By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
Don’t look now, but the same people who brought you the abortion ship and the abortion drone are now riding the abortion train and driving the abortion bus.
Women on Web, connected to the group which launched the abortion ship over ten years ago and just last summer flew the “abortion drone,” has teamed with pro-abortion activists in Ireland to kick off a nationwide bus tour to tell women how to get abortion pills in a country where abortion is illegal except to save the life of the mother.
This bus follows on the heels of an “abortion train” some of these same folks rode with great fanfare last year about this time. You may recall they traveled to Belfast to pick up abortion pills which they took, on camera, once arriving back in Dublin.
Many of the Irish activists belong to ROSA (“Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity”), a group initiated, according to the website, by “women in the Socialist Party, with the aim of promoting and organising events, actions and campaign activity on the issues mentioned” (rosa.ie).
Two of the chief goals of ROSA are to “Repeal the 8th amendment,” Ireland’s constitutional amendment protecting unborn children, and to “Stop the hypocrisy of exporting abortion.” They say that “Women should choose, without veto from doctors or the state” and that “Abortion should be provided through the Irish health service, without cost and shame for women.”
Ruth Coppinger, TD (Teachta Dála, member of the Irish Parliament) for the Socialist Party and one of the primary spokespeople for pro-abortion cause in Ireland, called the current law equating the life of the woman and unborn baby “archaic and barbaric” and demanded a national referendum. Asked by a radio reporter if the promotion with the abortion bus amounted to an effort to circumvent, if not break the law, Coppinger said, “Yeah, because that’s necessary for all unjust laws to be challenged” (RTE News, “Morning Ireland” show, 10/19/15).
The Socialists and their allies hold only a handful of seats in the Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s parliament, giving them reason to resort to dramatic stunts like the abortion train and the abortion bus to draw attention to their candidates and support for their cause. It is worth noting that the timing of this cross-country tour corresponds with the parliament’s coming to the end of a five-year election cycle with the Socialist party and its allies hoping to make some gains
Pushing the Abortion Pill
The stated aim for the Abortion Pill Bus, ROSA says, “will be defying Ireland’s unjust and dangerous abortion ban.” Though a few thousand Irish woman travel abroad each year to obtain abortions in England and Scotland, and Irish customs seized over a thousand abortion pills last year, ROSA aims on using the abortion bus as a platform to demonstrate how women can order and use abortion pills shipped from WomenOnWeb.
Though ROSA said there would be abortion pills actually on the bus, it indicated that women seeking information about the abortion pill would be chatting, in a private consultation room on the bus with a WomenOnWeb doctor via Skype, and receive the pills later (Galway Advertiser, 10/22/15, The Irish Independent, 10/24/15).
The normal procedure with WOW is for women to go through the online process, make a “donation,” and then have the pills mailed to their home address. No word on where they were told to call if they have problems.
Promoters mounted a major publicity campaign and were looking for crowds to greet them wherever they stop. Pictures on the Twitter feed make it look as if there were more people in some places than others, and made it clear there were pro-life protesters there on-line as well as in person (#AbortionPillBus). The bus made stops last Friday in Dublin, Galway, and Limerick. Saturday, it was in Cork before returning for a rally in Dublin.
No final count was published in the press, but a spokesperson for ROSA said midway through the tour that it had received more than a dozen calls from women seeking information and had ten walk-ons in Galway, with more appointments booked for Limerick and Cork (The Irish Independent, 10/24/15)
The heavy involvement of WomenOnWeb was not mere opportunism. WomenOnWeb’s history with Ireland goes back to 2001. The original WOW group – “Women on Waves” – launched its “abortion ship” from the Netherlands, anchored in international waters just off the Irish coast, offering women chemical abortions with mifepristone (RU-486) and the prostaglandin misoprostol.
Owing to various legal and logistical factors, no actual abortions are believed to have been performed in that visit (or in the visit the following year). However, it did serve as a rallying point for the nascent Irish pro-abortion movement and helped to bring international attention Women on Waves way.
Ireland is one of the few remaining western countries where real protections exist for unborn children. Defying accepted pro-abortion wisdom, even with these “archaic” laws, Ireland possesses one of the world’s lowest maternal mortality rates.
Irish laws are a thorn in the side to the international abortion establishment, so it is hardly surprising that WomenOnWeb has returned to Ireland again and again with new schemes to get pro-life policies overturned.
Last year about this time, the gimmick was the abortion train. ROSA carried the banner of WomenOnWeb at the train station and it was WOW group’s pills the women took on camera, in Dublin, in October of 2014 (The Irish Indepdendent, 10/28/14).
There were hints this past summer that Ireland would be the next stop for WOW’s “abortion drone.” Evidently they decided to go with a bus tour this time around instead.
But it wasn’t as if WOW was on the sidelines in the intervening years. After a second unsuccessful effort to Ireland with the abortion ship in 2002, Women on Waves attempted similar voyages to Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco.
Again, though similarly unsuccessful in attracting abortion passengers, WOW was successful in attracting attention. This was something that founder Rebecca Gomperts, a former Greenpeace activist, took advantage of to promote the idea of chemical abortions, essentially giving out the “recipe” telling women how to use commonly available drugs to self abort.
It was only a matter of time before Women on Waves began setting up “hotlines” in Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Poland and Morocco to give out that information to women in countries where abortion was not legal.
Gomperts put together a website called Women on Web (www.womenonweb.org) where women from all over the world could have a digital “consultation” with a doctor and order abortion pills to be sent by international post. It was pills from this source that women on the abortion train used in Ireland and it was to be WOW doctors with whom Irish women on the abortion bus would be conferring.
A risky venture
Promoters have, of course, downplayed the risks. Women who are pregnant (unlike some of those participating in WomenOnWeb’s publicity stunts who were not) who take mifepristone will cramp and bleed profusely. Many may deal with serious nausea, diarrhea, and other forms of gastrointestinal distress. These alone have been enough to put some women in the hospitals.
Of course, something ROSA and WOW never mention when touting the chemical abortions are “safer than Viagra” or have been deemed an “essential medicine by the World Health Organization” (which tells you more about WHO than it does about “essential medicines”) is that women have died after taking these drugs, even in countries where these chemical abortifacients were legal and women were under the care of a doctor.
Women who merely consult with a video doctor face an even greater risk, something even one of the Irish reporters interviewing TD Coppinger noticed. The reporter for Morning Ireland noted that on WomenOnWeb’s online questionnaire women have to fill out before ordering the pills, they have to answer medical queries such as whether they have heart disease or high blood pressure. The reporter observed, “[S]ome people may have these conditions and not know them.” This could prove deadly.
Rather than deny the risk, Coppinger used the occasion to say this was an argument for legalizing abortion.
As noted above Ireland has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, something that advocates of abortion have difficulty explaining. Their argument that the legalization of abortion is necessary to reduce maternal mortality is contradicted by the low maternal mortality rates seen in countries like Ireland, Poland, and Chile, where the law protects both mothers and their unborn children.
Meeting with Resistance
Thankfully, the voices of Coppinger and ROSA were not the only ones heard.
The bus had trouble finding a parking place in Galway. It was met by about 50 supporters, but also by a number of protesters (The Independent, 10/24/15). There was a counterdemonstration in Limerick (The Journal (Ireland), 10/26/15). Protesters in Cork, some carrying signs reading “Abortion is Murder,” nearly drowned out Coppinger.
Coppinger admitted that the counter protesters in Cork, which she called “vociferous and vocal minority,” made “a lot of noise.” According to the Irish Times, she tried to tell the crowd that those rejecting her message “represent the past and we represent the future.”
Obviously, the message didn’t resonate with everyone.
Cora Sherlock, deputy chairwoman of the Pro Life Campaign, who was there in Dublin when the bus pulled out, said that it was the abortion pill bus that was dangerous and irresponsible.
“These pills are dangerous for women. That is a fact. I am not making it up,” she said. “What we have seen is a tragic and inappropriate publicity stunt. It is purely to attract media and political attention. An abortion involves the ending of a human life. It is a traumatic time and to suggest they should step onto the back of a mini bus with colourful posters on the side — that is not dealing with it with the seriousness and gravity it deserves.” (The Irish Times, 10/25/15)
Dr. Ruth Cullen, education officer for the Irish Pro-Life campaign, called this “just the latest publicity stunt from Deputy Coppinger. But it is an incredibly dangerous and irresponsible one that puts the lives of women at serious risk.”
Cullen noted, “Those lending their support to the abortion pill bus have no credibility talking about women’s health in the context of the abortion debate going forward. It is one thing to constantly misrepresent the eighth amendment as Deputy Coppinger does. It’s quite another thing to use an abortion pill bus as a means of attracting publicity.”
Cullen concluded, “The more outrageous the stunt the better, as long as it helps dismantle the eighth amendment, seems to be the thinking. The stories of those who regret their abortions are being drowned out of the debate as well as the rights of the unborn child” (The Journal (Ireland), 10/23/15).