Comment & Analysis

The rise and rise of pro-choice militancy
Abortion advocates’ tactics could backfire as pro-life ones once did, writes David Quinn

Pro-choice campaigners.

We’re in something of a Catch-22 situation here. If you draw attention to sacrilege you might end up playing into the hands of the sacrilegious. They’re looking for attention. If you pay no attention to it at all, you could give the impression that you don’t really care when the sacred objects of your religion are misused.

Last week there were two very good examples of the misuse of sacred objects by pro-choice campaigners. In one, a photograph appeared on the internet of how a campaigner had draped a pro-abortion ‘Repeal’ jumper over an altar at a parish in Inchicore. I drew attention to the picture on Twitter. It attracted a lot of reaction. People on the pro-life side were annoyed. People on the pro-choice side were divided.

The person behind the act was delighted with himself. Fellow campaigners patted him on the back. But other pro-choice advocates took a different view. They think acts like this could easily backfire with the general public. As a rule, the general public do not like militancy. Militancy is a quality long associated with the pro-life side, mostly unfairly, but these days a lot more militancy is to be found on the pro-choice side, even though most people are not aware of this yet because the media do not tend to draw much attention to pro-choice militancy.

Dismissed

The person behind the aforementioned stunt could be dismissed as a random activist. Acts like this cannot be passed off as representative of the pro-choice movement as a whole if they are isolated and not supported by the leadership of the pro-choice movement in Ireland.

However, we also had another example of the misuse of sacred objects last week, this time from the leadership of the pro-choice movement. A book is due out shortly making the case for repealing the pro-life amendment. It features contributions from leading pro-choice advocates. Its editor is The Irish Times columnist, Una Mullally.

The book is being promoted using a well-known image of the Virgin Mary. Superimposed over her is the heart-shaped ‘Repeal’ logo. To put it another way, imagery of the Virgin Mary is being used to promote abortion. Any reasonable person would find this utterly perverse.

When I drew attention to it on social media last week, this misuse of a sacred image found plenty of defenders among pro-choice campaigners. Una Mullally seemed pleased that my tweeting of the image might sell a few copies of her book, and it did indeed sell three or four.

But Twitter and other social media are not representative of the general public. For example, there is a lot more hostility towards the Catholic Church on social media than there is among the general public (although it exists there too), and social media is well known for tilting strongly left politically speaking. For example, Labour has as many Twitter followers as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail combined. This is obviously no indication of the support Labour has among voters in general. Far from it.

Another example of pro-choice militancy emerged on Monday. In Finglas there is a 12 foot tall statue known as the Mother and Child statue. 

A pro-choice activist painted the word ‘Repeal’ on all four sides on the plinth. What was this intended to accomplish or convey? The statue shows a woman joyously throwing her child in the air. Is the message, ‘Repeal Motherhood’? We could be forgiven for believing so.

The support these stunts are receiving from other pro-choice campaigners on social media is very telling. Some pro-choice voices are raising concern, but they appear to be outnumbered by activists who support these moves. That is a sure sign of rising militancy and a sure sign of a movement that is spinning out of control and confusing its own support base with the general public.

Clinics

This problem can exist on the pro-life side as well. When pro-life militants picketed politicians’ clinics or even homes years ago, that was guaranteed to lose middle ground votes, especially given the amount of publicity they received.

Posters showing aborted foetuses are also likely to be counterproductive. They do show the reality of abortion, but the general public appear resistant to seeing them. Also, showing them on the street means small children see them as well and this isn’t appropriate.

But the general public are aware of pro-life militancy because the media have always shone a spotlight on it. So far, they have mostly ignored rising pro-choice militancy. 

However, it is leaking out on social media and bizarrely it is leaking out because many pro-choice militants are proud of their various stunts and want to show off what they have done.

There are other examples of this growing militancy. For example, some of the posters on display at some pro-choice rallies are basically pornographic in content.

At the recent pro-life rally in Dublin organised by Youth Defence, pro-choice militants lined up on a part of O’Connell street opposite them to hurl abuse at them. I am trying to imagine the reaction if something similar happened to people attending a gay pride parade.

I think at this stage the militancy has more or less got out of control. The mainstream media is likely to go on either ignoring the militancy, or downplaying it, while throwing a spot-light on pro-life militancy where it occurs.

But pro-choice militancy is, as mentioned, leaking out on social media and over time this will reach the general public. At that point, it is likely to become counterproductive.