Organisers estimated that more than 10,000 people took part in the life Rally for Life which sought to ‘”hold the government to account for the spiralling abortion rate” – and launched a summer campaign to retain the three-day wait before abortion.
The Rally for Life Committee said that the size of the crowd, which packed O’Connell Street, showed the strength of public feeling on the issue in the light of the bill recently introduced to legalise abortion on demand to 6 months, and other revelations about abortion provision.
The high-energy event took off from Parnell Square – where a RALLYFEST had included face-painting and stalls – at 1.30 pm as the sun broke through. The diverse crowd chanted ‘pro-life’, and waved posters and flags saying ‘Life Will Win’ and ‘Stop Aborting Our Future’.
A group of pipers, a brass band from the Betania Church Brass Band, and other musicians took part in the parade. There was a notable number of families with children playing in the sunshine.
Organisers estimated over 10,000 people thronged Dublin city centre today in the Rally for Life, calling on the government to retain the 3 day wait before abortion and to take action to address the spiralling abortion rate.#gript pic.twitter.com/cfQBfUKzUl— gript (@griptmedia) July 1, 2023
Scrapping the 3-day wait would be seen as a reneging on promises to voters in the 2018 referendum, and a summer campaign to remind voters of that promise would be ramped up, attendees at the Rally were told.
Earlier, the Life Institute said that the pro-life gathering took place in the context of what was described as a “steep and disturbing” rise in the number of abortions taking place in Ireland, and just weeks after a bill seeking to legalise abortion on request to 6 months of pregnancy unexpectedly passed second stage in the Dáil.
“We now know that the abortion numbers jumped 22% last year,” Rally for Life spokeswoman Megan Ní Scealláin said. “There were 8,156 abortions in 2022 – up from an estimated 6,700 the previous year. This rise is both steep and deeply disturbing – and it’s also heartbreaking.”
“Are women being led to believe that abortion is the only option?” she asked. “The numbers are a shocking indictment of the government’s failure to support women. Yet they are doing nothing to tackle this appalling rise in the abortion numbers.”
She said that the government needed to take urgent action to tackle the spiralling abortion rate – and that it was “almost beyond belief that a strategy that would increase the abortion rate further was instead being considered”.
“We’re seeing calls for the 3-day wait before abortion to be scrapped – even though about 4,000 women between 2019-2022 did not return for an abortion after the 3 day period of reflection,” she said. “Why would anyone want to increase the number of abortions? Why not give women time to think – and help women to have their babies instead?”
Ms Ní Scealláin said it was also concerning to see government Ministers voting in favor of a bill proposed by Bríd Smith TD which would legalise abortion on demand right up to 6 months gestation.
“We were told abortion would be rare and that there would be safeguards – and now we’re seeing rocketing rates of abortion and a rush to expand the abortion law even further,” she said. “There have been an estimated 31,000 abortions in Ireland so far – more than the population of Kilkenny city.”
She said that the many thousands attending the Rally returned home with leaflets and posters for local campaigns which would urge voters to contact TDs in relation to Ms Smith’s bill and demanding that they retain the 3-day wait before abortion.
“One of the messages coming from the Rally is that TDs will be reminded that they promised voters in 2018 that the 3-day wait would be a ‘safeguard’ – and we will be ramping up our campaign to remind voters that scrapping that provision would be a breach of promise to voters,” she said.
Attendees took packs of leaflets to carry home to take part in the summer campaign, saying they would go door-to-door in their own areas, urging voters to contact TDs.
Doctors and Nurses for Life stood on stage behind Consultant Obstetrician Dr Trevor Hayes, who told the Rally that pro-life medical professionals would not be bullied into providing abortions – and that he believes many would leave medicine rather than perform abortions.
“We are told that doctors and nurses should be informed at interview that contracts of employment will specify that it is mandatory to carry out abortions when requested – and that they would be fired if they refused. At a time when our maternal health care services are stretched to breaking point, does the Minister think a bullying tactic like this is going to work?” he told the Rally.
“Apart from the fact that it would be a wholly discriminatory and entirely unethical path for the Department of Health to take, this would also drive many excellent medical professionals away from the health service. Is that what the Minister wants?” Dr Hayes said.
“We will not be forced into performing abortions and – this is a message to the Minister today – many of us would rather leave medicine than be involved in abortion, a procedure that is never necessary, is never part of healthcare, and that helps neither mother nor child,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Conor O’Dowd, a young chef with Down syndrome from Drogheda, was also cheered to the rafters when he said: “I love my life. People with Downs Syndrome can do anything. I am here today to speak up for the babies! I’m here to fight abortion!”
Mr O’Dowd’s open letter to Dr Fergal Malone, who had claimed that 95% of babies with Down Syndrome diagnosed at the Rotunda were now aborted, received national and international attention last year.
Activist Isabel Vaughan Spruce who “was arrested and charged for the ‘thought crime’ of silently praying in her head at an abortion clinic in Britain”, also addressed the rally urging attendees to become active in pro-life initiatives. .
Leader of Aontú, Peadar Tóibín TD, Independent TD Mattie McGrath, and Independent Senator Sharon Keogan also addressed the event, along with Precious Life leader Bernadette Smyth.
This piece was first published on Gript.
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