On the ‘Rally for Life’

Today, I went to the counter protest for this year’s Rally for Life, despite really not being in the mood for it and the heat being something terrible for a stereotypical pale Irish women like myself (my foundation shade is ‘Siberia’. Wish I was kidding). Unlike the anti-Youth Defence protest which I went to last week, which turned out to be a great experience, today was nothing but horrible.
We hung out near the Garden of Remembrance beforehand, and there were far more older people there than I was anticipating. Like, way more. This was even more noticeable as we stood lining either side of O’Connell street as they marched. I’d say maybe 15-20% of attendees were women of childbearing age, i.e. people who would actually find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation. The rest were men, old people and children.
Now, I understand that it is sometimes necessary for children to attend rallies -child-minding is not something that everyone has access to. But it is *incredibly* disturbing and unsettling to see young children chanting anti-choice slogans and holding signs. As for the older people, especially the older men, while they had every right to protest, the thought of them deciding to what I, a woman of childbearing age (albeit one with fertility problems) do with my (c)uterus is ridiculous. And I told them as much as they passed me.
While for the most part it was a peaceful protest, there were some issues which I feel are worth noting. My sister was with me, and in the 30˚C heat, she was wearing a romper suit and no tights. An old man came up to her and decided that it was perfectly ok to sexually harass her, to sexualise an unwilling participant, one who has only just gone 18 but who looks young enough to still pay child fare on the bus. My sister is a fairly headstrong person when it comes to these things. While I avoid nightclubs like the plague due to this kind of offhand, socially accepted sexual harassment (and worse), she still goes out, and I believe that she probably has somewhat thicker skin than I do when it comes to this kind of thing. But today, we had to leave the line of protesters and go somewhere more private so that she could have a bit of a cry and gather herself.
This was not an isolated incident. Another young woman said she was leered at and looked up and down multiple times. The despicable behaviour of the anti-choicers isn’t limited to sexual harassment. Many people who weren’t white were told to “go back to Africa”, and one woman was told that “she was too fat to have kids anyway”. Many were carrying pictures of a C-section calling it an abortion. The Gardaí said that there was nothing they could do about these images, despite the number of children in attendance. One man picked up his young child and shook him at us, ignoring the fact that his child was crying and visibly upset at being shaken at a group of strangers. Many anti-choicers used the Nazi salute and one said ‘Heil Hitler’ to a protester, although we don’t know whether it was in jest or because he’s a racist (Fintan O’Toolbox recently did a post on Youth Defence’s links to neo-nazis). There were numerous placards which seemed to have escaped the screening process at the Garden of Remembrance which likened abortion to the holocaust. While I cannot say for sure that nobody at the counter-protest were being dicks, nothing has come to my attention as of yet, and we do tend to not be racist pervs.
The amount of money these people have to spend is ridiculous. It’s depressing and nauseating. Attendees were herded through one gate at the Garden of Remembrance in order to take away their homemade posters (usually because of their overly religious slogans – Youth Defence like to pretend they are secular, despite their massive links with the church and the fact that I’ve never seen more monks, nuns and priests in the space of one hour in my life). They are supplied, instead, with hundreds of shiny, printed posters in bright colours, which aren’t exactly cheap to print. There were three city tour buses rented and decked out for the occasion. There seems to have been a stage and a sound system erected at the finishing point of their march, which was something that I definitely wanted to give a miss. It is clear that US Anti-choicers are pouring thousands of dollars into Irish campaigns in order to keep Ireland ‘abortion-free’, while conveniently forgetting about the 4,000+ women* who travel for terminations and the 1,000+ women* who self-administer at home with pills.
This year’s march has been heralded as the biggest one ever, and the reason is because of the proposed X-case legislation. Slogans like ‘Kill the bill, not the child’ and ‘there’s always a better option’ were commonplace on the standard issue placards, showing pure ignorance of this legislation. The proposed legislation is the bare minimum; and even saying that’s a stretch. What this bill is doing is ensuring that women* don’t die as a result of their pregnancies. But it belittles women* and mental health when they force a suicidal woman* to plea for her life in front of three doctors, one of which has to be an OB, despite it being a mental health issue, not a pre-natal health one. The people who are opposing this bill do not care about women. They do not care about mental health issues. They care about shaming women* for choosing what’s best for them in a difficult situation, and continuing Ireland’s legacy of reproductive slavery and forced pregnancy , something which is deemed a war crime everywhere except Ireland. The European Commission of Human Rights has told us that we *have* to legislate for X. The people who oppose this legislation are effectively saying that they’re totes OK with breaches of human rights and denying basic human rights to pregnant women*. They are either incredibly bigoted misogynists or deeply, woefully ignorant. But they are losing this battle. Legislation will be passed, and we’ll be one (small) step closer to living in a country which gives a shit about its women*.

Despite this step in the right direction, we’re still a long way off having any real, accessible legislation, let alone free, safe and legal abortion on request. As it stands, I would not be comfortable getting pregnant in this country under current, and proposed, legislation (though when and if I become a parent is still a *long* way off). If I was to be overly optimistic, I would say that when my potential future children are my age, they’ll live in an Ireland with accessible abortion services. In reality though, it may well be my potential future grandchildren who have the right to choose.
I’ll leave you with one of the chants used today, and at many other protests, which highlights the true feelings of those protesting against legislation. “Pro-life, that’s a lie – you don’t care if women* die”.

31 thoughts on “On the ‘Rally for Life’

  1. Hi Becca, well done on such a well written article that is emotively raw and brutally honest. What happened at the ‘Rally for Life’ is just shocking, so disgraceful and disgusting. Thank you for standing up to this kind of crap and I know that you’re going to do a great job in the fight for progress in this country.
    This is nowhere near as bad but I just thought I’d share it anyway. After the recent Pride Parade I was walking on O’Connell Street rather colourfully clad when a man shouted abusive homophobic comments at me (all the more hypocritical given that I’m straight). It’s such a pity that there are such vile and ignorant bigots in our society.
    Patrick O’Grady

  2. Hiya Patrick, thanks a million for your kind words – it really means a lot. I wouldn't say your experience at Pride wasn't 'as bad' as the things that happened today, I think that all bigoted harassment is horrific, and I'm sorry you had to experience that.
    I suppose the most important thing is that people don't give up hope – we've come a long way from the days where homosexuality was a criminal offence and people smuggled condoms back from trips to the UK, but we still have a long way to go.

  3. You should get the Booker prize for this fictional account of the Pro Life Rally which I attended today. There was plenty of vile abuse from the small pro abortion group at GPO.

  4. Well, Catholicus, I was way down the far end of the line, to be near the banner drop, so I can't speak for what happened up nearer the Spire. I don't doubt that there was hostility from both sides – this is a divisive issue, it makes people angry. But I didn't witness any pro-choicers being anti-Semitic, sexual harassing, bigots, only anti-choicers. As such, I can only write about what I experienced.
    By all means, write your own blog post about what you experienced, although I imagine you would be more likely to win the Booker Prize than me.

  5. Thank you! She's feeling much better now, but it was a horrific experience for anyone, and honestly I didn't think the marchers would have stooped to that level.

  6. I was near the Spire and can vouch that all the aggression came from the anti-choice side. We chanted pro-choice slogans, but that was it. They singled out individuals for verbal attack.

  7. Yes, Americans love to bully others who don't think like them, especially pro-choice Irish women. We shouldn't let them. American antichoicers are disgusting enough in their own country, they shouldn't be allowed to invade other people's countries in order to impose their anti-life, anti-women views.

    Prolife? Yes, that's very much a lie. As you pointed out, this legislation is the bare minimum to keep pregnant women alive in cases of emergency. But hey! Antichoicers will protest that because guess what? They don't care if women die.

  8. great article, I was passing through the city on my way home and had to rush, I cannot stand these anti-choice rallys to the point where I feel physically ill.

    My question to the “pro-lifers” in my head is;
    1) do you think EVERY woman ever born would be a a GOOD mother
    2) do you think that EVERY woman EVER born should be FORCED to be a mother
    3) do you think that every women EVER born should NEVER have sex EVER if she doesn't want to be a mother
    4) do you think EVERYONE should believe EXACTLY what you believe and if they don't they should be punished?

    It makes so little sense to me that it makes me sick.

  9. I think we were directly beside you (or near enough) at the protest – we were the ones that had an I TRUST WOMEN sign that *really* annoyed them – just want to say keep fighting the good fight.

  10. I think you may have been right beside us _ I was holding an 'I trust women – why don't you?' sign! Had a white tank with the feminist fist thing on it :)

  11. I'm really sorry Paul, I don't actually have any video footage of the event, I only took a few pics, particularly of the banner drop (broadsheet were using mine). Sorry about that!

  12. That was horrific, I hope your sister and everyone else they singled out is okay. Every time anti-choicers do something to make me think they cannot stoop any lower, they go ahead and prove me wrong once more. What a vile movement they are.

  13. Great write up. It was ridiculous to see the goings on before the protest even started, teenage boys handing out leaflets to try to get people to attend, seeing people being bussed in on Pro-Life covered busses, old men wandering the streets in pro-life t-shirts trying to get people to attend. Crazy stuff. I can't comprehend their mindset at all.

  14. Well done for standing up to these people. In my lifetime I've attended many marchs in Dublin. 3 of them had 100,000 marchers. If the rally last weekend was the best the forced birthers could manage after busing people from every church in 32 counties and many from the US too then I'd say we have the church licked.

  15. Naturally I condemn any and all sexual harassment (this people are hypocrits since Catholic morality condemns it also), and indeed any aggressive behavior.
    (I dont dispute what happened and im sorry your sister had to experience such despicable behavior but i would note that the other “leering” etc might have been less out of objectification/lust but to conservative ideas/judgement about dress., not that it makes it better).
    I have a female friend who was harassed, followed home and an email where he threatened to rape her for her prolife activities.
    I was unable to attend this year and another girl who was said she was surprised at the “vile, ugly abuse”, from the pro choice side.

    I was there 3 years ago when a similar (if smaller) rally took place and condoms were thrown at these young kids you noted, which i felt was bad form, not to mention the general aggressive tone of the chanting. (i even recognised a friend of a friend who is normally cool and level headed shouting incoherent silly slogans).

    In the end both sides are clearly guilty of having crazy people among their ranks. It would be nice if we could start to listen to each other and stop being so dismissive and cynical of each others points of view.

  16. I find it interesting that you seem to have expected a friendly, happy account of the rally from the point of view of someone who describes them self in the blog header as “a massive pro-choice femmo”, but ok.
    I'm incredibly sorry that happened to your friend – Ireland is becoming more and more a place where rape culture thrives, and although I agree her situation was objectively worse than what happened at the rally, neither experience invalidates the other.
    I would object to condoms being thrown at a rally, but more so because I'd fear they'd be damaged underfoot or by the heat, and then maybe used, which would be dangerous. I don't think condoms should be a horrible and shameful thing that needs to be hidden from children, but I am a massive proponent of evidence based, comprehensive sex ed from a very young age, and knowledge and use of contraception greatly reduces unplanned pregnancies, which then greatly reduces the need for terminations.
    I personally like our chants, and I think they're far more imaginative than simply saying 'pro life' over and over, but to each their own.
    I try to stay away from the word crazy, it can be quite abelist, but yes, both sides definitely have their extremes – this is the case in every movement and every community. However, I don't believe in tolerating intolerance. This is a personal writing blog, which happened to get a boost of popularity because of this post, but I'm not officially affiliated with any organisation through this blog, and as such, I don't have to give both sides of the argument equal weight and value, particularly when one of the sides is so obviously hateful.
    And so I will happily continue to be dismissive and cynical of a movement which opposes a bill whose only aim is to ensure women* do not die as a result of their pregnancies. And I will do so unapologetically.

  17. I attended the Rally for Life on Saturday for the first time ever, and I must admit that it was only when we passed your anxious, angry little protest in front of the GPO that I really started enjoying it all! I do realize how frustrating it must have been for you all, standing there for so long in the heat of a beautiful summer day, watching us pass by in our tens of thousands, celebrating life. Yes, we came from all corners of the island – but so did you…and dare I say that the evidence seems to point to the fact that LIFE seems to attract far more people than DEATH. But that would be natural, of course. You did seem to be very angry – especially for people who are supposed to be on the winning side…but perhaps victory doesn't seem to be so certain after all.

  18. Seems both of our sisters got harassed on Saturday Becca! Paul that's my video (or rather my sisters) she got the fat comment (which she's still annoyed at, in normal circumstance he would have got a swift kick in the nuts) so I'll ask her to send it on to you in the morning.

    Great piece, Becca and an accurate description of what we encountered. We were also told that our mother should have killed us which I think she got on tape too. The amount of men who thought it was pretty acceptable to hurl abuse at girls young enough to be their grandchildren was pretty shocking. I expected abuse but I didn't know they would hit that low below the belt it's especially unnerving to stand there as a young girl and have those things said to you by men with smug looks on their faces knowing that they will never be put into a situation in which they may have to make that decision.

  19. I'm so glad you enjoyed your march alongside neo-nazis and Americans flown over for the occasion. I do hope you weren't a parent who paraded their child around with no sun hat though, we saw a lot of that…
    When you say tens of thousands, I'm going to assume you mean 'just over ten thousand', I'd suggest maybe having a look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IwRPeKeiDA&feature=youtu.be, but sure we all know Youth Defence lie about most things so it should be no skin on your teeth that they're lying about numbers too…
    We are winning. This legislation *will* pass, it has to, but it's wonderful (sarcasm) to know that there are people out there like you who would rather a pregnant person die (that means the fetus wouldn't survive either btw) than have incredibly limited legislation which will mean that we no longer violate human rights. Good on ya. You're not for life, you're for forced pregnancy and anti-women*. We're angry because people like you exist, I'm angry because you think you get to decide what my best options are. You don't.

  20. Thanks both of you, it would be great to have documentary evidence to counter some of the lies. This blog has been posted by a prolife woman on her facebook and they're calling Becca lovely things as you can imagine.

  21. Oh wow, it's like secondary school all over again, with the snide comments behind your back. Luckily, I'm a grown up :P
    Smartdpantz, I'm so sorry about your sister – that's a fucking horrible thing to say to someone, but they are horrible people. Video evidence would be wonderful to have, you absolute legends for recording it :)

  22. Strangely enough I met neither Neo-Nazis nor Americans. Maybe I was at a different march…

    NO SUN HAT!Now isn't that just awful. People of Ireland, whatever about murdering vulnerable human beings and other people's babies, if there's one thing you need to do, make sure you all have sun hats. Seriously Rebecca Ryan, you need to read over what you write before posting. This reads like something out of Brave New World.

    This has been said numerous times already – Irish medical practice already protects the life of the mother over the life of the unborn baby when the mother's life needs urgent medical attention. What happened in Galway was very bad medical practice, nothing more. There are doctors and nurses there who were not doing their job properly and are responsible for the death of Savita. They need to be brought to justice. Unfortunately the pro-abortion lobby has twisted this tragic situation to provide a reason for its cruel and ridiculous demands.

    And yes, be angry. I am a wonderfully happy and content 25 year old woman who is 100% pro-life. I know you and your kind would like if I didn't exist. To be honest your rhetoric remind me a little bit of Hitler, who also was angry that certain people existed. But thankfully you don't have any control over my existence. So go ahead and fume and rant, and do things like hack web pages and so on, simply because ye can't do anything else.

    Oh, and do get out and enjoy the beautiful summer day. Even get yourself an ice-cream. And of course, don't forget your sun-hat!! Tschss!

  23. Hi Rebecca.
    This was an excellent article. I was wondering how long it would take for the YDers to flock over with their indignant huffing and puffing, and apparently they've wasted no time. Ignore them, you could hardly expect anything better from Nazi extremists and religious nuts.
    Progress is happening. It's slow and hard fought but it's happening right now. The vast majority of the country are against these weirdos. The anti-choice brigade know that this bill will be passed, and it's why their opposition is getting more extreme and disgusting. But it will pass, and no manner of lies or deceit or “what about the baybeeeeez?” will change it.
    Hate-filled lunatics will always be around, right now the happen to call themselves Youth Defence. Keep up the writing, it's great stuff, and you've got right (and most of the country) on your side.

  24. “To be honest your rhetoric remind me a little bit of Hitler”

    I invoke Godwin. Sorry Eistear, you've lost the discussion ;) Come back when you're not so patronising and want to debate like an adult. Tschss!

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