In Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., elective abortion is completely illegal. Legal protection of the preborn in Ireland stands in stark contrast to the rest of the U.K. Britain has one of the highest rates of abortion in the West, with two hundred thousand abortions reported last year (for context, roughly one million are committed in the United States every year). The BBC has released a documentary about the highly-contentious abortion culture in Ireland, where Pro-Life protesters are committed to maintaining the protections that the preborn currently possess, and abortion advocates are pushing harder than ever for abortion on-demand. While the BBC does investigate the views of Pro-Life activists, host Alyse Harte makes her anti-Life sympathies clear. The documentary is called Abortion: Ireland’s Guilty Secret.
The documentary begins at a Pro-Life rally, where stalwart Irish citizens peacefully celebrate Life. Meanwhile, anti-Life protesters yell “Pro-Life is a lie; you don’t care if women die!” This juxtaposition of attitude reflects the overall sentiments of the respective sides of the abortion debate in Ireland. Pro-Lifers, while galvanized, rely on peaceful – and often prayerful – means of disseminating and proclaiming their message, the abortion movement remains fiercely vitriolic.
Harte follows the work of two young teenagers who are committed to the Pro-Life cause and spend weekends in the public square educating and engaging fellow Irishmen in dialog over abortion. The teens, Gemma and Aiden, say that they are motivated to spend their time in Pro-Life activism because “the babies can’t speak up for themselves.” “We’re not all from the same background,” says Gemma, “but we all come together because that issue is so important for us.” Harte points out that “some people might think you guys are a bit hardline,” to which Aiden confidently responds, “When it boils down to it, I don’t believe in killing the baby… it is defending the people who have no voice, the smallest in our society, the weakest in our society, the most vulnerable in our society.” Likewise, Gemma affirms: “We’re in this because it’s so important. If that’s controversial, it’s a small price to pay.”
Harte then visited Tara, a woman in her early twenties who was planning to travel to Britain for an elective abortion because she could not undergo one in Ireland – something roughly five thousand Irish women do each year. Tara cited a trip to the United States for which she and her boyfriend were saving and a desire to save for a nicer apartment as the reasons why she chose abortion over the Life of her child. She seems relatively confident in her plan, but immediately following her first trimester abortion in London, Harte catches up with Tara and finds her shaken. Tara underscores the emptiness brought about by the abortion: “it’s no longer inside of me,” she says of her baby, through tears. But Harte focuses on the fact that Tara had to travel to undergo the abortion, calling the experience “deeply unpleasant.”
The BBC cameras also toured the Marie Stopes abortuary responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths every year. Marie Stopes is roughly the British equivalent of Planned Parenthood in the U.S. – the conglomerate is expansive and effectively branded as a household name. The mill Harte visited commits as many as thirty abortions every single day. The procedure rooms were cold and sterile, with little more than a lone operating table with stirrups sitting in the middle of each one. The so-called recovery room was lined with many plastic-and-metal chairs that were essentially lawn chairs. The clinic generously referred to these as “recliners.”
Harte also spoke to a woman who traveled from Ireland to England for a medical abortion and traveled back to Ireland during the abortion process that followed her ingestion of the pills. She experienced severe, heavy clotting and bleeding during her flight back to Ireland. Recalling the horror of the experience, Lauren said: “Parts of my body or the baby that was inside of me was just coming apart in pieces on an airplane.”
A vehement abortion activist also featured in the documentary vandalizes buildings and public infrastructure with sticker advertisements for a website peddling illegal abortion drugs. In the name of a woman’s “right,” the activist wants to import these drugs and disseminate them among the public, to be ingested without medical supervision or a plan for follow-up care following the abortion. A likeminded OB/GYN featured in the documentary refers to Pro-Life activists as the Taliban.
At the end, Gemma summarizes Ireland’s strong commitment to keeping the country Pro-Life: her generation does not want to see Ireland turn into a place “like England or America,” where abortion on-demand is the norm.