By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 December, 2017
Up to 1,000 people who attended the Pro Life Campaign’s annual conference at the RDS on Sunday heard a former director of one of the largest abortion clinics in the US appeal to people in Ireland to “fight” to retain the Eighth Amendment.
Abby Johnson worked for eight years at an abortion clinic run by Planned Parenthood and left it when she became disillusioned by what she was witnessing and the way medical staff referred to women undergoing abortions and to the unborn babies they were aborting.
The mother of seven told Sunday’s conference, “Abortion can never be safe” and she said people in Ireland were only hearing a sterilised version of what abortion involves.
“Too often, the debate on abortion talks around the issue rather than dealing with the reality of what abortion involves. I have first-hand experience of working at an abortion clinic and I can tell you that the reality is entirely different to how it is presented,” she told the packed conference hall.
“People don’t want to think about the brutality of what happens to the baby but when you’ve worked in an abortion clinic or thought about it, there is no escaping what it entails,” she explained.
She also spoke about her regret at standing by and doing nothing to intervene when she attended an ultrasound-guided abortion and saw the baby trying to move away from the instruments that were being used to end its life.
She urged delegates not to stand by and do nothing when it came to protecting the Eighth Amendment and she encouraged everyone to speak up for the voiceless, unborn children and their mothers, many of whom she said go on to regret their abortions.
Ahead of the keynote address by Lord David Alton, Senator Rónán Mullen, who is a member of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, criticised its “overwhelming bias” towards a repeal of the amendment.
He said committee members weren’t interested in hearing from those whose lives were saved by the amendment.
“The law isn’t there just to make life difficult for people, it has caused people to think again about an abortion and has saved lives,” the Independent Senator said.
PLC spokesperson Cora Sherlock criticised the committee as “stacked in favour of abortion”. She cited the invitation to 28 pro-repeal witnesses by the committee compared with just five pro life witnesses, two of whom were sent an invitation after the committee had already voted for abortion.
British peer Lord Alton warned that a repeal of the amendment could set Ireland on the “slippery slope” to eugenic abortions and gendercide.
The former MP, whose mother hailed from Co. Mayo, said the Eighth Amendment had “safeguarded life” and that “There are radical alternatives to the defeatism that abortion represents.
“Once you start carrying out abortion in Ireland it will be a slippery slope that takes you down the quagmire we have in the UK, where one abortion now takes place every three minutes.
“We have an abortion industry that in the last ten years has generated a total of £750m – this is big business and they are not interested in the welfare of women in tragic circumstances.”
In cases of fatal foetal abnormality, he rejected the idea that the solution in such cases is “to add to the parents’ grief by aborting the baby”.
He said “There are alternatives for people who find themselves in these very tragic circumstances. I am a patron of the Life Organisation which has built two hospices called Zoe’s Place which are there to help people who find themselves in that situation.”
He also expressed solidarity with Katie Ascough who had been “hounded out of elected office” over her pro life views.
Other speakers at Sunday’s conference included Liz McDermott of the group One Day More, who spoke about her presentation to the Oireachtas Committee about her experience of being pregnant in Ireland with a child with serious disability.
“We need to provide more supports for families and their babies, not abortion,” she said.
She continued, “In the case of children who are diagnosed with disabilities in the womb, abortion becomes a very obvious form of discrimination. The Eighth Amendment acts as a vital protection for those children.”
Emma Maloney spoke about becoming pregnant with her son Rossa while she was in college.
“When I became pregnant in college, it was very traumatic but I want to send out the message that an unplanned pregnancy does not hold women back. I have continued my education and travelled more with him than before. I feel that the Eighth Amendment protected him and has led to the happy life I have today.”