Hundreds of people gathered from across the country to attend the Pro Life Campaign’s National Conference 2018 last Saturday to discuss the future of the pro-life movement and how Irish people can play a part in this.
Taking place at the RDS in Dublin on October 6, over 600 people listened to speakers, including medical practitioners and lawyers, talk about how Ireland came to repeal the Eighth Amendment, and the importance of working incrementally to restore a pro-life foundation in society.
Opening the conference, compère and Irish Catholic columnist Wendy Grace said that although the constitutional provision was removed despite the enormous contribution and hard work of pro-life campaigners, “even if it saved one baby’s life, it was worth it”.
She added that the abortion bill which is currently being discussed in the Dáil is one of the “most unjust and inhumane” bills ever to be brought before the Oireachtas and that the pro-life “struggle” did not end on May 25, but “just changed”.
Following this, Trinity student Gavin Boyne gave a testimony about how his life was saved by the Eighth Amendment and urged attendees to challenge some of the narratives around the forthcoming legislation.
“The Eighth Amendment was blind to race and ethnicity, was blind to a child being able-bodied or not. It saw the beauty and the value of every single unborn child irrespective of how they came to be in this world,” he said.
Mother of baby Cris, who has Down Syndrome, Monica Handeran spoke about the challenges and fear during her pregnancy and lack of support and positivity towards her.
Standing with her family on stage, she said: “Now that I see my son Cris and his impact on our lives, I wonder does he have an extra chromosome or are we missing one?”
Giving a more in-depth analysis of why Irish people voted to remove the provision, barrister Lorcan Price said the lack of pro-life political representation played an incisive role describing it as a “deep failure”, as well as a biased media which gave a greater platform to the pro-choice narrative.
Well-known pro-life activists Cora Sherlock and Caroline Simons spoke to the crowd about how Ireland should join in the struggle with other countries which are making “great strides” in restoring pro-life protections, and the deficiencies in the currently proposed bill such as the right to conscientiously object.
Tackling this issue head on, a panel of doctors and nurses spoke about the implications the bill will have on medical practitioners across the country. “This is a momentous time in the history of medicine in Ireland…because now we are being told that we must facilitate a termination of pregnancy.”
Bringing some vivacious energy to the room, keynote speaker Kristen Hawkins of Students for Life of America shared some of the experiences of the growing pro-life movement in the US and how this shift of tone can inspire and embolden Irish campaigners not to give up hope.
She noted that there are more pro-life young people involved in campaigning than ever before and how we must focus on attracting the younger Irish generation to this movement.
“I’ve come here, men and women, to ask you to lead. To pass a new amendment in Ireland – to show the rest of the world, including the US, that Ireland rejects the notion that women must choose between a life within her and her education, and her career and a life that she has always envisioned for herself, she said.
“We need you to lead. We need you to do it. And now is your time. Now is your opportunity.”