Pro-life group asked teen for funds 'in error'
A pro-life group sent a graphic begging letter to a schoolgirl seeking donations of up to €1,500 to stop "abortion on demand", sparking a complaint from the child's parent.
Family & Life sent the letter to the home address of a transition-year student over Easter week. The parent, who asked not to be named to protect her child's identity, said the content of the letter was "completely inappropriate" for her daughter, who was "embarrassed" and "visibly upset" when she read it.
The letter claimed that mothers and babies will die from botched abortions, "some babies" will be "born alive", "despite the abortionists' best efforts to kill them in the womb". They will be "left to die", "their bodies disposed of as medical waste".
Family & Life, which raises close to €1m a year in donations from the public, acknowledged this weekend what it called "an unfortunate and exceptional error". The organisation said the student gave her address at its stall at the National Ploughing Championships last year and the organisation was not aware that she was a minor.
However, the parent said her daughter was 15 when she visited the National Ploughing Championships. She claimed that seven of her daughter's classmates, who were on the same school trip, also received similar letters from Family & Life.
She said she contacted several government agencies last week with her concerns, including the Data Protection Commissioner, but without satisfaction. "I am really frustrated having gone through the channels with a complaint like this that I met a blank wall," she said.
The Standards in Public Offices Commission confirmed last week that legislation doesn't provide for the acceptance or non-acceptance of donations for people under 18.
Family & Life's director David Manly said it was "neither the policy nor the practice of Family & Life to contact under-age students for money or any campaign".
Adults who support the organisation's work are asked for their names and address in writing, at public events and conferences, he said. "We would not knowingly accept 'school students' or those under-age."
He added that there was "no fail safe way to guarantee that every received name and address is that of an adult", especially at busy events.
Mr Manly said he has written to the family concerned and will take steps to ensure it does not happen again. "This was an unfortunate and exceptional error; it has been addressed, and should not happen again," he said.
Family & Life is currently trying to raise €245,000 for billboards and posters - half of the amount that was raised by the umbrella group for the pro-choice movement, Together4Yes, over 48 hours last week. The group raised close to €500,000 within days of launching its online crowd-funding campaign.
An estimated 500 people attended a rally in support of repealing the Eighth Amendment in Dublin's Liberty Hall yesterday. Speakers included film director Lenny Abrahamson, Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger and Dr Peter Boylan, of the Institute for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The group announced last week that it would establish principles of safe practice that will "underpin safe care for women" in the event of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution in next month's referendum.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Bishop Denis Nulty, became the first church leader to publicly call for a no vote in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. In a pastoral message, he said he will vote against the referendum, stating: "None of us have an absolute right over the life of another."
He is the first senior figure in the Catholic Church to state his position on the May 25 vote. His diocese covers Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly and parts of Wicklow and Wexford. All bishops whose diocese are in the Republic will state their intentions to vote against the amendment in the coming weeks, as part of a concerted roll-out of the hierarchy in the run-up to the election. Each bishop will speak directly to their flock on the issue, in their different dioceses, as part of church strategy.
Bishop Nulty - who became the country's youngest bishop when he was ordained aged 49 in 2013 - told his congregation in Carlow: "Some argue strongly that a pregnant woman should have an absolute right to choose the fate of her pregnancy. I cannot agree. I believe that none of us, women or men, have an absolute right over the life of another."
A spokesperson for the Catholic Communications Office said the Church does not canvass, it teaches - and that the Catholic bishops have a responsibility to address this issue.