|Cora Sherlock with Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers and |
Joe McCarroll of the Pro Life Campaign at an event in 2012.
In a letter in today's Irish Times, Cora Sherlock, the Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign says that the Irish Times' presentation of the recent poll "was a gross distortion of the true picture".
Reporting on the poll at the time of its release, Stephen Collins, the Political Editor of the Irish Times, claimed that public support on abortion has increased from 23% in 1997 to 71% today. As Cora points out, in reality the poll in 1977 found that 77% of people supported abortion (given the question made no distinction between abortion and necessary medical treatments during pregnancy). In responding to Cora's letter in today's paper, Stephen Collins dismisses her point, claiming that his comparison still stands.
Below is Cora's letter in full.
Sir, – The presentation by The Irish Times of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll on abortion was a gross distortion of the true picture.
In his analysis, Political Editor, Stephen Collins (February 11th) states that public support for Oireachtas legislation on abortion has risen from 23 per cent in 1997 to 71 per cent today.
The 1997 MRBI poll he cites actually found 77 per cent of people supported abortion in a variety of circumstances, depending on how the question was asked. The 23 per cent mentioned by Mr Collins was just one of the findings in a multiple choice question that included other options.
Five years later, in 2002, when the electorate had an actual choice to make in a referendum, 49 per cent voted Yes to row back on the X case ruling. An IMS poll conducted just afterwards found an additional 5 per cent voted No on pro-life grounds.
In other words, despite findings like the one cited by Mr Collins from 1997 and the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, when the people have an actual democratic choice, a clear majority rejects abortion.
Polls showing high levels of support for abortion are nothing new. Whenever the question suppresses the distinction between induced abortion (that targets the life of the baby) and necessary medical treatments to preserve the life of the mother (where every reasonable effort is made to save the life of the baby), the results show high support for abortion.
Such polls, however, significantly under-represent the opposition among the electorate and create an inflated perception of the extent of public support for abortion.
– Yours, etc,
Pro Life Campaign,
Lower Baggot Street,
Stephen Collins writes: The Irish Times poll in December 1997 found that 23 per cent of people felt the government should legislate for abortion in line with decisions made in the courts. Other findings in the same poll or other polls about the complex issue do not alter that fact. The finding in the latest poll that 71 per cent of people favour legislation is directly comparable.