On the ground in Ireland

By Jonathon Van Maren

We touched down in the Dublin Airport early Saturday morning—my wife, daughter Charlotte, and colleagues Nick and Maaike Rosendal, ready for two weeks of pro-life activism with the Save the Eighth Campaign. Abortion activists have been attempting to roll back Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which includes specific protections for pre-born babies in the womb, for decades. There was a referendum in 1983, three simultaneous referendums in 1992, and another a decade later in 2002. The Irish pro-life movement has successfully won six consecutive votes. Now, abortion activists are trying again—and all the polls indicate that every single vote will count.

It was easy to see why they call this beautiful place the Emerald Isle—everything was exploding with a hundred hues of green. We wound our way down twisty roads lined by ancient slumping stone walls that at one time were supposed to keep the sheep that were picking their way across the pastures fenced in. Bushes of clustered yellow flowers dotted the rolling hills, and the old stone houses and outbuildings almost disappeared behind the ivy creeping up the walls.

We stopped for breakfast in Kilcock, and it was there we saw the first signs of Ireland being a country under siege. Signs were affixed to lampposts and traffic lights and road signs, all urging the Irish to vote one way or another in the May 25 referendum that will most likely determine the fate of Ireland’s Eighth Amendment. The international abortion industry, the United Nations, Amnesty International, and the European Union have all set their sights on Ireland. Irish babies may soon face the same horrifying risks that other children in the womb do across the West.

The signs urging voters to cast their ballot for repealing the Eighth Amendment were Orwellian in their attempts to disguise what it was that they were actually advocating for. “Vote YES for Compassion, For Dignity, for Care,” said one vaguely. “Vote YES: Care, Compassion, Trust,” chimed in another. The first casualty in the war on children is always truth. After all, it’s not as if they can be honest. Several of the signs featured the faces of female politicians I didn’t recognize, and others displayed the logos of political parties like the Social Democrats and the Labour Party.

But while there was a handful of signs urging repeal, Irish pro-life activists have clearly been hard at work—their messages were everywhere, contrasting the vagueness of the abortion activists with brutal clarity. “If abortion at six months horrifies you, vote NO,” read one sign. Another, featuring a baby in the womb sucking his thumb, was even blunter: “A Licence to Kill?” it asked, “Vote NO to abortion on demand.” Others simply cited facts to remind people who the victims of repeal would be: “I am 9 weeks old. I can yawn and kick. Don’t repeal me.” And, from Dr. Siobhan Crowley: “A baby’s heartbeat starts at 22 days—please don’t stop it!”

Throughout Kilcock and then all along the highway to Clonmacnoise, signs littered the landscape, often with messages that warned voters about the abortion industry’s endgame. “Repeal means unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks,” noted a common one. Some placards with a mother and child simply read, “Love Both—Vote No.” A sign with four of Ireland’s founders pictured read, “They Said to Cherish ALL the Children Equally. Vote No!” One stark message reminded the Irish of the wars that had torn the country apart within living memory—and that this time the violence would be perpetrated against their own children: “In England, 1 in 5 babies are aborted. Vote NO.”

In mid-afternoon, we arrived at the remains of the ancient Christian site of Clonmacnoise, a green meadow of sprawling stone ruins, roofless churches, and magnificent Celtic High Crosses—including the famous Cross of the Scriptures, a thirteen-foot masterpiece that was carved from one piece of sandstone more than 1100 years ago. The original Clonmacnoise monastery was founded between 545 and 548 A.D. by St. Ciaran, making it one of the oldest Christian landmarks in Europe. Many of the Irish kings were buried here, too—the crumbling cathedrals were often named for long-dead warriors, and chunks of ancient gravestone covered in moss and lichen are scattered across the landscape. Some of them date back to the 8th century—one features a crudely carved Celtic cross and the short phrase, “a prayer for Maelcoscair.” Clonmacnoise was pillaged, leveled, and burned dozens of times by the Vikings, the Normans, and even the pagan Irish. Always, they rebuilt. Always, they persevered.

It was hard not to remember, as we threaded our way through the gravestones and the towers and the ruins, that it is this Christian heritage that the abortion activists have reserved their hottest hatred for. In one advertisement for repeal, women in all black chant eerily that they are the descendants of the witches, declaring that the churches should remain silent and demanding that feticide be brought to the shores of the Emerald Isle. Irish actor Liam Neeson, who once took the leading role in a bio-pic of Michael Collins, lent his voice to another video where the camera pans through a landscape of ruined churches remarkably like Clonmacnoise, ominously warning of evil “ghosts” that haunt Ireland. These abortion activists hate Christianity because it forbids them from killing their children and living as they please.

As we headed to the little house we are staying in for the weekend, I could see signs of resistance dotting the countryside. A clergyman was balanced atop a stepladder in front of his grey stone church, affixing a “Vote No to Abortion on Demand!” to his flagpole, the Irish tricolor flapping in the wind above him. Further down the road, someone had used black spray paint to turn the back of a traffic sign into a message urging voters to protect life: “NO!” followed by a spray-painted x in a ballot box. When I stopped in at a gas station and asked the bent and wizened white-haired man behind the counter what he thought, the old man replies that he hoped Ireland “could keep the Eighth.” He shook his head worriedly. “But the media, you know. They are so biased.”

Time will tell. The forces of hatred and death are being unleashed on Ireland like nothing before, and yet the pro-life warriors persevere and fight back again. We pray that this time, the seventh vote, will be successful yet again.

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