By Patrick Brogan and Esther Ayo-James
We at The Navigator Media recognise that this referendum is one of the most difficult votes many people in this country will cast. We are trying to offer as many viewpoints as we possibly can for undecided voters. We talked to many people from both campaigns and are offering up their testimonies. The Navigator aims to talk to an equal amount of people on both sides. The aim is to inform people. Nothing more. We have no side in this, so to speak. Our only concern, as it always is, is with those people who are being hurt in society.
This interview is with Mairead from Cherish All the Children Equally. They are a Pro-Life organisation formed back in 2016. They are inspired by the Republican movement that led to independence in Ireland as this was based on equality. The group feels a repeal of the 8th Amendment will take away rights from people, mainly the right to life of the unborn. We had a talk with Mairead about this recently in Dublin’s Stephen’s Green.
-Can you tell us a little bit about the organisation?
-Well, I joined back in 2016, I just happened to be home listening to a discussion on the radio about a proposal being brought forward for a referendum to remove the 8th and I thought I just couldn’t be a bystander on this issue. So, I looked into different meetings and events that were happening and I heard about this Cherish All the Children Equally meeting happening out in the Red Cow Inn back in December 2016. As it was the first meeting, everyone that was there got a job. At that point, I decided to help with their Facebook. Then more work was thrown at me and we decided to have more public meetings around the country to inform people who we were and what we were doing and from January this year we joined up with the Life Institute doing door-to-door canvassing. So we are very busy with them.
-I would say so. So, the two groups are working together?
-Yes, in the street canvas. All the members, we looked at it and thought yes, we want to join forces.
-How many people do you have out canvassing?
-Well, Cherish All the Children Equally has around 400-500 and that is weekly, people contacting us wanting to help. In the canvassing, I suppose the Save the 8th campaign has about 3,000 each week and over 4,000 people have done it at some stage. And there are different canvases. It started off with one, but we now have three, four a week.
-Could you talk us through a little why you are campaigning?
-Well, I’m a mother and I had a difficult pregnancy. I had my son at 6 months. At 17 weeks, I was told I couldn’t bring my baby to term. I was told there was nothing that could be done. I was to go back each week. They thought I would miscarry at some point when it first happened. Nothing happened, though. I went back to work and I cycled up to the Coombe three-times-a-week to have my scan and they said he’s still hanging on in there. At 23 weeks, I had a bleed and they said this is a complication. I went to the Coombe for a week and Barra was delivered after 24 weeks and one day. He was one pound seven. At that time, I was told there was a 50/50 chance of his survival and he did quite well. He is ten this summer.
It was a huge worry. At 17 weeks, I was showing and people were saying, oh, are you expecting a child and I was saying, well I don’t know if I am are not. What I appreciated from that time in hospital was, they supported me. There was no issue of an alternative, of giving up on me. When with Barra, I was getting the scans, a woman turned to me and said, you know, if you were in England they would send you for a termination. I thought, really? I didn’t believe her and I thought well I want this baby and I’m Pro-Life. She said, well you are a high-risk pregnancy. I really did doubt her but, after my experience in hospital, I started to think when you are a patient in the system, you really are vulnerable. You are dealing with these medical people who are dealing with this every day and it really is hard not to be knocked off your position by a team of medics. They could put forward the argument that I was an older mother, I had a good life. Why would you take on this baby when there could be lots of problems? Why would you do it?
When Barra born, they gave me a book with the possible issues that Barra might have, his sight, his hearing, again, this was a worry but I got this information when Barra was there and everybody was rooting for him, but I feel if abortion was an option, if it was made legal, the doctors would be obligated to inform you of abortion as an option because if they didn’t and a problem arises there would be claims. Well, you didn’t tell me I was a high-risk or you didn’t tell me sufficiently of the risks and the doctor will now be compelled to tell people of the risk and this undermines every woman going into a pregnancy. It doesn’t matter if a woman is 24 or 44, no woman knows going into a pregnancy if she is going to go to term and if the baby will be born healthy. It is a very uncertain time. Nobody knows the outcome of that pregnancy.
To live in a country where there is this thing straight away, well we’ll see how it goes, you don’t have to if you don’t want to… To me, it just takes away that support that is already there for mothers that want their babies and that is my personal reason for getting involved in this campaign. Everybody should be supported during their pregnancy.
I work with a doctor, Dr Anne McCluskey, very involved with Cherish All the Children and she is based in Derry. She gets a lot of woman in crisis with unplanned pregnancies and the first thing she always says to them is congratulations. That makes a big difference. Congratulations. You are pregnant, you are expecting a baby. Those little words of support can be a positive thing and can be enough to set people on the right path. I do believe that bringing abortion into this country would change the nature, would change the culture of motherhood and pregnancy.
-Well, it won’t be as valued. This is now something you can discard. First of all, the baby will have no legal rights. It is lesser than you or I in society. Currently, your baby has rights. Nobody can deliberately hurt or harm that baby. Nobody can kill that baby. If the 8th goes, those rights go. If something happens through carelessness or negligence, it is a lesser offence. It is less important.
-So you think the 8th Amendment is really important?
-I do, I really do. It is a fundamental human right, the right to life. No other rights can be enjoyed without the right to life. It is the basis for everything else. You are discriminating against unborn children, you are saying they are less than us. These are human beings. They are smaller than us, but they are human beings.
-So for you, it’s a matter of life?
-Yeah, I mean it’s a human right. It’s a fundamental human right. And this is the start of a process. If you take away one fundamental human right you can take away others. I mean, the Government, many of us are actually devasted that the Government of Ireland is actually asking us this question. And other governments in the world never asked the public this question, to ask this question to bring in legislation and be asked to give away the right to life.
-Do you, in general, do you think there’s a better option for the Government to ask the question and put it out there?
-I don’t think it’s a good question to ask. First of all, it’s unethical. We are being asked to legalise discrimination and that’s what it is. Some babies will live, some babies will die. Depending on their age, size and location, they are the determining factors and that is discrimination. We are all human. Full-stop. So, no I don’t think it is good we are being asked this question. I can see how in other countries it has been brought in by sleight of hand or guile or one court ruled on it and a government felt compelled to bring in laws after this, but we know hard cases don’t make good law. If you look at those countries that do have it, every single one of them has a march for life. Every single country has a march against abortion to some extent. That is there. And that will not go away. For some people, it is just fundamentally wrong to kill.
-Say, for example, in those countries where they are marching, do you not think it is better that, in Ireland, we are being asked?
– Well, we are marching against it, too. We don’t want to be asked. We don’t want it, no. We don’t want to be asked a question that is innately wrong. People don’t want to kill their child. So, what is the cost of life? No. Ask us a better one.
-How do you think the vote will go?
-I do think the No will win. I am not confident enough to be disillusioned. When you are out campaigning and we are dealing with the No campaigners, people that have the same opinion so you are surrounded by that but, I know a lot of Yeses and they are weak Yeses. They are shrugging their shoulders, isn’t that what we have to do or isn’t that what they want us to do. I mean, there are people there that are strong Yeses and they want their choice and they want their voices heard but there are also enough people there that are uneasy about it.
I do think there are enough undecided voters there and undecided voters tend to vote No. You know, this has been going on the last two years and there isn’t going to be a bolt of inspiration that will make people think abortion is right and vote Yes in the last two weeks. That reluctance, that means No.
–Anything else you would like to add?
-Just, that Cherish All the Children Equally is a small group of campaigners and it is amazing the type of people that want to get involved from the four corners of the country, particularly Northern Ireland because they will be very vulnerable if the 8th Amendment is removed here. They have managed to get their special arrangement in relation to the British abortion act, but they feel that if it is removed here it will put them under enormous pressure.
Editors Note;The Referendum is on 25th May. Regardless of the side you support, make sure you exercise your right and vote.
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