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A woman holds a picture of Savita Halappanava during a candle lit vigil outside Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland Photo by: AP

American dollars funding Irish pro-life campaign as the 'last bastion of abortion-free Europe'

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A woman holds a picture of Savita Halappanava during a candle lit vigil outside Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland Photo by: AP

It appears that pro-life groups in America  such as the  Pro-Life Action League, view Ireland as the “last bastion of an abortion-free Europe,” according to Irish writer Angela Nagle, in her piece for The Atlantic.

After it was long assumed that pro-life groups in Ireland received American money for their funding, the American Pro-Life Action League's spokesperson Joseph Scheidler confirmed the notion in a recent interview with the Sunday Business Post.

Scheidler was quoted as saying in his Sunday Business Post interview that "They [Irish pro-life groups] need the money for publicity. Abortion is about conversion and it's very hard to convert people in masses, and that is why people like Youth Defence go out into the street."

The matter was thrust back into the forefront of public discourse following the death of Indian Dr. Savita Halappanavar, who died from septicaemia and E.coli ESBL in a Galway hospital after being denied an abortion. Savita’s husband says that doctors told her that Ireland was a Catholic country, and abortions were not permitted.

Read more: Irish Bishops accused of hating women by top female politician during abortion hearings

Since then, protests and rallies have reignited calling for both change in abortion legislation, as well as for the existing legislation to remain untouched.

Nagle writes how in December, the Irish government, feeling public pressure, revealed plans to loosen abortion legislation, making it permissible for mothers whose lives are threatened by the pregnancy. The proposed legislation is a small step, but still had public support.

However, the new legislation would only affect a fraction of the Irish women who seek abortions every year. While some seek abortion because it threatens their lives, others opt for it as a means to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

With abortion being outlawed in Ireland, women need to travel to England to have an abortion, or risk the chance of buying abortion pills online, which are often detained by customs in transit.

Interestingly, public opinion poll in Ireland does appear to favor the option of abortion for women. A Sunday Business Post/Red C Poll found that 85 percent of people surveyed supported legislation for the X case, which would allow abortion where a woman's life is threatened, including by suicide.

Armed with that statistic, Nagle writes "The fact that Youth Defence has been able to impose their will more effectively than the Irish people or the European Court of Human Rights for so long is testament to the power of their enormously well-funded campaigns."

Explaining Youth Defence’s background, Nagle writes: “In 1992 Youth Defence's immediate goal was to campaign to ensure that the case of a 14-year-old suicidal rape victim who was not allowed to have an abortion abroad, which brought thousands onto the street in protest, would not lead to any liberalisation of abortion legislation.”

Now over twenty years old, Youth Defence is known for their “shocking, enlarged poster images of aborted fetuses that they regularly display on Dublin's main thoroughfare and at stalls and demonstrations around the country,” writes Nagle.

Read more: Catholic Church calls on Irish government to hold abortion referendum

To American pro-life campaigners, Youth Defence is a pinnacle of hope for retaining some pro-life nations in Europe, thus explaining why funding is being sent. (Malta stands alone with Ireland as the only other European country that does not permit abortion.)

While legislation may still be pending and the discussions surrounding abortion are still evolving in Ireland, Nagle writes that “As a younger, bolder pro-choice generation seems to be emerging in Ireland and demanding more radical measures, the issue will inevitably have to come to a referendum to change the constitution and the American pro-life lobby may fear the last bastion of abortion-free Europe will be lost forever.”

“But if this generation of pro-choice activists is still counting small change by then, what Youth Defence and their American sponsors are preparing for won't be much of a fight.”

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