After the death of Dr. Savita Halappanavar—a 31-year-old woman who succumbed to septicaemia and E.coli ESBL after being denied access to an abortion at a hospital in Ireland despite—caused outrage that led the Irish government to finally move to officially pass a law allowing abortion when the mother's life is at risk, the country has now moved up to the frontline in the fight for abortion rights. Perhaps fearful that the recent policy change, as well as the opening of the first-ever private abortion clinic in Northern Ireland, is an indication that its movement is losing ground internationally, U.S. pro-life group the American Pro-Life Action League has donated "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to the Irish pro-life lobby.
According to Irish writer Angela Nagle, in a piece for The Atlantic, "It has long been assumed in Irish pro-choice circles that [Irish pro-life groups] were getting funding from the U.S." But it was confirmed as fact this week in an interview that the American Pro-Life Action League's spokesperson Joseph Scheidler gave to the Sunday Business Post. He singled out Youth Defence, the powerful Irish pro-life group known for posting graphic posters of aborted fetuses around Ireland, saying, "The need the money for publicity."
Here's some background info on the Youth Defence:
They were founded in 1992 in the family home of a long-time conservative organizer who famously uttered the words "Go away ye wife-swapping sodomites!" at pro-divorce campaigners and had other unkind words to say about feminists who used contraception, city-dwelling feminists, and feminists who were also foreigners. Her son and daughter are also co-founders of the affiliated group The Life Institute, who are currently being investigated by the state ethics watchdog for potential breach of lobbying regulations.
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.
However, despite Ireland having some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, pubic opinion in Ireland sways prominently toward abortion, at least in certain cases. As Nagle says, "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."
Seventy percent of Youth Defence's Twitter followers come from the U.S.
Scheidler explains his group's support of Youth Defence by saying that Ireland has "great symbolic importance to the pro-life movement."
"Abortion is about conversation," Scheidler says. And at least on that point, pro-choicers can agree with him. Because the fight for abortion rights is more conceptual than anything. It's not about encouraging the physical procedure of abortion, but rather, securing a woman's rights to the option of it. Fighting for the right to something that nobody wants to need is the particular challenge of today's pro-choice movement.
That, and a lack of funds. But U.S. dollars could just as easily be used to fund the Irish pro-choice movement.
Why American Pro-Life Dollars Are Pouring Into Ireland [The Atlantic]