illuminate the truth that the unborn child is a human being. In 1967, when the abortion law was introduced in Britain, politicians could have pleaded ignorance to the humanity of the unborn. In 2013, we don’t have this excuse.
I don’t want to lose the Fine Gael party whip but I do want to exercise my human right to make a conscientious decision. Almost every western democracy provides for a free vote on moral issues like abortion. Why don’t we have the confidence to trust our parliamentarians to make the right decision, without a whip?
I have been a committed member of Fine Gael for many years, the party that made a solemn promise to voters not to legalise abortion. It saddens me greatly that Fine Gael has broken this promise.
In the words of Thomas Moore: “Any public servant who would forsake his private conscience for the sake of his public duties, leads his country down the short route to chaos.”
In closing, I want to quote from a woman who emailed me. She said: “This Bill is particularly important to me because I am a woman, I am a psychologist and I’m pregnant. This legislation is meant for me. It is meant to make me feel more protected in pregnancy, but it does not. I know that as things currently stand in Ireland, without any legislation, that I will not be denied any treatment needed to save my life even if it leads to the unintentional death of my baby. I feel fully protected by that.”
Who could argue with that clarity? A clarity that I fully accept is reaffirmed in Sections 7 & 8 of this Bill.
So with a heavy heart and aware of what it will mean for my future in Fine Gael, but knowing that I have the best intention for expectant mothers and their babies, I cannot support the Bill as it stands.
Colleagues, Senators on all sides of the House, I ask you to support my Amendment.
I want to thank you all for listening. I appreciate the depth of feeling expressed on both sides of this debate.