Wednesday 25 April 2018

'It is not easy to be pro-life and young' - former UCD president Katie Ascough on the abortion referendum

  • Pro-life campaigner said she believes social media is putting pressure on young voters
  • 'There has become a stigma that being pro-life isn’t cool' - Katie Ascough
  • Campaigner says young people are highly engaged in upcoming referendum
Katie Ascough
Katie Ascough
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

THE former president of UCD's students' union said she believes social media is putting pressure on young voters, saying; "It is not easy to be pro-life and young".

Katie Ascough, who was impeached from UCD last year after removing abortion information from student pamphlets following legal advice from the union's lawyer, said that young people are highly engaged in the upcoming referendum.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms Ascough said that she has been keeping "very busy" canvassing on a six-week Lives Saved nationwide tour with the Love Both Project.

The 21-year-old from Co Dublin said that the campaign received a "great" response and that people across Ireland were interested in debating the Eighth Amendment.

Katie Ascough
Katie Ascough

"Everyone is aware of the upcoming referendum and they do want to hear both sides of the debate. People want to be able to make an informed decision in May," Ms Ascough told Independent.ie.

Ms Ascough said that she believes the referendum is difficult, in particular, for young people.

The former students' union president added that she believes social media is also adding pressure onto young voters.

"Social media doesn’t reflect the truth of our society. There has become a stigma that being pro-life isn’t cool. I’m not a fan of Twitter because it isn’t a balanced platform. It is not easy to be pro-life and young. It is very hard to go against what is perceived to be the ‘cool-thing’ on campus. It’s ridiculous that young people have to break a stigma based around the right to live.

"What kind of society are we living in that a right to life is seen as anti-cultural and un-cool?"

Ms Ascough said that if young people were properly informed, she believes the pro-life side would win the referendum.

Katie Ascough
Katie Ascough

"It’s very important that everyone votes. If undecided students could be presented with two sides of the debate, I would be confident and looking forward to seeing a large youth turnout in this referendum.

"However, given the imminence of a referendum and the current oppression of freedom of speech in universities across the country, I am not holding my breath for a fair and open debate before May.

"Despite that, we will be going out and campaigning and trying our best to keep the Eighth Amendment."

Ms Ascough said that she became involved in the pro-life campaign after her mum had a miscarriage when she was 15-years-old.

"My mum had a miscarriage at 13 weeks. There I was holding my little brother in my hands. I could look into his face. He had a perfectly formed face. He had fingernails. He had creases on his knuckles. He was just so perfectly human and so small. It really opened my eyes to the humanity of an unborn.

"I have a responsibility to speak up for those babies who don’t have a voice."

She added that "everyone is instinctively pro-life".

"Nobody thinks it is OK to end a life. The Eighth Amendment is simply a human rights issue. It’s not that complicated."

Ms Ascough said that the Pro-Life campaign has been fighting hard to inform women exactly what an abortion is.

However, some pro-life campaigners have come under fire for holding graphic signs of abortions outside public places.

"Women deserve to know what happens when they have an abortion... it wouldn’t be my personal choice to use graphic images on posters but it is important to inform people about the reality of an abortion," she said.

Ms Ascough said that she hopes Ireland rejects repealing the Eighth Amendment.

"For once, it would be nice to see Ireland be ahead of the times and reject abortion. It’s incredible what an abortion culture can do and it would be great if, for once, Ireland didn’t just follow other countries and be ahead of the times."

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