With the referendum to Repeal the 8th fast approaching, the anti choice campaign and some of their supporters have been engaged in spreading deliberate misinformation, impersonating medical professionals and even assaulting supporters of a yes vote.
Here is a not-at-all-comprehensive list of the dirty tactics of the anti choice side.
Deliberately misleading voters
Dublin woman Niamh was polite when an elderly couple arrived at her door to canvass for Save the 8th.
“They tried to give me leaflets but I said ‘No thank you, I’m a firm yes voter.'”
The man responded, saying that if the 8th was repealed the “floodgates would be opened.”
“I told him that I had lost a daughter to a fatal foetal anomaly. I told him that what I went through was horrendous and that I was denied healthcare in my own country.”
Niamh says the man told her that the 8th amendment had nothing to do with what happened to her and that it was the hospital at fault.
“He tried to tell me that women in my situation do get the care they need in Ireland, he said that the constitution had nothing to do with the law and that the 8th doesn’t impact on a doctor’s ability to deliver healthcare.”
Niamh was shocked and distressed to have the validity of her experience questioned by anti-choice campaigners. “I was really upset. He stood there and told me that my story was not real.”
Niamh said that she told the man that she was part of a large support group of families who had had similar experiences. “He said he would like to meet them, he wanted me to prove it to him because he didn’t believe me.”
The woman who accompanying the man interrupted their conversation to ask Niamh invasive questions about the death of her daughter. Niamh said that the Save the 8th campaigner seemed to have learnt a script of things to say and he became flustered when she said that what he was saying wasn’t true. “I found the whole thing really upsetting, being told what happened to me wan’t real. The man didn’t seem to understand the affect of the 8th amendment at all. It was like he was making up his own version of how women with FFA are treated to appease the worries of undecided voters.”
The support group Terminations For Medical Reasons have confirmed that they have had many reports of similar misinformation and lies being told to the public by campaigners seeking to retain the 8th amendment.
Using deliberately provocative and upsetting imagery
Anti choice campaigners recently set up in front of Dublin’s maternity hospitals with what the Rotunda Hospital called “graphic & distasteful postering”.
Commenting about distressing images used by anti choicers at Holles Street Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone said it was, “shocking that women who are miscarrying or in other very challenging pregnancies are subjected to these images.”
The Rotunda Hospital also commented on the tactics of the anti choice campaigners,
“This protest has caused a lot of upset and distress for patients, many of whom attend the hospital for a number of different reasons and not just for the happy occasion of giving birth to a new baby.”
Filming & photographing people without their permission.
Daithí from Dungarvan was at home when 3 Love Both campaigners called to his door.
“I politely took their leaflets & told them I would be voting yes, then I noticed him outside my house taking a photo of my house and making notes. Went out to ask him why he was doing it & he started taking photos of me.”
Daithi said he felt that the Love Both campaigner was attempting to intimidate him by taking photos of him as he questioned the campaigner.
Dublin woman Karen was meeting a friend in for coffee when she encountered anti choice campaigners on Dame Street.
“I saw a handful of men with two huge, 8ft posters on display, of a dismembered foetus. I was so triggered by them so I confronted them to ask how dare they stand there like that, with no objective other than to upset people. I told him that I was so incensed because I had only miscarried two weeks before.”
“His wife told me that I should look at the picture so, because if my child was wanted, I wouldn’t be upset by a photo of an abortion. As I spoke to the man, I realised he had a bodycam filming me, and his wife was also filming me on her phone. They then posted the video of me to their Facebook page, where the comments on the video were despicable. For example, one person (claiming to “Love Both”), wrote “Not only has she lost her hair, she’s also lost her mind”. Those words were intended to hurt.”
Karen said she felt the men didn’t seem to understand the difference between miscarriage and abortion. Karen says one of the men was “repeatedly telling me he loved me, even though he said I was a ‘baby murderer’ he also asked my friend if her child was conceived in rape.”
Using Small Children to Canvass
Sharon from Mayo was shopping in Castlebar when she saw canvassers from LoveBoth.
“They had a child no older than 9 handing out leaflets to passers by. I saw that she would offer leaflets especially to those who had already refused them. As a parent myself I found this highly inappropriate.”
There have also been reports of young children in Kerry canvassing houses alone.
Being offensive & upsetting to people with disabilities
The advocacy and support group People with Disabilities Together For Yes We say they are, “shocked at the number of reports coming in from campaigners across the country with statements that our members have been verbally abused and even followed.”
“All harassment of campaigners is unacceptable, but the level and vitriol of the harassment currently targeted at women with disabilities campaigning for a yes vote has become intolerable.”
Amy Hassett, is a member of PWD Together For Yes who says she has been verbally abused by anti choice people “As a woman with a disability, going out in public while wearing Repeal-branded clothing, is stressful as I am likely to be verbally abused.”
Meath man Paul* said that an anti choicer told him he, “wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the 8th.” Paul uses a wheelchair. He says he found the statement to be very upsetting and offensive.
Evie Evans from Disabled people Together For Yes said that people involved with her group have been hearing statements like this often from anti choice campaigners. Evie says it is very upsetting and offensive, “it’s a very serious accusation, suggesting that people continue pregnancies because of a law rather than love… Disabilities are not even being legislated for as a reason so it is a straw man argument. And we are still seeing children with Downs Syndrome being used by the anti choice campaign even after Downs Syndrome Ireland specifically requested that Downs Syndrome be left out of the debate.”
Being racist and insulting to women with children
Kerry woman Kim was out with her Mother and Kim’s 6 year old child in Tralee. There were anti choice campaigners standing around with huge posters that had graphic and gory pictures on them. The canvassers also “young children canvassing for them”. Kim’s Mum was disgusted that they were exposing children to the images and asked the anti choice campaigners if they thought it was ok to expose small children to such disturbing imagery.
“All she got back was ‘well do you think abortion is ok?’ She informed them that her personal opinions had no bearing on what she had asked and again asked if they thought the images were ok to subject small innocent children to? A young man in his 30’s told her “Fuck off back to her own country”.
Impersonating medical professionals
Midwife Jeannine Webster was shocked to encounter a 17 year old canvassing for Love Both who was impersonating a student midwife. Jeannine was walking along Grafton Street when she saw a Love Both stand. Being a midwife she went over to get a leaflet as she wanted to read the points being made by anti choicers.
“I went over and spoke to the young woman, she handed me the leaflet and I read through it, I asked her could she expand or give evidence to back up the points outlined because I felt many were totally inaccurate, she was unable to do this.”
Jeannine was alarmed by the content of the leaflets. She says she felt that some of the issues within them could cause harm if a woman who had experienced them read the leaflet and saw these issues being handled in such an insensitive way. Jeannine asked the young woman what she would do if a woman became upset after reading one of their leaflets.
“The young woman pointed out to me that she was a student midwife. I explained to her this was more the reason that she should be unbiased in her views. Midwives I pointed out had a duty to care and support women not to judge or coerce them.”
“I asked her what university she was doing her degree, she said DCU. I pointed out to her that there is no midwifery training in DCU. She said, well I’m a student nurse, and I want to train as a midwife afterwards.”
Jeannine told the anti choice campaigner that she herself was a midwife and that it was wrong of her to present herself as a student midwife to the general public.
“I asked her did she feel that information might influence them? I further explained to her that I was a member of the Midwives Association of Ireland and that I was utterly shocked that she would fraudulently attempt to portray herself as a student midwife.”
When Jeannine told the woman that falsely claiming to be a midwife was a criminal offence the woman said she did not want to talk to her anymore and moved away.
Jeannine later saw photos of the woman on the Love Both Facebook page. After identifying her she informed the nursing colleges of the incident and made independent inquiries herself and found that the woman in the photos who was canvassing on Grafton street is not even a student nurse. Jeannine also contacted Love Both to let ask them were they aware that their canvassers were impersonating student midwives however she did not get a response.
The Save the 8th campaign was previously embarrassed when the man who they had used as their poster boy turned out to have been lying about his experience working in a hospital that provided abortions. A Dublin midwife discovered that the man involved had lied about his qualifications and was a self confessed convicted armed robber and gun runner who had falsified his documents.
Assaulting supporters of a yes vote
Twitter account @LGBTforChoice tweeted a photo of a member of theirs who said he was beaten up after, “two scumbags took issue with my repeal jumper.”
Dublin woman Maggie Elizabeth Walsh was left shaken after an unprovoked attack in Dublin last weekend, “I had on one of the big red Repeal necklaces and I was walking around college green about half two and a guy walking the opposite way just launched at me and grabbed the necklace.”
The man broke her necklace then ran away. Maggie has reported the incident to the Gardai.
In a separate incident an anti choice campaigner threw a plastic foetus at a woman. Dublin woman Regina was on Liffey Street when her path was blocked by a “thick-set, middle-aged man”. Regina says the man said he, “hoped I was voting ‘no’, to prevent babies being killed. I said I was voting yes.”
“He took a foetus from his pocket and asked me was I happy that 11 week old foetuses like the plastic one he gestured to in his hand were being murdered. I told him the foetus wasn’t representative of an 11 week old foetus because one of my miscarriages was at 11 weeks so I knew the size of a foetus that age. He said I was being stupid and threw the plastic foetus at me!”
Regina said the man was angry and she found the incident very frightening. “I didn’t know if he was going to follow me or not. I started getting very panicked and I legged it away from him.”
The tactics being used by some anti choice campaigners are underhanded, cruel and abusive. One of their campaign slogans is to “Love” both.
From lying to women who lost a baby to fatal foetal anomaly to adding trauma and distress to women who are or have miscarried it is hard to see where the “love” part is, unless they have a warped, controlling and cruel version of love that is.
*Name changed to protect identity.