Almost 25,000 pro-life campaigners have taken to the streets of Dublin, many in opposition to Amnesty International’s lobbying efforts to liberalise abortion. The crowd was almost double the size expected, while pro-abortion counter protesters numbered no more than a few hundred.
Although the march is an annual event, this year’s march came after claims by Amnesty International that Ireland’s laws violate women’s rights by not granting access to abortions. The organisation has launched a petition calling on the Irish government to liberalise abortion law “at a minimum in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or severe and fatal foetal impairment,” but so far it has attracted fewer than 19,000 signatures, suggesting little appetite within Ireland for a relaxation on abortion laws.
Niamh Uí Bhriain, a member of the Rally for Life’s organisational committee, called on people to “abandon Amnesty” in favour of organisations which genuinely support human rights.
“People are appalled at Amnesty’s stance, especially those who previously supported the organisation”, she said, adding: “Amnesty can no longer claim to be a human rights organisation since they trample on the rights of the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children”.
The rally focused on the rights of disabled children to be born. A number of speakers were parents of disabled children, including Mandy Dunne of the support group Every Life Counts, whose daughter Muireann was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 before birth. Doctors described Muireann as ‘incompatible with life’ and suggested abortion to Mandy.
She said: “I felt those words took her life from me there and then. We were told we wouldn’t find anyone who had lived with this condition, and it was suggested that I end my pregnancy. I was made feel I wasn’t carrying a beautiful little girl, that she was something that didn’t even have the right to be considered as a life, dismissed with suggestions of a termination.
“But Muireann went on to live with us after birth for 6 weeks, and she knew nothing but love. Every child deserves to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their diagnosis. Every sick child deserves extra protection and extra love.”
Anne Trainer, whose little boy Kevin has Down Syndrome, also took to the stage, to ask “Why are Amnesty International calling for Ireland’s abortions laws to be changed and claiming abortion is a “human right?” What is humane about aborting a baby simply because they have an extra set of chromosomes?”
Amnesty International has hit back with a poll which suggests that the majority of people in Ireland want to see abortion legalised. The poll, carried out for Amnesty International by RED C Research and Marketing, found 67% in favour of decriminalising abortion, and 25% against.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said: “This poll demonstrates that on the issue of abortion Ireland’s people are clearly way ahead of their government leaders. The conversation we urgently need in Ireland on abortion is a challenging one, but it must happen. The Irish Government should put this issue to the people as a matter of priority. Decriminalising abortion is not only a human rights obligation – it is what people in Ireland want.”
But Uí Bhriain was dismissive of the claim, saying “The truth is that there is no public clamour to see abortion legalised. Last month, Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordáin said that a vote for Labour was a vote to repeal the 8th amendment yet Labour continue to languish in the polls at just 7%.
“The pro-life movement is more organised and energised than ever before and we need to ensure that those politicians who broke the pro-life promises they made in 2011 are made to answer.”