How to Twist Facts…

Youth Defence organised an anti-choice rally (Rally for Life) outside Leinster House on Tuesday, December 3. On their Facebook page afterwards, they bragged about how the Irish Times “reported” that there were 10,000 people. What the Irish Times actually said was this:

Organisers – the Pro-Life Campaign, Youth Defence, the Life Institute, and Family and Life – estimated that more than 10,000 people attended the vigil. Gardaí would not confirm a figure when contacted.

The organisers estimated more that 10,000. Youth Defence are reporting their own estimate as though it were fact. So they are, yet again, skewing facts in order to suit their agenda. One would almost feel sorry for their supporters who believe everything they say.

Not strictly a point on Youth Defence, but the Eternal Word Television Network in Ireland (EWTN Ireland) recently produced an anti-choice video called “The Life Crisis in Ireland”. Red Lemonade wrote an excellent and funny post on everything that’s wrong with the video (you can watch it on Red Lemonade’s page), but there was one part that stuck out to me as being particularly skewed:

At one point in the video, Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign said that Savita Halappanavar’s death was caused by septicaemia following a miscarriage. In the very next shot, John Waters said that we do not know what caused Ms Halappanavar’s death, and that we should wait for the relevant reports. So, the movement appears to know and not know the background of the tragic situation, both at the same time.

I think that Youth Defence and the others in the anti-choice lobby are deliberately negating themselves and twisting what they say in order to have an answer for everything, as it were, regardless of whether what they say is completely contradictory to itself.

… and How to Dodge Questions

Of course, skewing facts and dodging real questions doesn’t come natural to an anti-choicer: there is a guide for the movement called “When They Say… You Say”. Many of the so-called “arguments” that Youth Defence spout can be found in it. The document gives anti-choicers the ammunition they need to deflect questions, evoke emotion, and disseminate misinformation. You can download it from the National Right to Life Committee, but here are few paraphrased phrase recommendations that are all too familiar to anyone who’s spent any time on the Youth Defence Facebook page:

  • Don’t say DOCTOR, PHYSICIAN – say ABORTIONIST
  • Don’t say PRO-CHOICE – say PRO-ABORTION
  • Don’t say ANTI-ABORTION – say PRO-LIFE
  • Don’t say FOETUS – say UNBORN CHILD, PRE‐BORN CHILD, BABY

The phraseology Youth Defence use is designed to take away from the reality of the medical procedure in question, and to guilt people who have sought “the murder of an unborn baby from an abortionist”. A woman (or men, for that matter) should never feel guilt or distress imposed by someone else for a decision she has made regarding her own body and her own health.

Youth Defence’s methods of ‘psychological warfare’ works wonders in Ireland. The country is changing, but only in the last generation or so, and we’re still very much influenced by history. People who don’t really see themselves as religious will still go to mass, for example. A recent report showed that 7% of Catholics don’t even believe in God.

Why do we do things like this? I think we’re largely a nation who likes to sit on the fence and not offend anyone where possible. When faced with a problem we can’t answer we avoid it – an Irish solution to an Irish problem – as happened for 20 years when successive governments didn’t want to offend people by legislating for abortion.

Youth Defence are making full use of this fence-sitting. People don’t want to feel bad when the anti-choice campaign tell them that abortion is murdering babies, so they either avoid the issue by having no opinion, or get guilted into being anti-choice in order to have a clear conscience.

Imagine the distress their crafted words can cause a woman who has had an abortion.

The Safest… No Wait… One of the Safest

It wasn’t too long ago that Youth Defence were stating that Ireland was the safest place to be pregnant. Around the time I pointed out that this wasn’t the case (it probably wasn’t me that made them change their wording, I just picked up on a few facts), Youth Defence changed their tone: Ireland, all of a sudden, was no longer the safest place to be pregnant, it was – and is, according to them – “one of the safest places to have a baby”.

The statistics I quoted at the time said that Ireland ranked 5th in maternal mortality rates (MMR), and 15th in perinatal mortality rates (PMR). 5th and 15th are not 1st: Ireland is not the safest place to be pregnant. (Hogan et al, 2010; and ESRI Perinatal Statistics Report 2010)

With this realisation, Youth Defence abruptly changed their stance (after a period of not mentioning MMR or PMR, whatsoever): Ireland is no longer the safest place to have a child, but one of the safest places. Supporters and followers on their Facebook page have challenged pro-choice poster on this issue: they have vehemently stated that Ireland is not the safest place to be pregnant, but one of the safes places, as though Youth Defence had never said the former, but always proclaimed the latter. I wish I had taken screenshots of the posts in question at the time.

1984 is probably my favourite book, and anyone who has ever read it (or any of George Orwell’s dystopian works) will see that the comments and underlying sentiment of Youth Defence and their supporters hint at doublethink: even though Youth Defence said “it’s the safest place”, Youth Defence have always said “it’s one of the safest places”. The organisation is, yet again, skewing its stance and its interpretation of facts in order to suit its own agenda.

Is Youth Defence Turning Pro-Choice?

Woah. Hold the fuckin’ phone. Stall the ball. Back up there a second, lad. Are you saying…?

Yes I am. There is one point on which pro- and anti-choicers appear to agree, at least with a significant cross-section of anti- and pro-choice people. The differences between the points are semantics, but both give the same result: a termination of a pregnancy in the case that the mother’s life is in danger. Despite differences, I have seen this common ground on both sides in very recent times:

  • For those who believe that this choice is up to a woman, terminating a pregnancy when the mother’s life is at risk is common sense.
  • For those who believe that the right to life of a foetus or embryo is paramount,  terminating a pregnancy when the mother’s life is at risk is common sense.

The same stance. But herein lies the difference: one group calls it an abortion, the other doesn’t.

Recently, Youth Defence have come up with a notion of intent: regardless of the medical procedure in question, once the doctor does not intend to terminate the pregnancy, then it’s not abortion; it’s a necessary medical procedure to save the woman’s life, even if it means the loss of the foetus/embryo.

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the treatment for the vast majority of cases is the termination o f the pregnancy. This is treatment to save the mother’s life, but it is also an abortion. Intent has nothing to do with this medical procedure, particularly as there is pretty much no way to allow the embryo to exist. A doctor cannot intend to save the life of the mother, and at the same time, intend to bring the embryotic ball of cells to birth. Of course, there are lots of other cases where a mother’s life can be in danger, and her treatment could damage the foetus/embryo. But because of the law in Ireland, a number women found in these cases have died. Because they were pregnant, they could not get the medicine and treatment they needed.

An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. It’s as simple as that. In this context, termination and abortion are synonymous. They are two words that mean the same thing. Youth Defence have again introduced guilt to the issue, where there is no need for guilt in any case. According to them, if you have a termination, or intend to have one, it’s immoral and you should feel bad for ever and ever and you should probably pray to Jaysus for forgiveness.

Termination is abortion. Abortion is termination. Both are cold and probably nasty words, but both are real words. Words we have to accept as part of our lives. There is no need to be afraid of either word. It’s okay to have an abortion/termination: it’s your choice, and your choice alone. All reasons are different, but all reasons are valid.

I Fought the Non-Law and the Non-Law Won

Abortions take place regularly in Ireland: therapeutic abortions (such as terminations in the case of ectopic pregnancy, for example) usually take place as required. But there are cases where the doctor might decide not to perform the procedure, even though it’s a Constitutional right. Most likely, a doctor may be unsure of the law on abortion and will be unwilling to perform the abortion.

And this is the crux of the matter. By Constitutional Law, every woman is entitled to an abortion if it means saving her life. Satutory Law (the one that puts the Constitution into practice) says … nothing.

Youth Defence state that, by law, doctors will give all medical attention to a woman where and when necessary, and therefore, there is no case where a doctor cannot do so (yes, the logic confounds me also). This is perfectly fine to state when you’re talking about ambiguous Constitutional Law, but it conveniently disregards actual Statutory Law.

What Youth Defence should be saying is: “by right, doctors will give all medical attention to a woman where and when necessary, but unfortunately such treatment cannot be guaranteed.”.

Good God!

To wrap up, in my last post about Youth Defence I talked about how they have a very strong religious undertone. Well, @gavinsblog captured this picture of one of the demonstrators.

[tweet_embed id=276020273625567232]

I don’t even know what to say to an image like that.

Day in, day out, I come across more information about Youth Defence and their ilk. I really don’t know where to begin with it all, most of the time, so I just pull a few points and write about them. So I’m signing off for now, but you can be sure that the anti-choicers will no doubt provide more material, twists, and turns to write about in the near future, so watch this space!

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