The billboards show either a picture of a woman or her foetus symbolically torn in half above the tagline: "Abortion tears her life apart. There's always a better answer."
The ads, produced for anti-abortion group Youth Defence and appearing across Ireland, are not only scaremongering but untrue: the majority of women who have had an abortion say that in retrospect it was the right decision. Yet, there is nobody for pro-choicers to complain to about this fact, given the Irish Advertising Standards Authority's decision that the billboards, being neither commercial nor overtly political, fall outside its jurisdiction. Protesters have taken direct action – writing pro-choice messages on the posters, throwing paint, or tearing them down.
Protesters question the need for the ads as abortions are illegal in Ireland, except when a woman can prove she would die if forced to give birth. The ban has led many women who can afford it to come to the UK for an abortion. Figures for 2010 reveal that 4,402 of the 6,535 non-residents having a UK abortion had an Irish address. So it is particularly cruel, then, that the posters appear at Dublin airport, shaming women as the law forces them to go abroad for a right to choose.
Abortion campaigners are currently in a tizzy about a new pro-life awareness campaign produced by Youth Defence and the Life Institute. They’re orchestrating complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and issuing press statements describing pro-life billboards as “offensive”.
So far, so predictable; though it’s always ironic to see just how intolerant of free speech these self-styled liberals and left-wing activists are. Abortion advocates don’t like the campaign because it does something that is usually avoided in most public discussions on this issue: it brings the reality of abortion into focus.
The campaign simply says that abortion tears lives apart, and uses torn photographs for emphasis. The adverts were inspired by a woman who said that after her abortion, she felt as if her life, as well as that of her unborn child, was torn apart.
There are many other women who feel the same. One woman wrote on our website this week that she had an abortion last year, and that she has deeply regretted it ever since. She said: “I made a mistake of turning to the wrong people for advice in a time of need. Although it pains me to see these posters (I passed by nearly 4 on Saturday) I am glad they are there and hope they may help even one person to re-consider and not go through with it.”
We’ve had scores of similar emails and messages since the Better Answer campaign began. The trauma they detail is usually dismissed by abortion campaigners. Instead, they claim that our awareness campaign is offensive, and wish to have it censored.
But while a message may offend abortion supporters, that is not to say that the message is, in itself, offensive. Crucially, our experience during the campaign this far is that the public is supportive of the campaign, which was designed, produced and organised by volunteers.
We contend that there is always a better answer than abortion – and we should work to terminate the crisis and not the child.
In fact, Ireland’s experience has shown that our pro-life ethos has best served both our mothers and babies. The United Nations rates us as the safest place in the world for a mother to have a baby, and our top experts say that they can care for mother and baby without recourse to abortion.
As Professor John Bonner, the Chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told a Dáil committee: “It would never cross an obstetrician’s mind that intervening in a case of pre-eclampsia, cancer of the cervix or ectopic pregnancy is abortion. They are not abortion as far as the professional is concerned, these are medical treatments that are essential to save the life of the mother.”
Recently, a collection of research studies published in a special edition of The Lancet medical journal found that women who developed cancer when pregnant did not need to abort their baby, delay their own treatment, or give birth prematurely. Commenting on the findings, researcher at the French Institute Gustave Roussy wrote that recommendations to abort would be an “unacceptable error”.
So we know that abortion is not medically necessary: and we also know that Irish abortion rates have now fallen by more than 30 per cent because of increased information and better support for women in crisis.
It would be entirely contraindicative then for Ireland to resort to the medieval solution of abortion. The government is currently awaiting the recommendations of an ‘expert committee’ which will look at the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the ABC case. This campaign reminds Fine Gael of the public committment they made during Election 2011 to uphold Ireland’s ban on abortion.
It’s worth noting that the Labour Party’s preferred alternative is to introduce the British model of abortion provision: which has led to abortion on demand, provided through all nine months of pregnancy if the baby has a disability, and leading to the abortion of more than 90 per cent of unborn children with Down Syndrome. This is not a humane response to crisis pregnancy.
There’s always a better answer than abortion. That’s the message of this campaign. It’s a message that will not be censored.
"It brings the reality of abortion into focus." And that prochoice simply cannot handle. Very telling that prochoice consistently finds the truth so offensive. Truth is hate to those who hate truth.