Opinion: As protesters with baby coffins plan to return to the National Maternity Hospital, Erin Lindsay asks where is the humanity is such an action.
When the arduous battle for reproductive rights came to a head in 2018, with Ireland voting to repeal the eighth amendment to allow for termination of pregnancies under certain conditions, only a naive person could imagine that it was the end of the fight.
Reproductive rights have had a long, bitter history in Ireland, and the previous gatekeepers to women's bodies are not readily releasing their grip.
Last weekend, a series of photographs went viral across Irish social media when a group called the Our Lady of Lourdes Protectors demonstrated outside the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.
The pro-life group were protesting against abortions being conducted in the hospital. They laid three child and baby-sized coffins in front of them on the street to "represent the thousands of babies murdered in Holles Street (and across Ireland) since January this year".
This weekend, the Our Lady of Lourdes protesters plan to return to the National Maternity Hospital for another round of shouting at vulnerable women and couples.
They plan to do this during Birth Trauma Awareness Week, a time where women who have dealt with traumatic births are encouraged to be open about the effects on their physical and mental health.
New mothers can experience trauma in the birthing process in a variety of ways - from the physical effects of a Caesarean section to the tragedy of dealing with a stillbirth.
Around 30,000 women a year experience birth trauma in the UK, and the campaign has been created to raise awareness and more importantly, support for new mothers who are going through a difficult time after giving birth.
And it is during this week that the protesters plan to return to Dublin, to keep to their schedule of weekly protests and to repeat their message that the "sin" of abortion "requires public reparations".
I'm not really sure how to explain why using child-sized coffins in a protest outside a maternity hospital is showing a disgusting disregard for grieving women. The fact that it needs explanation is a very harrowing thought. But as the issue has grown in national interest, and as an alarming number of people have shown sympathy towards the protest group, I feel it necessary to give it a go.
These protesters, self-describe as "defenders of the most defenceless human beings on earth".
However, surely the most vulnerable, and often defenceless parties in these situations are the women and couples going into the hospital. Using such an emotionally-loaded object as a child's coffin to prove a point is an act, that seems to be, completely devoid of compassion or humanity. Are these not the exact attributes this group claims to champion for the unborn?
The eighth amendment was repealed by the Irish voting public vote. We removed the constitutional ban on abortion. The Legislation now allows for abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and later in cases where the pregnant woman's life or health is at risk, or in the cases of a fatal foetal abnormality. Women who are now legally supported by our legislation in their decision to have an abortion are under no obligation to explain their decision to anybody.
And what about the people who are travelling to a hospital, to a place of care, who are not going for an abortion? The people that Our Lady of Lourdes Protectors do not want to recognise are the women who are not going into Holles Street to have an abortion.
The women who have had miscarriages. The women who experience a stillbirth. The women who are dealing with a fatal foetal abnormality. The women who are investigating fertility or other treatment because so far they have been struggling conceive or carry their baby to term.
Where are their defenders? Where is their support?
The sight of a small white coffin at what could be the most traumatic time of her life must be a sight of horror.
I have never been pregnant. Nor have I had to deal with the trauma of any of the tragic circumstances that can come from pregnancy. I'm very lucky.
I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to emotionally prepare yourself for an often invasive (physically and mentally) medical procedure, make your way to a medical facility and be forced to face a group of protesters accusing you of sin and murder.
How can this group, and others like it, claim to be advocates for the vulnerable and protectors of the weak? How can they claim to be compassionate and loving towards human life when they choose to protest in this way? This is a Christianity that I do not, and have never, recognised.
If you've found yourself looking at the above picture over the past few days and feeling slightly sympathetic for the protestors; if you think that pregnant women, regardless of their circumstances, deserve to be subjected to this while going to medical appointments, I ask you to save your so-called sympathetic opinion.
Women in Ireland do not deserve your judgment - they've had hundreds of years of that already.
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