YD recharged the campaign informing the Irish people about embryonic research. The No Exceptions Campaign was launched when the Irish government held to their 2003 policy of supporting the Seventh Framework Programme’s research budget which allows for funding of embryonic research.
YD members were in Washington DC on 23 January for the 33rd Annual March for Life. This yearly event brings hundreds of thousand of people onto the streets in the freezing cold to march, cheer, and all the usual stuff. YD met up with, and helped out, some of the more active groups involved in the pro-life scene over there; Stand True, Generation Life, CEC for Life and a couple of other madeggs.
In March (24th-26th) we presented the Fourth International Pro-Life and Family Conference in Belvedere College in Dublin. With more than 1,100 people attending over the weekend, it addressed all the hot topics of the day with expert speakers on Stem Cell Research, euthanasia, and demographics, as well as a range of speakers from Latvia, Poland, Sri Lanka and other exotic spots sharing their own pro-life experiences and expertise to a packed hall.
A special mention must be given to Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo-Schindler who was starved to death in Florida in a contentious custody battle between her husband and her family. Bobby’s story was heartbreaking, and a scary anecdote as to where anti-life values are leading us.
The conference coincided with the South Dakota pro-life Governor Rounds' Bill which made abortion illegal in almost all circumstances, so we took the opportunity, while everyone was there anyway, to go down to Ballsbridge in a body to send our congratulations to South Dakota through the boys in the American Embassy.
The second phase of the “No Exceptions” campaign was launched by YD in June, as MEPs voted in the 7th Framework Programme on Bioethics which had been amended to include funding for lethal research on human embryonic life.
On the ‘Lots of Exceptions to the Right to Life’ side were Irish MEPs, Avril Doyle and notorious anti-life campaigner, Proinsias de Rossa.
The campaign used eye-catching bus shelter ads and more than 3,000 poster hoardings to make the point on behalf of the human embryo: “Don’t use me for spare parts.
”The campaign, which ran until August, was timely as it coincided with a July 24th government decision where Ireland backed a deal to give the go-ahead for the EU to fund embryonic stem cell research in certain EU states, and came in the run up to a November 15th ruling by the High Court that frozen embryos were not human beings at all (see 2009 for more on the appeal to that ruling). The campaign distributed 170,000 leaflets amongst other things and launched a sparkly new website, www.embryoresearch.org, which was promoted on all the campaign literature and highlighted in media interviews – more than 35 of them at the last count.
As part of the No Exceptions information campaign Youth Defence invited Jacki Rabon to speak at two public information meetings, held in Dublin and Cork during the month of October. Jacki was paralysed in a car accident but had recovered feelings in her legs and could walk with the aid of leg braces after receiving adult stem cell treatment. Jacki talked about her experience and highlighted the crucial differences between adult and embryonic stem cell research. She spoke on radio and TV during her visit.
For those who haven’t been keeping abreast of the health workers weekly digest, the Medical Council are the tea party of shirts who control medical ethics and guidelines in this country. They have been always fairly sound, looking out for the interests of the sick and sticking by their Hippocratic Oath, and being fairly well up on medical matters, they are not conned by abortion talk when it comes to what exactly an unborn child is, so they have kept a pro-life ethos.
The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, decided, for obvious reasons, that letting experts –doctors that is - judge on medical code and matters was a stupid idea and that ordinary people who haven’t the foggiest idea about aortas and spinal columns and petrie dishes and stuff should actually be calling the shots when it comes to medicine. It sounds like something Chairman Mao would be all in favour of. Her idea was to have a political majority on the committee and take the decision making powers away from medical professionals.
Knowing her record on abortion, M&CC and YD were quite suspicious of this, especially as the minister would personally appoint a large slice of this new patriarchy.
M&CC helped found a campaigning committee, called the Medical Council Membership Support Committee (MCMSC), to block the proposed changes. The MCMSC started by contacting all the doctors in the country to ask for their support. The initial response was good with over 1000 doctors joining the group. Tús maith leath na hoibre.
The Roadshow did its always-anticipated rounds of the country, and finished with a flourish with the annual Life Day. If you don’t know what these are think a lively tour of about 50 young people, with a healthy dash of pro life street sessions thrown in for the Roadshow and a colourful parade, with balloons, music and ridiculously large colour pictures, for the latter.
It was a bit of a shock to the system when a sleaze club opened just across the road from our office at the start of the year but it was nice to see local residents take a stand against it. YD and M&CC were in complete support of the resident groups who picketed the sleazy joint on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for six months, and were frequent participants on the picket line.
It wasn’t as depressing as it might sound though as the picketers turned the tables on the sleaze patrons and sleaze purveyors by making them the butt of the joke. Things started going badly for the sleazy joint fairly quickly, all of which was pretty evident in the frustration of the bouncers, madames, and embarrassed lone customers who occasionally passed the picket lines. After six months an irate Peter Stringfellow, frowning and pulling at his mullet faced the cameras with the news that the joint would be closing due to lack of business. He chalked the lack of trade down to the nuts on the pavement. To which the nuts all cheered.
Once again Youth Defence members were the target of the Judge Roy Beans posse better known as the Galway Gardaí. It was the usual stuff as far as Youth Defence were concerned, giving out leaflets and talking to all and sundry; friend or foe. On the streets of Galway there were 100 of these freckly whey-faced pro-lifers, mostly having an easy time of it from the shoppers and whatnot.
However the gimlet-eyed, peptic gunslingers of the G-force came down goodo with orders to git-outa-town. This time, the Gardai did not attempt to arrest any of the activists - who then became protestors - but instead began the laborious process of taking down the names of all involved. Licking their pencils and muttering under their breath, Gardai even attempted to take the names of a child who stopped with his parents to support the street session.
Eventually the gardai withdrew their team, leaving the pro-lifers on the street, holding pro-life signs and distributing material.
Youth Defence were invited to a make an oral submission in Buswells Hotel, Dublin, to the Irish Council for Bio-ethics (ICB) on the various ethical, moral, scientific and legal questions surrounding issues of early human life. The ICB said they were compiling a report which discussed the ethical implications of biotechnology which affect human life.