The recession has crippled the Irish economy. Almost half a million people are on the dole, emigration is on the rise, and families are struggling to pay mortgages as the State squanders our taxes bailing out the banks. In the midst of the chaos, Mary Harney, the Health Minister overseeing our shambolic health service, is planning to bring forward legislation relating to the human embryo. This legislation will decide whether or not Irish law, and therefore Irish society, protects human life from the moment of conception.

The question is this: Will Mary Harney do the right thing and ensure legal protection for the human embryo from the moment of conception. Will she ban the immoral practices of embryonic stem cell research and cloning?

Or will she make Ireland one of the most radical countries in the world when it comes to destroying embryonic human life? Will millions in taxpayer funding be wasted on embryonic stem cell research which destroys human life and has produced no applicable medical treatments? The answer is that life should, and will, be protected if we succeed in rolling out a massive, nationwide effort which will raise awareness, provoke a public response, and demand pro-life legislation. That’s why we are currently urging every pro-life person to join us in this vital eight month campaign to protect the human embryo.

I’m making that urgent exhortation because, ten years after we began campaigning on this issue, the state may be about to cross the rubicon on human embryonic stem cell research. This would have disasterous consequences for our pro-life culture, since we cannot uphold the right-to-life of the unborn child on one hand, and then allow it to be deliberately destroyed or used in lethal experiments. The right-to-life, and the dignity of the person, is inherent from conception; it cannot be granted nor can it be taken away. But, sadly, at this time it must be defended, and we are called to do our utmost to do just that. Human lives depend on it; our pro-life culture requires it.

We’ve already begun an intensive eight month campaign with a summer of hard slog – because the hard slog is always needed to engage the public on a one-to-one basis and to answer questions on what can be a complex and difficult issue. And that work has produced the results that matter most – public opinion is increasingly against embryo research and supportive of measures to protect life from conception.

It’s worth examining the results of opinion polls conducted on this issue, because they reveal the impact of the pro-life campaigns undertaken by Youth Defence. For example, in 2005, the Irish Council for Bioethics commissioned a poll and claimed the result showed that 44% of Irish people would favor embryonic stem cell research as against 30% who would oppose it.

The pro-embryo research stance of the ICB was reflected in the question asked and the poll certainly gave a skewed result. However, it is interesting to see that as Youth Defence’s campaigns intensified, support for the protection of the embryo began to rise in direct correlation with the growth in information distributed and awareness created.

A huge amount of work was carried out: public meetings, information drives, door-to-door canvassing, massive billboards, thought-provoking posters, bus shelter adverts, college tours, media campaigns, and more were all used to ensure that opposition to embryo research climbed steadily.

It now stands at 59% in favour of protecting the human embryo – and that’s a staggering 83% when ‘don’t knows’ are not included. Crucially the percentage of people deciding that they ‘didn’t know’ whether the embryo should be protected or not has also fallen – down from 39% to 29% between 2005 and 2010, a very significant decline.

So we can see that as the public becomes more informed and aware of the issues involved, opinion is firmly for the right-to-life of the unborn child from conception. That’s a crucial development, but it’s one we need to build on.

Mary Harney’s legislation is fast coming down the track. We need this government to understand that the people demand that legislation must protect life from the moment of conception. In the next month you can see the latest exciting project from YD which is working towards that aim. These new billboards are colourful, impactive, and will generate debate. And there’s a lot more to come if we’re to succeed in protecting life.

Over the coming months both the Life Institute and YD will be rolling out a series of high-profile, imaginative, informative, and hard-hitting campaigns. We will explain that embryo research destroys human life and offers no cures. We’ll point out that Ireland can and should become a centre of excellence for adult stem cell research. We’ll use every resource available – the web, video, advertising, canvassing and a fair few surprises to protect the human embryo.

This campaign is vital because the country is deep in recession and we need to make people care. We must make voters realise that whatever else we have lost, if we begin to treat human life as if it were garbage, then we have lost our humanity. We strongly urge you to join us. We cannot afford to fail.

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