'People have fallen for misinformation': What it's like to canvass on the Yes and No sides
With the referendum on the 8th amendment days away, the canvassers on both sides of the debate are out in force.
We spoke to two of them about what it's been like on the doorsteps.
Fiona, 32, is an artist. She has been canvassing in Dublin for a Yes vote and says "it is unfair to equate the unborn with a thinking, living, breathing, sentient, emotional woman."
Una Mary is a student in her early twenties. She has been canvassing in Dublin for a No vote. "No woman has ever died because of the 8th amendment," she believes.
Are you affiliated with/ a member of any pro-choice organisations or political groups?
Fiona: No. I’m acting independently. I signed up for canvassing through Together for Yes
Una Mary: I am a university student that volunteers with the Love Both Pro-Life Campaign. Political or religious groups are not my scene at this point in time.
Have you ever canvassed or campaigned for a previous vote or election?
U: No, never. Too busy living life to the full and doing exams!
How and when did you become involved in the campaign?
F: About a month ago I signed up through Together for Yes and got in contact with a few different Dublin based canvassing groups near where I live. If there is a canvas on near me a night I am free then I join that group.
U: Science has always been my thing. In fourth or fifth year of school, I started looking up videos about abortion and the baby’s development. One person can’t have two sets of DNA, the baby girl/boy’s heart starts beating at 21 days, she/he can suck her/his thumb at 12 weeks. Science has advanced so much. Women Hurt, a website that shares stories of women who had an abortion and deeply regret their decision, was another influencing factor.
Why do you care about this referendum?
F: I think it is unfair to equate the unborn with a thinking, living, breathing, sentient, emotional woman, which is what the 8th amendment does. Each woman’s personal situation is unique and complex circumstances lead to women being unable to continue a pregnancy. I don’t think my or anyone elses beliefs should decide that woman’s fate. Women always have and always will need abortions, the question is how and where they happen.
U: I care because I know women deserve better than abortion. Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion always ends at least one life. This referendum is asking the Irish people to legalise abortion in any circumstance up to 12 weeks. It proposes to take the right to life away from any unborn baby. Voting ‘yes’ is a blank cheque for future politicians to legalise abortion up to 24 weeks for any reason. Seriously, don’t trust politicians.
Why did you decide to go out and canvas?
F: As a woman of child bearing age who has never had a vote on this issue I feel obliged to be involved. If the 8th is not repealed it will effect generations of women to come. I find the No campaign posters and targeted online advertising manipulative and underhanded; they are trying to scare people into voting No. People need to be presented with the facts, not emotive aggressive imagery blown out of proportion or fundamentalist arguments.
U: This is the most important human rights issues of our generation! I’m not looking back in 20 years time and thinking, I could have done more! Compassion and love are my drive. Women and children deserve better than abortion. If we don’t have the right to life, we don’t have any other rights. Voting Yes would be a devastating blow to equality and inclusiveness. People need to know that they will be voting for widespread abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks.
How has the experience of canvassing been for you?
F: Honestly it’s bizarre going around knocking on a strangers doors talking about women’s reproductive systems! You really do have to wonder how we got here. But the majority of people are lovely and polite. It has been informative, emotional, challenging but most of all rewarding.
U: Honestly, I absolutely love canvassing! I’m a people person and enjoy having chats and banter with anyone I meet! It really is a privilege though, being a voice for the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society. My canvassing group is made up of university students and we’ve all become great friends! Informing people and changing hearts and minds is so uplifting, because once people hear the facts they know that voting No is the way to go.
What kind of a reaction have you had on the doorsteps?
F: A lot of questions and a huge willingness to engage. It’s a complex emotional topic and difficult to discuss with your family and friends so I’m finding people are glad to talk to someone they don’t know about it, especially people who are undecided. They are glad to be able to ask questions, to be listened to.
U: The majority of people are so lovely and open to chatting about how they feel one way or the other. I had one young couple invite us in for tea and cookies! Some are quite annoyed at first and have questions about the hard cases, yet we are not voting on the hard cases, we are voting on abortion on demand and when they hear this, minds are changed. We are demanding that the government put in place real solutions for women, rather than import the abortion industry.
Are the people you’ve spoken to well-informed?
F: Broadly speaking, yes. I hope everyone who is undecided reads the proposed legislation for themselves and sees it will be a highly regulated medical procedure, on the conservative rather than the liberal spectrum of abortion legislation.
U: Many people have fallen for the misinformation that is constantly being pumped by Yes camaigners and media unfortunately. Savita Halappanavar is constantly used by the pro-choice lobby, yet the facts are against them. Three independent reports, the HSE, HIQUA and Coroner’s report all state that Savita died as a result of medical mismanagement of sepsis and not because of not having an abortion. No woman has ever died because of the 8th amendment.
Have you come across many undecided voters?
F: With each week they become less and less
U: Yes, there are a good few undecided voters. Many don’t know however that the 8th amendment clearly states that there is an equal right to life of mother and baby, and will “as far as practicable… vindicate that right”. Hearing that we are one of the highest ranking countries for maternal healthcare in the world is also something that is suppressed by the media which undecided voters are appreciative of hearing.
How are you feeling in the run-up to the vote?
F: Hopeful. People are really considering this issue and I think they will be rational about the situation we find ourselves, show their compassion and vote yes to trusting women. It's so important everyone goes out to vote on the 25th of May and uses their voice.
U: I am so optimistic yet not complacent! I think that the Irish people will reject the proposal to legalise abortion on demand up to 12 weeks and that that they will not hand a blank cheque over to politicians to extend abortion further in the future. I think the Irish people will not let the abortion industry hurt Irish women and intentionally end the life of unborn babies. Ireland is advanced and progressive. Love Both! VOTE NO!
The images included in this article do not depict the interviewees.