A small but passionate number of young anti-abortion Americans are in Ireland campaigning for a No vote in Ireland's referendum to repeal the 8th amendment and expand the country's abortion laws, which are among the most restrictive in the developed world.
But many are wondering if their presence there is legal. In a recent feature, CNN spoke with members of a Colorado-based pro-life group Let Them Live, Emily Faulkner (23), Nathan Berning (25), Benyam Capel (22), and Chase Howell (21).
They have been campaigning for the No vote in Ireland in recent weeks - despite the fact that Irish anti-abortion groups have declined to work with them out of fear of illegality. In Ireland, it is illegal for campaigns to accept foreign donations.
Let them Live are in Ireland now thanks to a $10,000 crowd-funding campaign launched by Faulkner and Berning, who are also a couple. However, they were warned that their planned trip may not be entirely legal. Per CNN:
"We were deathly afraid we were going to get turned away at the gate," says Berning, and "wanting to make sure that people didn't feel threatened by us coming."
Groups dedicated to repealing the Eighth Amendment described the couple's tactics as deceptive.
Faulkner said she and Berning arrived at Dublin airport in early May and told immigration officers they "had no specific plans for the trip other than documenting" the campaign. Once they were let through the airport gates, the pair began to mobilize, designing canvassing materials they described as "information outreach" that another member would carry to Ireland from the US.
Capel, who was described as a US government employee, told immigration he was traveling for pleasure, while Howell was initially detained after he told immigration officers at Dublin Airport "I'm here to save the 8th [amendment] and to do political activity and swing the vote." Ultimately, they let him proceed with a warning to not exchange money with anyone.
Interestingly, the Irish government stipulates that in order "to come to Ireland to do voluntary work, eg for a charity, non-profit or voluntary organisation," you need a special volunteer visa, CNN found that no Americans in Ireland were currently there on such visas.
CNN followed a group of young American anti-abortion activists who traveled to Dublin to campaign ahead of Friday's national abortion referendum. They sound disappointed with how their trip has gone. https://t.co/nobjxob4lr— Liam Stack (@liamstack) May 23, 2018
The Let Them Live members have been appearing at pro-repeal meetings, city council premises, and handing out fliers on the streets of Dublin. One member, who brought up the right to free speech after being asked to leave the Dublin city council ground by a security officer, betrayed a significant misunderstanding of just how much Ireland's libel and campaign laws differ from those in the US.
One Dublin passerby who encountered the group expressed his distaste.
"It's a little bit curious because what you've got here are other people coming and interfering here. . . It seems odd on the surface because it's an Irish constitutional issue," said the man, who asked that his last name be witheld.
"It feels like Russia and America and Donald Trump -- and that wasn't wanted. Is this wanted [here]? Its slightly off, if you know what I mean."
it's maddening that we're having so much superficial discussion of foreign interference in US elections even as a bunch of American wingnuts are traipsing over to Ireland to interfere openly with their self-liberation referendum on abortion rights.— 🦁 Bill Humphrey 🌳🌀 (@BillHumphreyMA) May 24, 2018
American interest groups are attempting to influence the abortion referendum online, too. After foreign influence grew so pervasive on social media during the Brexit vote and the 2016 US election, Facebook is using Ireland as a crucial testing ground for banning foreign ads regarding elections. However, it appears some ads are still getting through.
Do you think Americans should be involved in Ireland's abortion referendum? Or should it be left to the Irish people? Share your thoughts