I doubt it’s come as any great surprise to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny that women have periods. He is a married father of three, after all. And I don’t really care if some women in Ireland tweet him details of their menstrual cycle. Most women keep those things to themselves, I suppose, figuring that those things are, well, private and just another part of life.
But some pro-choice supporters in Ireland think they’ve been making a great campaign point by updating Enda Kenny’s Twitter account with the details of their menstruation recently. The fact that the job of reading these tweets will long ago have been despatched to some intern is neither here not there. The whole point was to secure publicity for the campaign to remove the right to life from unborn human beings in Ireland.
This isn’t the first such stunt of course, and it won’t be the last. Particularly in Ireland for some reason, there is a reluctance to address the reality of abortion, what it entails for mother and child, at any level. So instead we’ve had the abortion pill bus just a few weeks ago, travelling around the country with a government representative on board and brightly coloured pictures on the windows, promoting abortion pills that have been described as “dangerous” by leading doctors in Ireland.
Before that, we had the “abortion boat” where the group Women on Waves wanted to bring women aboard so they could have abortions at sea. Then there was the “abortion drones”, this time led by Women on Web (formerly Women on Waves; do keep up), who wanted to drop abortion pills into Ireland in little packages as if they didn’t present a high risk to anyone who took them.
With such a history of Not Taking Things Seriously then, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at this latest outing by prochoice campaigners. And in some ways, I’m inclined to ignore it as just another publicity stunt that does little or nothing to address the real debate we need to have in Ireland.
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The problem with publicity stunts is just that – they attract publicity, but then do nothing of value with it. It’s not as if the women tweeting Enda Kenny have used their newfound fame to talk about things that might help women in general. There’s been no discussion of the fact that in recent weeks the Irish media has reported on pregnant homeless women living on the streets of Dublin. No mention either of the call made by the Irish Medical Organisation earlier in the year for improved perinatal palliative care to help families facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis. No talk about the fact that many women who have abortions say that they felt they had “no choice” – shouldn’t we be addressing that issue? If you’re going to draw the world’s media, why not at least do so in such a way that will actually be helpful?
The really interesting aspect perhaps is how quickly those pro-choice campaigners stopped tweeting when there was something really relevant to the abortion debate on the table. Earlier this week, Ann McElhinney wrote an article for the Irish Times newspaper about her experience of reporting on abortion. Together with Phelim McAleer, she is of course working on a film and book that will tell the story of Kermit Gosnell, the abortionist who is currently serving three life sentences for killing babies illegally.
In the article, McElhinney wrote not only of Gosnell’s crimes but also of the so-called “good abortionists” who gave evidence during Gosnell’s trial so that the jury could be fully briefed.
It is this kind of evidence that is most relevant to the Irish abortion debate, because the men and women who told the jury about the kinds of routine abortions they carry out on a daily basis provided a chilling look into Ireland’ future if pro-choice campaigners have their way and the 8th Amendment is repealed.
No wonder then, that those same campaigners who were gleefully tweeting about the need to repeal one day fell silent the next as they read about how Dr. Charles Benjamin calmly told the Gosnell trial that he had performed over 40,000 abortions, or how another doctor spoke about about the way in which limbs and other body parts must be extracted when the baby is at a later gestational age. They had nothing to say about the method some doctors choose, where potassium chloride is injected into the baby’s heart to stop it beating and make the procedure easier – easier on everyone except the baby, presumably.
And a whole new level of disinterest descends when the concept of “comfort care” is discussed, that is, where babies who survive the abortion procedure are covered with a blanket or left on a table to expire without any medical care or attention. McElhinney’s article recounted that the reporters at Gosnell’s trial were themselves in disbelief that newborn babies could be treated with such inhumanity.
Irish pro-choice campaigners have become so used to living in a bubble where the only discussion involves words like “choice”, “womens’ rights”, “autonomy” and “freedom”, that this article was a shock to the system. So they reacted to that shock, and retreated. It’s much easier, after all, to joke about how you need a hot water bottle to quell stomach cramps than to explain how Ireland is going to be any different to any other country which hasn’t managed to control the human rights abuses resulting from the liberalisation of abortion. But if their campaign is to continue, then pro-choice advocates need to start addressing this reality, and stop using the tactics of distraction to cover up the terrible consequences that would follow if Ireland’s abortion laws were further liberalised.