Jonathon Van Maren

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Pro-life Canadian in Ireland reflects on Friday’s nail-biter abortion referendum

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Editor’s note: Jonathon van Maren is writing live from Ireland where he is engaging in pro-life activism to help preserve the country’s 8th amendment in the May 25 referendum. 

May 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The entire Western world seems to be watching the battle over abortion in Ireland, with the elites desperately hoping for (and pushing for) the repeal of Ireland’s 8th Amendment. 

On the ground, pro-lifers are working furiously to reach every voter they can prior to the vote on May 25—old men and women are going door to door to canvass, students are taking a break from university to put up posters, wave flags and banners, and pass out thousands of leaflets, and medical professionals are pushing the pro-life message into a very biased media. 

Some are even quitting their jobs to work full-time to keep Irish babies safe prior to the referendum. 

Having had the chance to speak with pro-lifers across Ireland, I can’t say how much admiration and respect I have for them, and pray that their efforts will be successful. A few observations from on the ground:

  1. Many people are genuinely undecided about the referendum. Coming from North America, I’m not used to seeing people eagerly take pro-life literature because they have not yet made up their minds and want more information, but leafleting in the small towns and canvassing door-to-door in Dublin we found many people who were undecided and willing to change their minds based on a simple conversation where we laid out the facts about abortion and the Irish government’s proposed legislation (which, interestingly, they are keeping very quiet about in the run-up to the vote on May 25.
  2. The idea of abortion at twelve weeks still has the power to horrify people here in Ireland. The pro-life campaigners here are using the fact that the government’s legislation would legalize abortion on demand up until twelve weeks as a compelling reason to vote “No” in the referendum, whereas in most Western countries abortion in the first several months is widely accepted and that argument would have no persuasive power. Although Ireland’s pro-life culture has eroded enormously over the past two decades, they are still far more instinctively opposed to abortion than in other nations. This pro-life culture could still be salvaged—the foundation is still there.
  3. Ireland is having the sort of robust debate about abortion that is nearly impossible to have in Canada. The campaigners have trucks driving around Dublin describing horrifying abortion experiences, they have signs bluntly explaining that abortion is killing, and they describe legal abortion as a “licence to kill.” These sorts of messages, although undeniably true, would be called “hate speech” by the Justin Trudeau’s Canadian government. Prominent television shows are hosting lively debates in which abortion activists and pro-life advocates face off, with the nitty-gritty details of the violence of abortion being discussed in a way that would cause fainting spells over at the CBC. If abortion is legalized, abortion activists will go to work to silence this debate in any way that they can.
  4. University campuses in Ireland, just as in North America, are hotbeds of abortion activism, and many students seem particularly passionate about a “Yes” outcome on Friday. It is genuinely saddening to see young people get so passionate about a procedure that will violently destroy the tiny bodies of their own offspring, and how eager they are to bring abortion to Ireland. Interestingly, many people have told pro-life campaigners that when they were young, they would have voted to repeal the 8th Amendment—but with some life experience and a better understanding of the implications, they are now voting “No.” I wonder how many young people may live to regret their vote.
  5. Different polls are saying different things, but as Peter Hitchens once noted, public polls are often commissioned to shape public opinion rather than to reflect it. The media here is overwhelmingly pulling for the abortion activists, and thus it is difficult to make out the truth of where public support for either side actually stands. Canvassing door to door in Dublin, it appears that people are fairly evenly split, with more upper-crust neighborhoods leaning towards “Yes” and middle-class neighborhoods leaning towards “No.” All that pro-life campaigners can do is work as hard as possible until Thursday night, and pray that these efforts can push the “No” vote over the finish line.

There are still three days left before the referendum, and much work left to be done. With such large numbers of undecided voters, it is conceivable that either side could secure a narrow victory on Friday. Getting every single pro-life voter to the polls will be absolutely essential.

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Jonathon Van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.