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Conscience Magazine

Patronizing Politics

November 16, 2017

In her article “The Democratic Case for Abortion in Ireland,” Ella Whelan points out that politicians often vote against their constituents’ wishes, claiming that a “majority decision” isn’t always “what they think is right.” Unfortunately, we find that many Irish politicians base these strongly held opinions regarding the abortion debate on misinformation fed to them by decades of well-funded, antichoice propaganda campaigns. When prochoice members of the public attempt to meaningfully engage with their representatives, they often find themselves in the frustrating position of being expected to educate politicians on the basics of reproductive justice before such a conversation can occur.

Irish politicians’ fear of antichoice activists is particularly perplexing given overwhelming public support for repealing the Eighth Amendment. One is forced to consider why the voices of the few seem to have more power than those of the many. Indeed, it is difficult to avoid cynicism when confronted with the antichoice billboards, flyers and other marketing materials being shoved into letterboxes around the country as we speak—the cost of these actions must be astronomical and certainly well beyond anything any Irish prochoice organization can afford.

When the Citizens’ Assembly process was announced, it seemed to be yet another method of putting off a referendum. Ironically, however, the Citizens’ Assembly showed us that when the public is given a chance to be educated and to understand the nuances on the issue of abortion access, people will overwhelmingly agree that reproductive rights are necessary human rights. On the other hand, we see already in the first days of the Committee on the Eighth Amendment that a disconcerting number of politicians charged with drafting the referendum have not bothered to read the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations. How can any public expect to be represented when its representatives are so willfully uneducated?

Co-conveners,Abortion Rights Campaign
Dublin, Ireland