Camosy: I must admit, knowing that the final chapter covered the loss of the 8th Amendment protecting equal justice under law for prenatal children under Irish law, a bit of hesitancy to get invested into a story which culminates in that tragic loss. Did you share any of that in making a decision to write this book? And what ultimately drove you to take on this project in the first place?
Van Maren: Interestingly, it was the loss of the 8th Amendment that drove me to research and tell this story. I was in Ireland for a few weeks prior to the 2018 abortion referendum, and the pro-lifers I met there crisscrossing the country, going door-to-door, and putting up with the contempt of the media and the betrayals of so many politicians were simply some of the best people I’ve met. And yet, the narrative of what happened started taking shape before the vote: That a movement of progressives and feminists saved Ireland from a handful of misogynist, medieval men and women driven to fanaticism by religion.
Like any pro-lifer, I’m used to narratives of that sort. But this time, it genuinely upset me. To see so many men and women who fought for decades and saved hundreds of thousands of lives—and then left everything on the field to save Ireland’s constitutional protection for the pre-born—slandered in this way was disgusting. These people fought for the children of others because they cared so deeply. I remember one elderly woman on the Life Canvass, moving slowly from door to door in Dublin. Someone told her that he’d be voting for repeal, and the woman said, in a trembling voice: “But what about the babies?” That’s why so many people took off work, skipped university classes, and poured their own time and money into the pro-life movement.
We in the pro-life movement rarely tell our own stories. As a result, our stories are told by those who slander us, hate us, and at the end of the day, do not understand our motivations. (Recent smear jobs include Norma McCorvey and Phyllis Schlafly.) I thought it would be a crying shame if the beautiful history of the Irish movement ended up being told by a handful of pro-choice journalists and abortion activists.
What lessons can the US, Canadian, and other pro-life movements around the world learn from the “glory days” of the Irish pro-life movement?
There are many answers to this question. First, the Irish movement was relentless. Keep in mind they were putting activists on the streets every day in a country where abortion was already illegal. They took nothing for granted, and they refused to be reactive. One of the reasons Ireland held on for so much longer than the rest of the West is that they responded to every threat as if it were existential, because it was.