By Niamh Ui Bhriain
Our hearts are broken. But we will fight on, because no referendum can ever make abortion right.
I know that your heart, like mine, feels broken. We need time to grieve and to recover. But every one of you who took part in what was an inspiring, brilliant and heroic NO campaign should hold your head up high.
In the end, as the exit polls showed, people voted against the 8th because they had been fed an endless lie that it endangered women. In due course, the consequences of that vote will become evident but your conscience should be clear because you fought the good fight to protect innocent children. You stood up against the greatest injustice in the world, and time will show that you are on the right side of history. That should make you proud, and we are proud to stand with 723,632 people who voted for life and against abortion.
I have never witnessed such heroic dedication from thousands of people. Many of you volunteered two years of your lives to knock on doors and talk to people. In every constituency, you joined massive teams and gave everything you could to help us fight against the campaign for abortion in Ireland. Over four thousand of you volunteered to canvass, leaflet, put up posters, and so on. Tens of thousands of you donated money, came to events, prayed, and supported us in every way you could.
We are forever grateful. And we can never repay you. But you should know that, although our hearts are broken, your work was not in vain. We will fight on because no referendum, no popular vote, can ever make it right to kill a child. In time, abortion will destroy itself, and we will take back our culture and our country. This country has lost something beautiful and precious, but we did not lose on May 25th, the unborn child did. They lost their right to life because so many voters were cowed and bullied and deceived, but we will always be their voice. We will fight on for those babies and for their mothers.
The day will come when the people will look in horror at what they have approved, and when the culture swings back to overturn this horrific result. For 35 years, you have defended the right to life of every human being. Together, we will continue to do so. because nothing is made better by the killing of a child, and because we are called to defend the most innocent and the most vulnerable even if we stand alone.
But you do not stand alone, and this movement has been energised by the huge influx of new members and of young people who gave this fight their all, and will continue to do so.
Know this too: in keeping abortion out of Ireland for 35 years you have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. That is no small achievement, and you should feel very proud that we stood strong for so long when so many other countries had fallen.
We will rise again. We did not lose in this referendum, the unborn baby did. They lost the Constitution’s recognition of their right to life. Many of them will now die in Irish hospitals and in Irish surgeries. But we live to fight another day and to fight for both mother and child. We will never be deterred in that work.
The size of the Yes vote took absolutely everybody by surprise – including the media, political commentators and Yes campaigners (though many would argue they are one and the same).
Exit polls provide some insight into why people told both canvassers at the door that they would vote No and then went on to support the repeal of the 8th.
Firstly, RTE’s exit poll shows that only half of voters support the abortion-on-demand provision of the government’s bill – and that support is likely over-stated because voters always seek to re-affirm their actions. Every opinion poll, right up to voting day, showed that the people are against abortion on demand, but they still voted for a measure giving politicians the power to legalise abortion without restriction.
So the people voted to repeal the 8th because they had been told so often, and for so long, that the 8th had caused women to die, that it was causing rape victims to suffer and that it had denied care to women where babies were terminally ill. They didn’t vote for the ‘pro-choice’ position, but their vote will be used to that end. On their conscience be it.
There can be only one conclusion as to why voters lied to pollsters and to canvassers about their intentions: they know in their hearts that abortion is wrong. What most people, including Yes campaigners, thought was a soft No, was actually a reluctant Yes. It was interesting, then, to see many Yes voters express disgust and dismay at the cheering, gloating mob in Dublin Castle, who banged drums, danced in conga lines, and pumped their fists in the air as they exulted in legalising abortion. That reluctant support, and the realisation of what legalised abortion always brings, will be part of the long build towards re-establishing a culture of life, where both mother and baby will be protected again
Secondly, voters said they had changed their mind on abortion, not during the campaign, but in the past five years. The exploitation of Savita’s death had caused a culture shift where people decided they wanted to blame the 8th amendment for her death – despite all the evidence to the contrary – and they voted to remove the 8th despite the consequences.
The media are largely to blame for this deception, and for embedding this lie in the cultural narrative so deeply that it became almost unshakable. Women will now suffer under an abortion regime which sees not just babies as disposable but which tells them that they are on their own when they need help and support. That, too, is on the conscience of all those who voted Yes and on all those who lied to ensure that abortion be legalised.
Finally, abortion campaigners built a narrative around the women of Ireland living as second-class citizens, oppressed and unfairly treated by society. In the final ten days, the scandals around cervical cancer scandal where the State failed women, and two shocking murders of women, may have led to a swell of public anger misdirected at the 8th amendment. The tragic irony is that the attitudes and actions of those who have disregarded and harmed women are only served by the availability of abortion, but that was lost on voters. Abortion does not free women from oppression, but it serves men like Harvey Weinsten and others all too well. Again, that will become clear in the days and years ahead.
The yes side had the media in their pockets, but any neutral observer would acknowledge that all the NO groups fought the better campaign, with better posters, leaflets, speakers, roadshows, and colour – and a far superior ground campaign. The Yes side, in contrast, was a fairly unimaginative, lacklustre affair relying on celebrities rather than any compelling message.
The NO side was out first, reached further, debated better and, in a fair fight, this would be a different result. But the persistent fear that the 8th was killing women, a fear created by years of media lies and misinformation, proved too difficult to overcome. The lies were ramped up during the campaign, such as the claim, spread far and wide by pro-abortion doctors and politicians, that pregnant women could not receive cancer treatment, an absolutely false claim.
The Life Canvass was not a wasted effort, because it left people better informed, and while it might have been impossible to shift the false narrative that the 8th was harming women, those conversations will not be forgotten as we begin the long process of taking back the culture. Those interactions have planted seeds which will yet bear fruit.
The Yes campaign did not give people any real information or any reason for voting for abortion, but they did not need to because the media had already convinced voters of the lie that the 8th was to blame for the tragic death of Savita and other women. Against that mass deception, the No campaign brought about a result where at least one in three voters rejected the lies of abortion campaigners and voted for life. That’s 735,000 people to build on, a base to grow and to cultivate.
I am immensely proud of all the volunteers who gave not just their time but their heart and soul to the cause of defending helpless babies. It was a campaign marked by the spirit of those volunteers, imbued by decency and kindness, by joy and good humour. You are the very best of people, and it has been the honour of my life to know you and to work with you and to call you my friends.
A movement with such heroic and noble people at its core is not going away and will, in the fullness of time, bring this country back to life.
The most common refrain we heard on the doors was that people did not want Ireland to be like Britain, where abortion is the expectation in a crisis, and where one in five babies are aborted. Those who voted yes must now live with the appalling vista they have opened up for mothers and babies. The people who are against abortion on demand but voted yes need to be persuaded to return to a pro-life position. Young people need significant attention, but we now have a huge number of compassionate, smart and motivated young people in our ranks.
723,632 people voted NO. That leaves 33.1% of the electorate who need a political voice – and it’s worth pointing out that no single party presently in the Dáil commands the support of a third of the electorate
The fight goes on. Killing babies was wrong last week. It remains wrong this week. It will be wrong next week, and the week after. Abortion will never be right. It will never be a compassionate solution. It will never fix one woman’s problem, or cure a single disease.
It is easy, at times like these, to fall into despair. But we cannot mourn forever. We need to pick ourselves up, and get ready to fight for unborn babies, and their mothers, in the months and years ahead.
In a couple of months, abortion cheerleader-in-chief Simon Harris will introduce his monstrous abortion bill to the Dáil. There are brave TDs, like Mattie McGrath, Peadar Tóibin, Carol Nolan and others who are raising their voices to seek amendments already. Pro-life doctors are speaking out to say they will not participate in the death of one of their patients. Plans for a new media platform are being put in place.
We are unbowed, because no referendum can ever make abortion right.
Abortion campaigners and the government and the media, all think that you will now go away, and be forgotten. That is what they want. They want a clear field so that they can implement a horrendous abortion regime with no opposition whatsoever. We cannot and will not let that happen.
In the coming months we will gather and regroup, meet and discuss, listen and learn. We will build this way forward together.
Since I was a child, I have heard that the 8th amendment was the cause of all ills. But the 8th is gone, and now those who fought to have abortion legalised will be accountable for the regime they establish. That needs, not just our opposition, but our endless scrutiny.
I was reminded of what St. Mother Teresa meant when she said, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” In his poem, The Mother, Pádraig Pearse wrote that despite the weariness of much sacrifice, “yet I have my joy, my sons were faithful, and they fought.”
You were faithful and you fought. Together we will fight on to restore the beauty that Ireland has lost.