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Irresponsible rhetoric of the anti-abortion right

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David Quinn of the Iona Institute talks to EWTN

This week Ireland's government finally grappled with a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling that found its failure to regulate the limited constitutional right to an abortion violated the European Convention.

Anticipating an impending law change it doesn't welcome, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in Ireland released an exceptionally hard hitting anti-abortion video. EWTN's intent is to combat any change to Ireland's stringent anti-abortion laws.

What's EWTN you ask? It's the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to more than 148 million homes in 144 countries. It's Catholic, it's right wing and it's on high alert. That means that pressing social justice issues like alleviating the plight of the world's poor must always take a back seat to abortion and the gays.

At EWTN every word that comes from Rome is infallible. Here in the US they promoted Romney, a Mormon bishop, for president. Think of them as the Pat Robertson network, with an unexpected Catholic twist. At EWTN either you accept that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth, upon whom the salvation of your soul depends, or you're lost. They have no room at all for ambiguity or variousness.

Now they're broadcasting in Ireland, where quite a few public figures have signed on to their digital crusade. But they came to my attention this week after releasing one of the most bullying public service announcements I have ever seen.

'There has literally been a tsunami hitting Ireland - a tsunami of the Culture of Death…' they claimed.

That's an attention-grabbing line, but if you look out your window from Malin Head to Mizen you can determine quite quickly that it's not true. It has taken the Irish government 20 years to even address the Irish Supreme Court ruling that permits abortion where there is a threat to the mother's life, never mind legislate. It has taken them two years and Savita Halappanavar's needless death to respond to the European Court ruling.

Some tsunami.

If you don't support abortion rights that is of course your choice. But remember that abortions are not mandatory and that you actually don't have the right to make that choice for everyone else. At the very least, you should make an effort to acknowledge that your opinion is not the only opinion.

But that's not what happens at EWTN however. At EWTN there is only what they call the Culture of Life locked in an epic Harry Potter-like battle against what they call the Culture of Death. This kind of fantasy novel rhetoric not only denies that the opposition have an argument of any kind, it actively demonizes them as diabolically inspired.

If 'death' is now a 'culture' who is its spokesperson – Lord Voldemort? Is this how they plan to protect Ireland's abortion ban? With young-adult fantasy literature allusions? Is this kind of bullying rhetoric really the level of conversation that EWTN wants us all to have?

If you believe, as they clearly do, that your opponents are literally inspired by demons, won't you be less likely to entertain any other points of view, to say the least? But won't that trade off ensure you've become a fundamentalist?

And what of the thousands of Irish women who, through accident or against their will, become pregnant each year? Are they to be denied any choice because EWTN and its supporters are locked in a religious battle with the forces of darkness?

How is this rhetoric helping?

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