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.
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 email@example.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.
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.”