Joanne Cosgrove, Pro-life activist
Laws save lives. That is one fact all of us can agree on. Whether it is Ireland’s smoking ban, penalty points, or health and safety laws, they all have one thing in common: they save lives.
All three of those laws reduce harm and aim to keep people safe from danger, especially vulnerable people.
The smoking ban, which was introduced in 2004, has probably saved thousands of lives over the past 14 years. That ban is now viewed as a success story in terms of helping change behaviour, and benefiting the common good.
But it is easy to forget that when the smoking ban was first proposed, there was public resistance. Its introduction was seen by some as heavy handed. Quickly, however, Irish people saw its merits. Now, health-conscious young people are incredulous when you describe what life was like before the smoking ban.
Another law that has saved thousands of lives is Ireland’s 8th Amendment. This law in our Constitution has saved 100,000 lives over the past two decades.
But we rarely hear about this. We rarely hear about the personal stories of women who faced a crisis pregnancy and whose babies owe their life to the life-saving 8th Amendment introduced in 1983.
Thousands of people are alive today because their mothers made a choice to continue with a crisis pregnancy. It was a choice that did not hurt either the mother or the baby. It was a choice that, truly, they could both live with for the rest of their lives.
There are many people alive today in Athlone who owe their life to the 8th Amendment.
This is the positive message of LoveBoth Project’s nationwide “Lives Saved” information tour, which arrived in Athlone last weekend.
The “Lives Saved” tour is visiting towns and cities around the country between now and the summer, highlighting the estimated 100,000 lives that have been saved by the 8th Amendment.
The campaign features personal stories of women who faced a crisis pregnancy and whose babies owe their life to the 8th Amendment.
The LoveBoth Project claims their figure of “100,000 lives saved” is based on an independent actuarial study that compared the experience of other EU countries and their abortion rates over the past two decades.
“Our message is simple: if Ireland had abortion at a similar rate to other European countries over the past 20 years, an estimated 100,000 people would not be alive today – that’s the population of Kilkenny,” said LoveBoth spokesperson Katie Ascough.
“What other law in Ireland can you point to that has saved that many lives?” she said.
If the figure of 100,000 lives saved is the total nationwide figure, the LoveBoth Project estimates that 1,500 people in the Athlone/Westmeath region are now alive because of the 8th.
“These people, and their families, were the focus of our event in Athlone last weekend,” said Ascough.
“Our campaign features many personal stories of women who faced a crisis pregnancy and whose babies owe their life to the 8th Amendment. It is these women and their personal stories, which the media rarely focuses on, that we want to remind people of: because abortion hurts women and it hurts babies.
“Before Ireland considers scrapping the 8th Amendment, we are asking the Irish people to think carefully about the consequences of removing a pro-woman, pro-baby law that has saved an estimated 100,000 lives over two decades?”
Uniquely in the world, our Constitution protects vulnerable women and their unborn. But more needs to be done if Ireland is to become a truly pro-life country.
It’s time we provided comprehensive positive alternatives to women in crisis pregnancy, such as improved perinatal hospice and palliative care, and adoption.
In 2015, just seven babies were offered for adoption in Ireland, according to the Adoption Authority of Ireland. In the same year 3,451 women and girls aborted their babies at UK clinics. All the while, hundreds of Irish couples who would dearly love to adopt a child remain childless.
These statistics are heart-breaking. Surely as a society we can do better than this.
LoveBoth spokesperson Katie Ascough agrees: “Let’s get real about who exactly wants to do what’s best for women,” she said. “In the past 5 years, there’s been a government working group on abortion, two sets of Oireachtas hearings, abortion legislation, five Private Members’ Bills in the Dáil, a Citizens’ Assembly last year, followed by another round of Oireachtas hearings in late 2017.
“Not one of these Oireachtas or Assembly meetings explored positive alternatives to abortion. The single focus has been about paving the way for abortion.
“Not even an hour was set aside to discuss the issue of abortion regret,” she said.
Is that offering ‘real choice’ to women? Is that ‘trusting women’? Is that ‘wanting the best’ for them?
The solution to a crisis pregnancy is to end the crisis, not the pregnancy. Babies are the most vulnerable and innocent of members of society and they need society’s protection.
Let’s vote to keep the 8th Amendment and make a choice we can all live with.
Joanne Cosgrove is a pro-life activist and mother of two children in Athlone.
Joanne and her two children, Sean and Daisy, at the LoveBoth Roadshow in Athlone last Saturday