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Monday 25 June 2018

Comment: The idea of repealers being offended by photographs of dead foetuses is laughable

Citizens will be asked on May 25 whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution (Caroline Quinn/PA)
Citizens will be asked on May 25 whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution (Caroline Quinn/PA)

Barbara McCarthy

The clock is ticking and soon the abortion referendum will be on our doorsteps. Literally. It's going to be intense. All the loons will be out - the middle-aged pro-choicers who have never been pregnant or gotten laid since the 1990s telling you babies before 12 weeks are 'just a bunch of cells' or limes or grapes or whatever term they want to use to describe them.

On the other hand, there will be pro-lifers, bringing God and Jesus into the womb, saying it's OK for women whose babies have fatal foetal abnormality not to abort.

Both sides have obsessive lunatic fringes, leaving their cats behind to propagate their agenda across the streets of Ireland with a rare and sanity-questioning enthusiasm.

In between, many of us still don't really know what way to vote - about 20pc to 30pc or so, recent opinion polls suggest. Though I never quite trust them.

The undecided middle, it seems, could hold the key to the outcome.

"I don't know. Maybe I won't vote at all, I'm just sick of it now. It's none of my business. I'll leave them to it," I've heard men and women in pubs say. Many, like me, are in a conundrum. "I don't think women should have to travel if they've been raped or there's something wrong with the child, but at the same time, I also don't think we should have abortions up to 12 weeks in Ireland," they muse.

I'm in a constant battle between thinking that women should be able to have abortions at home - but then again, getting rid of your baby, the one you'll never have again, I dunno. The brutal process of it. It's tough to be ebullient on either side.

I don't hang out with wild, raging feminists who ban freedom of speech, so no one has lost their mind over a skinful of pints. Not yet anyway.

The great pub-drinking public has, to a certain extent, been left behind by pro-choicers, who have targeted male vegan hipsters, people on social media, in marches, colleges and avant-garde feminist theatre groups. Hence, a lot of the middle-aged men who drink in pubs on weekday afternoons and evenings won't care what happens on May 25.

The pro-life campaigners have decided to address the pub issue by targeting drinkers with beer mats and posters featuring images of in-utero foetuses, which are placed above urinals in men's toilets as well as female cubicles. The campaign literature offers a gentle reminder to pintmen who just want to get away from it all, that the referendum is happening and they will be part of it regardless.

"We find that people aren't talking about the referendum enough, and men are even less likely to talk about it, especially the type of men who go for a few beers," Save the Eighth spokesperson John McGuirk said. He went on to insist that the image would "not put punters off enjoying a pint". Phew. That's the most important part.

It's actually rather clever though. The campaign has been far from won by the repealers because, like so many things, social media is deceptive and leads you to believe that you're creating a movement because you posted a comment underneath another comment.

Pictures of 12-week-old foetuses are hard to take because they show the public that 'limes' or 'miniature avocados' are in fact babies. If the repealers want to win this referendum they should own it. It's not a piece of fruit, it is a baby. It's not a 'choice', or a 'problem that gets exported', or an 'equality issue' - it is a baby and it is being aborted by its own mother for whatever reason - sometimes tragic, sometimes out of convenience, sometimes financial.

There are a million reasons why women have abortions and it is not for us to judge, but at the same time - just own it because if you don't, the pro-lifers will.

It's this big elephant in the room and undecided people are getting annoyed. Anyone who has been pregnant and been to their first scan knows this.

You get a picture of your baby and you hear its heartbeat for the first time. It's very emotional and once again it's a baby - not a kumquat.

So 11th-hour deciders are what could sway this referendum and regular pub drinkers, snubbed by repealers, could become part of the debate.

As Mr McGuirk said, "Pubs are always running out of beer mats" so they will come in useful and "are a very good conversation starter".

The irony of vigilant repealers being offended by pictures of foetuses is laughable. Would you rather a photo of an olive or flowers in the wind? Is that not censorship? Are we not about to have an abortion referendum here?

I wonder how they'll feel about the new billboards with the tag-line, 'Growing, growing, gone', featuring a developing foetus in the first 10 weeks, at 11 weeks of pregnancy, then nothing?

Rather than be outraged, think of a comeback, folks.

People are visual beings and regardless of what makes someone have an abortion, it's difficult to deny the potency of such photos.

But whatever you do, don't deny them.

Irish Independent

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