Ireland’s controversial, long-standing ban on abortion is becoming a major issue in the run-up to Ireland’s next general election and both sides of the debate are accusing the other of allowing donors from the United States to interfere.
American interest groups have openly lobbied in the fight. Quartz reports that prior to the maternal health exemption vote in 2013, American pro-life groups donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to like-minded allies in Ireland, and the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, distributed postcards for Americans to hand out at St. Patrick’s Day celebrations calling on prime minister Enda Kenny to uphold a total ban.
On the heels of Ireland’s historic same-sex marriage referendum, conversations about abortion in Ireland have begun anew and foreign interests are mobilizing.
Many of the core members of the Abortion Rights Campaign, which organized a 10,000-strong march in Dublin two months ago against the Eighth Amendment, are American and Canadian expatriates living in Ireland.
After Savita Halappanavar’s death from a septic pregnancy in 2012, which ultimately led to the maternal health exemption the following year, thousands of Irish homes received illegal automated calls in which an Irish voice read a pro-life message. The calls were traced to a Colorado employee of the anti-abortion lobby group Personhood USA.
Pro-life campaigners have voiced their suspicions that pro-choice groups in Ireland are receiving donations from Atlantic Philanthropies, a private foundation backed by Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney.
For religious conservatives, Ireland is regarded as an example of a country that has successfully incorporated Christian values into law.
“It’s nearly as if Ireland is the last bastion within Europe, this is the final frontier, this has to be protected,” Kathleen Lynch, a Labour member of Ireland’s parliament, told Reuters in 2012. “I’m not certain we should equally be used by others, to avenge something that they couldn’t withstand in their own countries.”