The pro-life movements should now pivot towards democracy

The pro-life movements should now pivot towards democracy A speaker at the March for Life in May. Photo: Pro-Life Campaign.

Momentum is building for the All Ireland Rally for Life which is taking place in Dublin on July 6. I’m sure it will be a very successful occasion, and a happy occasion too.

What’s been remarkable about this annual event is the positive buzz around the gathering, the marches and speeches. It’s obviously all about putting a pro-baby, pro-woman vibe out there while upholding the principle of respecting human life from conception.

The pro-life movements in Ireland, in Britain and in the United States have been brave, altruistic and even self-sacrificing over the past 50 years since this campaign began.


It’s not a cause that makes you popular in progressive circles; pro-life activists have been called misogynists, bigots, even fascists, who want to tie women to the kitchen sink. But they have borne the heat and dust of the day, as St Paul says, and fought the good fight for a noble cause.

The pro-life campaigns will continue. But were I in a position to offer advice, I would say that it’s now time to pivot more assertively towards a new aspect of this story: to focus information on the catastrophic fall in births that is now happening everywhere, save sub-Saharan Africa.

Economists – usually pro-choice – are increasingly worried about the fall in birth rates (the demographers call this “a decline in fertility”, but it’s actually a fall in births). A demographic map published of Europe last week showed that not a single European country was having enough babies to replace the population.

Everyone knows that to retain a stable population, there needs to be 2.01 births per woman, on average. But the roll-call of under-replacement was stark: Ireland 1.54; UK 1.49: Germany 1.46; France 1.79; Spain 1.16; Malta 1.08; Italy 1.24; Poland 1.29; Netherlands 1.46; Denmark 1.55. And so on – all these nations are at grave under-replacement level.


It’s worrying economists because it will impact on pensions, employment, social care, and the costs of an ageing society. Immigrants can help fill the gap in the short term: but immigrants’ countries also have falling birth rates.

There’s a whole heap of reasons why this is happening, and access to abortion is obviously one of them. Yet studies show that many women in developed countries want to have more children. Society just makes it really difficult. Motherhood often isn’t valued or supported.


The pro-life movements should underline this point emphatically: that to have the babies that every nation needs, create a more welcoming social attitude to raising the next generation. It’s caring as a political point – and a winnable one, too.

Deep Freud Lewis


God versus Sigmund Freud – is the subject of a new movie, co-produced by Screen Ireland, with the support of the Irish Government (and partly filmed in Ireland), Freud’s Last Session.

It is a supposed conversation between the Belfast-born Christian advocate C.S. Lewis, (Matthew Goode) and the father of psycho-analysis, in September 1939. Freud (Anthony Hopkins) and his family have fled from Vienna to London; and he is dying from cancer of the jaw, facing his final days.

It’s a serious movie which asks big questions, insightful about Sigmund Freud’s disbelief in God, alongside his fascination with religion. His artistic Hampstead home is stuffed with statues of saints and divinities, and he has an especial interest in St Dympna, the patron saint of mental illness (having once had a Catholic Irish nanny).

Anthony Hopkins, aged 86, gives an energetic performance as Freud, arguing with Lewis on matters of life, death, belief and transcendence. Matthew Goode is less persuasive as Lewis, portraying him as a sensitive, thoughtful Oxford don much scarred by the First World War.

But Kingsley Amis, who described Lewis as “the best lecturer that I have ever heard”, called him “bluff” ”breezy” and “loud-mouthed”, “an Ulsterman, an Orangeman”, and even an “intelligent version of Ian Paisley”.

There’s also a back story about Freud’s lesbian daughter, Anna, and her neurotic attachment to her father.

The movie is worth seeing for its content. But it also reminded me to return to C.S. Lewis’s works, especially his brilliant “Screwtape Letters”.



Louisiana has passed a law ordering state schools to display a poster featuring the Ten Commandments, though I fancy that will attract much controversy before the year is out.

As the Decalogue is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it could  be argued that this is a history lesson.

There are also meaningful religious jokes around the Mosaic law. One Jewish joke features Moses telling his people, after long negotiations: “The good news is – I got Him down to Ten. The bad news is – adultery is still in!”

The great Malcolm Muggeridge also raised gales of laughter when asked, on a BBC broadcast, his opinion of the Commandments. He replied that “I always think of them like questions on an exam paper – eight only to be attempted!”