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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why external organisations must not be allowed to tell Ireland how to protect its most vulnerable ... by Cora Sherlock

We’ve become quite used to various prochoice groups in Ireland chanting their slogan “repeal the 8th” as if it were a mantra for a new, enlightened time rather than a means to erase the basic right to life of an entire group of human beings from our Constitution.

But recent events have shown a new, sinister development – the emergence of external groups who are trying to influence the Irish Government on whether or not to hold a referendum on abortion.

Last week was a prime example of this. The UN Human Rights Committee criticised Ireland’s abortion laws, saying that they are “cruel, inhuman and degrading” according to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UNHRC has a shocking record when it comes to protecting human beings damaged by abortion. It has never taken countries like England and Canada to task for the appalling abuse of denying medical treatment to babies who survive abortion.  It ignores the rights of these babies not to be subjected to “torture” as outlined in Article 7. In its remarks last week, this same Human Rights Committee didn’t bother mentioning the fact that Article 6 of the ICCPR states that “Every human being has an inherent right to life.”

The bottom line is that the UN Human Rights Committee is more and more becoming a parody of a group that is genuine about its commitment to the protection of human beings.  It no longer speaks from a strong foundation of human rights protection.  The Irish Government should not feel pressured to adhere to its commandments.  Yes, it’s true that we signed up to the ICCPR but we didn’t sign up to be beaten into submission on the issue of protecting the right to life of unborn human beings by a group that no longer respects the intrinsic dignity and worth of every human being living in our society.

Let’s move on to look at the group that helped this complaint make its way to the UNHRC – the Centre for Reproductive Rights (CRR).  This is a global abortion lobby group.  The only reason for its existence is to introduce abortion where no abortion takes place.  Its website even has an interactive map highlighting how far individual countries have “progressed” towards the CRR’s ultimate goal of unrestricted abortion (Ireland is coloured "red", presumably because we're not playing ball).

It goes without saying that the Irish Government should not be swayed or influenced by this international, well-funded and focused lobby group.   But the fact remains that the CRR was in Dublin last week, supported by a number of prochoice groups as it pushed forward with its global agenda and causing a media frenzy that continued for several days.  

Why should we, the Irish public, care about the intentions of a foreign abortion lobby group that acts in this way, helping to bring a complaint to the UNHRC against the Irish Constitution?  The answer of course is that we shouldn’t.  Just as we shouldn’t care about the interference of the UNHRC which produced a report that resulted in an appalling criticism of matters that have been decided by the Irish public. 

In an even more brazen attack on our right to decide such sensitive matters for ourselves, the UNHRC produced a “Questions and Answers” session on its website, presumably to reassure anyone in Ireland who might feel a bit uncomfortable about being told that we have to give up on this wild notion we have that human lives shouldn’t be ended – even when a “Human Rights Committee” tells us otherwise. 

When asked whether the UNHRC were “telling Ireland to introduce abortion”, one of the Committee members, Sarah Cleveland said that “with respect to the Irish electorate”, the Committee had been presented with different perspectives on the opinions of the Irish public.

But here’s the problem – the UNHRC seems to have forgotten that it’s the Irish electorate who decides the laws of this country.  Not the UNHRC.  Not the CRR. And these comments, not to mention the entire report, show a complete disregard for the will of the People when it concerns the protection of unborn human beings, enshrined in the Constitution.  We’re relegated into the place of second class citizens behind these groups that claim to tell us how to protect human rights in our country.

Of course, we shouldn’t pay too much heed to the comments.  After all, in the very next sentence of this reply, Ms. Cleveland expounds on what is perhaps one of the best explanations of why the right to life must be protected, regardless of campaigns to remove it:

“But fundamentally, human rights are not the subject of public opinion polls.  Human rights exist precisely to protect individuals whose rights may not be adequately respected by the majority.”

Luckily in Ireland, we’ve known this for some time.  Since 1983 to be exact, when we took steps to acknowledge the rights of vulnerable human beings in Irish society and enshrined the 8th Amendment in the Constitution. It is now vital that the Irish Government remembers the importance of this act and stands firm against any attempts to initiate a referendum, particularly those that originate outside the State from international lobby groups or UN Committees that are human rights protectors in name only. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

When a Human Rights Committee abandons human beings...by Cora Sherlock

To listen to some abortion advocates over the past few days, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were dealing with a court with full jurisdiction and authority over Ireland. This is not the case.  The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) is simply that – a Committee.  It does not have the right to impose its views on Ireland.

The Committee came to its conclusion based on its interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and specifically Article 7.  That provides that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.  This is the headline which is receiving blanket coverage in the Irish media and is being used by abortion advocates to push the case for a referendum to remove the 8th Amendment which guarantees that unborn babies have an equal right to life under Irish law.

There are two important points to be borne in mind.

The first is that the HRC simply doesn’t have credibility to discuss “torture” in the abortion issue. This is because of how it constantly ignores other instances that would stand out as examples of extreme torture, caused by the abortion procedure.  For example, the case of babies who survive abortions when they’re not meant to.  Melissa Ohden spoke about this sick phenomenon in Dublin last weekend and the situation where, (in her words), “babies born alive after botched abortions are abandoned as they gasp for breath and struggle to stay alive.”

This happened to 66 babies in one year alone according to official records in England and Wales.  It happened to over 400 babies in Canada over a 10 year period.  This type of inhumane treatment of newborn babies amounts to “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by anyone’s reckoning – except maybe the HRC.  They have certainly never publicly challenged this practice.  They have never criticised the countries that have allowed this horrific abuse to take place.  They have simply stayed silent.

Silent too has been Amnesty International, who were once a watchdog for all those who threatened the rights of human beings.  Instead, they have fallen in line with a twisted notion of “human rights” which allows international bodies to push for laws that will allow lives to be ended.

This brings us to the second reason why everything this Committee says should be considered as a partisan comment.  They don’t look at the bigger picture.  There is no mention in their report of any rights that unborn babies might have.  As far as the HRC is concerned, the baby’s rights count for nothing.  This is despite the fact that Article 6.1 of the ICCPR states that “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law.  No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

This is a very strong statement of the right to life of “every human being”, and one that doesn’t distinguish between “born” and “unborn” human beings.   Article 6.5 provides for the death penalty to be imposed on some individuals but notes that it is not to be carried out on pregnant women. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty (and I oppose it), anyone reading this section of the ICCPR will see that its authors made a distinction between pregnant women, and non-pregnant women.  They recognised that there was another human being involved – an unborn baby who could not have taken part in any crime and who should not have their life ended via the death penalty.

The Preamble to the ICCPR talks about how “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” 

Yesterday’s comments prove just how far the HRC have drifted from genuine human rights.  Their viewpoint is so narrow that they have completely ignored the Article in the ICCPR which highlights the most basic human right, the right to life. The unborn baby doesn’t even get a look in.  His or her rights are completely ignored. There is no attempt to acknowledge the fact that a pregnant woman and her baby are two individuals who are each entitled to rights under the law.

The Irish Constitution doesn’t have this kind of narrow focus.  Thanks to the 8th Amendment, it protects the lives of all human beings in Ireland. In that sense, it is far more in line with the true intention of the ICCPR and what should be the goal of international human rights protection the world over – protecting the lives of every human being, born and unborn. It’s a sad state of affairs when this kind of positive protection is criticised by a Committee claiming to speak out for human rights. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why it's important to Celebrate the 8th...by Mary O'Toole

The right to life is the most basic of human rights. The 8th amendment assures the equal right to life of mother and baby.  Without the 8th in our Constitution the right to life of the unborn child no longer exists. We need to openly support the retention of the 8th amendment in our constitution to make it very clear where we stand. Nodding agreement is not enough. It’s high time we all leave our easy-chairs and take to the streets; high time to shout with one voice for the voiceless that all human life is sacred.

In the interest of the common good, it is very important to be actively pro-life. It is impossible to further the common good if we do not vehemently and courageously defend the right to life, upon which all other rights are predicated. Life is often tough, but it is always precious. Life not only deserves, but also demands, our protection at all its stages. To promote the common good we must promote the culture of life. Too often, abortion is portrayed as the caring response to a crisis pregnancy, thus seeking to confuse our natural human sense of compassion and concern for others. The truth is that such a culture of ‘choice’, taken as a whole, embodies a concept of individual freedom which inevitably ends up backing the ‘choice’ of ‘the strong’ over the weak and defenceless.

Make no mistake about it, those who seek to remove the 8th know very well how effective it is in protecting the life of the unborn. Whatever the excuses given, they want to remove the 8th precisely because they want to remove the right to life of the unborn. Just under 1 in 4 pregnancies in the UK end in abortion. The US is no different. The only thing preventing us from these horrific figures in Ireland is the 8th amendment. If we remove this life-saving provision there is no reason to believe that our statistics would be any different. 

The 8th amendment acknowledges that there are always two lives to take into consideration when it comes to abortion; that of the child as well as that of the mother. This is a very important recognition of the dignity of all human life, and a very genuine expression of care and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society. Real equality must include everyone. Please come out on the 4th of June and join the march to celebrate the 8th. It is truly well worth celebrating!

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

RTE isn't an abortion lobby group and it's time for its presenters to accept that fact...by Cora Sherlock

For the second time in 6 months, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has upheld a complaint against the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTE Radio 1 for their treatment of the abortion issue. 

As they criticised the biased and one-sided nature of the interview, the BAI said that it was “set out so as to encourage support for the Amnesty International campaign” on making abortion more widely available in Ireland. 

The reaction has in Ireland has been swift.  Pro-life supporters were quick to comment on the Pro Life Campaign facebook page and contact the office to say how happy they were that the BAI was doing its job – highlighting items of extreme bias where public funds were being used by RTE to promote one side of a very complex and sensitive debate.

Predictably though, there was a lot of anger from prochoice activists who could not accept that RTE has breached the Code – despite the fact that this is not the first time (a complaint was upheld against the Ray D’Arcy Show for an interview with Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland when the Amnesty research was being launched). 

Despite the tone of some of these comments, there is no mystery or conspiracy here.  RTE is a publicly funded entity.  Everyone pays for it through the licence fee.  It doesn’t have the freedom that private organisations do and whether some prochoice activists like it or not, it is bound by the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.  Section 4.22 of that Code places an obligation on broadcasters to ensure “that the audience has access to a wide variety of views on the subject of the programme or item”.  And now, for the second time, the BAI has found that the Ray D’Arcy Show has failed to meet what most people would feel is a reasonable standard for a station that relies on public funding. 

On the first occasion, the complaint concerned an interview with Colm O’Gorman.  When upholding that complaint, the BAI went so far as to say that the presenter Ray D’Arcy “endorsed the views of this interviewee and was articulating a partisan position.”   They also found that the anecdotes and human interest aspects discussed on the show were “highlighted with a view to supporting the objectives of Amnesty International, which is to bring about a change in the Irish Constitution.”  If this concerned any other group or topic, there would be huge outcry about RTE taking a position so obviously.   But many abortion advocates were shocked at this earlier decision, just as they are at the latest one.  Seeking some other explanation, they are unable to accept that RTE could have adopted a partisan position, or that the BAI should uphold a complaint when this happens.   

It never seems to occur to those picking holes in this decision that entire groups of people in Ireland are completely side-lined by RTE's biased approach. Families who were pressured to have abortions when told their babies wouldn't survive for very long or not at all, women whose lives were drastically affected by abortion regret, people who have direct experience of the positive effects of the 8th Amendment - these are all ignored by programmes that adopt a pro-abortion mindset.  These people are obliged by Irish law to pay the licence fee to RTE - aren't they entitled to feel that their experiences will be reflected on-air?  

This ongoing bias is a very serious matter.  It clearly wasn’t dealt with or even properly addressed by RTE back in January when the complaint against the interview with Colm O’Gorman was upheld.  Here we are, nearly 6 months on and another complaint has been upheld by the BAI.  This has to stop.  RTE is not an abortion lobby group and it cannot allow its presenters to act as if the repeal of the 8th Amendment is within its remit.

These two decisions are book-ending a period of 6 months when the topic of media bias has been coming up again and again from pro-life supporters around the country. The cat is out of the bag. People are talking about media bias and that won't stop until both sides of the abortion debate are being fairly dealt with on the airwaves.  

No-one is asking for a bias in favour of the pro-life position. That doesn't help anyone either.  What we need is a national broadcaster that is responsible enough to recognise abortion for the complex and sensitive issue that it is and to work to represent all view points fairly.  It's not difficult if the will is there.  The time has well and truly come for RTE to address this serious issue before its credibility as an impartial and fair-minded broadcaster is gone for good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why I'm Going To Celebrate The 8th...by Sinead Slattery

The 8th Amendment ensures the equal right to life and importance of all Irish citizens – both the life of the mother and the life of her baby.

I have listened very carefully to the testimonies of Irish women who face a crisis pregnancy and I believe we need to work far harder to find better and more civilised ways to respect and understand their circumstances and concerns in this difficult situation. Despite all of the conversation and debate surrounding the 8th Amendment, the only government report commissioned to identify the factors which contribute to the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and the issues which resulted in women choosing the option of abortion was in 1995 (Women and Crisis Pregnancy Mahon, Conlon and Dillion).

We need a new report and we need a truly enhanced and sincere pro-women environment where women don’t feel like they have no other choice than the option of abortion. I care about women’s rights very deeply and it is my view that women should not have to decide between having their baby or finishing college; having their baby or choosing their career; having a baby or paying unaffordable childcare costs. 

I find it deeply disturbing that should a women experience regret, distress or physical side effects following this procedure, such as preterm birth in her next pregnancy; she is told that it is her fault. She is told that she either has a severe mental illness, she was coerced into the procedure by someone else or she had a negative attitude to abortion to begin with. No accountability is taken by those who carried out the abortion even if the procedure results in her dying in the back of a taxi. Liberalising abortion does not solve the underlying issue, it merely masks it and in my view, women deserve better than this.

We have shown the world that we are a humane society which stands up for the rights of every individual, especially minority groups. The 8th Amendment is a proof point of this as it ensures that each human being in any Irish hospital is given equal medical care and goodwill regardless of their health, their ability and their gender.  This is not the case in many countries where children who have been given a diagnosis before they are born of potentially having a life limiting condition, a disability or they are simply identified as being female.  Whether they are allowed to be born is something which will be decided upon at the discretion of another.

We cannot deny the devastating effects that this would have on our society should we repeal the 8th Amendment and liberalise abortion. We only have to look to other countries to see the devastation that abortion wreaks on human dignity. One in every four human lives are ended in England and Wales before they’ve had a chance to be born. Denmark has set itself a goal to be Down Syndrome free by 2030 and over 160 million baby girls are aborted in countries and cultures where baby boys are revered more highly than baby girls. 

To infer that abortion can be restricted is misleading for many reasons. One example of this is the interpretation of wording e.g. in England and Wales, a cleft palate and club foot are deemed “severe disability” and therefore any baby diagnosed with those conditions can be aborted right up until birth.
I am in favour of choice…but I don’t know any human being that would choose the ending of their own lives, often times very violently, at someone else’s discretion. So if we wouldn’t choose it for ourselves, then why choose it on behalf of the smallest, youngest most vulnerable in our society?

The unborn don’t have a voice, they’re too small. They need yours and they need the protection of the constitution and it is for this reason that I’m going to be there on June 4th to help celebrate the 8th Amendment and find out how I can use my talents to help protect this life-saving provision.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Introducing our Guest Speaker at Celebrate the 8th - Heidi Crowter

All those coming along to Celebrate the 8th on June 4th have  a real treat in store.  Among the guest speakers is Heidi Crowter who is coming to us from Coventry to share her thoughts on the need to protect and guard the human dignity of every human being.

Heidi is a disability rights activist who hasn’t allowed Down’s Syndrome to dictate how she lives her life.  She first came to public attention when she became the target of internet trolls and was featured on the BBC, Daily Mail and other media outlets as she worked with the authorities to help gain control of this serious and ongoing issue.

She then became involved with the “Don’t Screen Us Out” campaign in England to oppose the introduction of a new screening test of Down’s Syndrome which, if introduced, is expected to result in a profound reduction in the number of children born with Down’s Syndrome.  The campaign, which garnered the support of actors, politicians and other public figures, led to Heidi being invited to make a speech outside Westminster in April 2016.  A video of Heidi’s speech went viral on Facebook as a result. 

We are so lucky to be able to welcome Heidi and  her mum Liz to the Celebrate the 8th event.  Heidi continues to smash stigmas for people with Down’s Syndrome, living an independent life and working as a hairdresser.  She has a unique and very personal reason for opposing attempts to target vulnerable children in the womb and her testimony at Celebrate the 8th is sure to be one of the highlights of the day.

Make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible event which will change the fact the abortion debate in Ireland.  Be there on Molesworth Street on Saturday, 4th June from 3-4pm and find out why we need to retain the life-saving 8th Amendment which guarantees the equal right to life of every precious human being in our society.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why I'm Going To Celebrate The 8th...by Yi Wang

I believe Ireland should Celebrate The 8th for a few reasons, but one of the biggest factors as to why I think unborn babies should receive equal protection under the law is because adoption is why I am here today. 

My grandmother found herself pregnant in her early twenties.  She had no boyfriend, her family was not supportive, and she was urged to terminate the pregnancy.  I am Canadian, and Canada is one of only three countries worldwide with absolutely no laws restricting abortion.  Our abortion laws were set with the intention of allowing abortion in some cases only but in just a few decades the laws had expanded so much that we were left with a country where abortion was allowed at any time, for any reason, and nearly a third of our pregnancies end in abortion. 

My grandmother’s choice to choose life for my mother and give her up for adoption in a crisis pregnancy, especially amidst a culture that so often pushes women to abortion, saved not only my mother’s life, but allowed her to become a doctor and a wonderful mother to myself and my eight siblings. 

If my grandmother had decided to have an abortion, then my mother would never have been born, and I would not be here today.  That’s the reality of abortion and that’s why we need to keep the 8th Amendment in the Irish Constitution – because it is a provision that saves human lives.

I strongly believe we should stand up for the rights of the unborn because every life matters.  I am in medical school, and my studies in embryology in particular have highlighted for me that the humanity of the unborn is a scientific fact, not a matter of opinion.  Ireland has stood alone as a country that has continued to recognize that and to provide world-class care to both mothers and their unborn children.  I think that is something to celebrate, and so I will be there on June 4th to Celebrate The 8th.