Those opposed to abortion law being branded fanatics
The meme is being well and truly planted in the public mind now; those opposed to the abortion bill are at best impolite and at worst extremist and fanatical.
Thus it was impolite and inappropriate for Eddie Shaw, chairman of the board of management at a primary school in Dublin, to put leaflets advertising the recent pro-life vigil on Merrion Square into the schoolbags of children.
I wouldn't have done that, but the pressure applied to him was such that he had to resign his position.
This was completely disproportionate to the offence.
Then the attention turned to Dublin priest, Fr Dan O'Connor, who had the temerity to read out the bishops' letter against the bill at a Mass to bless graves on Sunday.
A woman rang 'Liveline' to protest against that. We also learnt that a group turned up outside Enda Kenny's home at the weekend to protest against the abortion bill.
That certainly would have been a step too far, but then it transpired they weren't pro-life protesters at all, they were fathers' rights protesters. The media quickly lost interest.
Various politicians have popped up, including the Taoiseach, to complain about some genuinely vile correspondence they are receiving from voters opposed to the abortion bill. Pro-lifers are receiving similar correspondence from those who back the bill.
All correspondence of this sort is to be condemned but should never be passed off as representative of any particular group unless that is actually the case, otherwise it is simply a smear job.
In fact, Labour TD Joanna Tuffy tweeted the other day that the "vast majority of correspondence from my pro-life constituents is respectful & just putting their view/points across." This was hardly picked up at all.
It is clear what is going on here. There is a concerted attempt to delegitimise almost all opposition to the abortion bill and to tell the general public that if they want to be considered respectable members of society, then they should either shut up or support the bill.
This effort to demonise and marginalise anyone who opposes the abortion bill provided the background to the Dail debate on the bill which began yesterday.
That debate naturally focused mostly on the substantive issue itself, namely that the bill will make abortion available for the first time in Ireland when a woman is deemed to be suicidal despite the fact that there is no evidence a single life will be saved as a result.
An unknown number of pre-born children will die at the hands of surgeons as a result of it, however. That is the problem of course, and it's a very big one and it's why some TDs and senators are bravely prepared to lose the party whip rather than vote in favour of it. They are obeying their consciences rather than their party leadership.
The notion that someone would follow their conscience seems to be a mystifying one to our body politic. This total lack of respect for conscience also explains why the bill itself directly attacks conscience.
It does this in two ways. First, it requires pro-life doctors to refer women seeking abortions to pro-choice doctors.
To put this in perspective, imagine if one day we were to legalise assisted suicide. The way things are going, this is entirely possible.
Now imagine that a law permitting assisted suicide told doctors that while they didn't have to help a person to kill themselves they did have to refer such a person to a doctor who would kill them. Most of us would instantly see that this was a violation of conscience.
The second way the bill attacks conscience is that it brings certain named hospitals under its auspices, whether they like it or not.
That is, the proposed law will force hospitals to perform abortions under certain circumstances irrespective of the ethos of that hospital.
The Government would insist that those hospitals are being forced to perform only 'life-saving' abortions.
But suppose the hospital doesn't believe an abortion would save a woman's life if the woman is judged by a HSE panel to be suicidal? Then too bad, it must perform it anyway.
Asked about this issue last week, Health Minister James Reilly was not for turning. He said: "We could not have a situation where a service being funded by the taxpayer could deprive a citizen of their rights.
"So under those circumstances we see absolutely no indication or room for an institution to have a conscientious objection."
Does Mr Reilly actually understand the implications of what he said? Effectively he said that once any given institution receives money from the State it becomes a de facto agent of the State. So much for the autonomy of civil society.
DOES he also realise that his formulation amounts to the imposition by the State of a given form of morality? The Government likes to claim that it is legislating for everyone.
But in fact it is attaching itself to a particular view of 'human rights' and is imposing that view via the machinery of the State on anyone and anything that gets in its way, whether it be hospitals or individual doctors and nurses.
This is why the abortion bill and the philosophy behind it, is actually deeply illiberal. No truly liberal government would disrespect the conscience rights of individual citizens and institutions as profoundly as this one is.