A blog about science, medicine, media and the ramblings of Irish hack....

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The bad science of Youth defence and abortion myths - and why I'm impressed with the youth of Ireland

 A little thought about my recent Irish Times piece on the Irish Abortion debate, how Ireland just might be joining the 21st century and a thank you for the overwhemingly encouraging reaction that restores some faith in humanity to your cynical and deeply misanthropic author..

Regular readers of my blog might get a strange sense of deja vu if you happened to cast your eyes over my  Irish Times column on Friday June 29th entitled "Facts still sacred despite Ireland's spectrum of conflicting views an abortion". The reason for this nagging sense of familiarity is because it is essentially a more formal version of a blog post I did on abortion last year. So why tackle it again ? Perhaps because these charming posters have started to pop up all over Ireland for Youth Defence's latest super expensive exercise in manipulation and guilt tactics...

Oh boy... here we go. Again. Thank you so much, youth defence


Charming and tactful as usual, Youth Defence. The same old ultra Catholic Youth defence with links to the fascist far right and a history of violence are apparently concerned about women. Well, let's be more specific - they're concerned about woman actually making choices about their own lives and bodies, which they pretend is the same thing and hope we'll fall for. The posters have drawn both national and international ire, but as the advertisement isn't for commercial purposes, the advertising standards authority of Ireland claim they can't do anything about it, rendering themselves staggeringly impotent in the face of huge volumes of complaints. 

So yet again, an Irish solution to an Irish problem. 

Not only are the ads incredibly misleading, they are also emotionally manipulative and factually inaccurate. And that is exactly the idea behind them; shame and scare. Now, I am prochoice but I respect the right of anyone to be against abortion on ethical or personal groups. But I reserve huge levels of fiery, dripping, biologically hazardous contempt for anyone who tries to justify their ideological position with bald faced lies and tries to bend science to fit their agenda, rather than the other way around, something I've tackled before. In my Irish Times article, I make the following points and back them up with plenty of research.

  • Abortion does NOT cause lasting psychological trauma. Provided the woman was psychologically sound before the termination, It does NOT lead to depression, suicide or any other malady of that nature.  
  • Post abortion syndrome (PAS) does not exist; the scientific consensus is that abortion does not do psychological damage.
  • Unsurprisingly research indicates that women who come from background where abortion is condemned are more likely to suffer short term negative effects like guilt. This is as a result of the stigma, not the act itself
  • Abortion does NOT reduce fertility or cause problems with future conception
  • Abortion does NOT lead to breast cancer, or any other cancer for that matter.
  • Claims by Youth defence and others of their ilk to be concerned about women are at best misguided, and at worst absolutely positively cynical, hollow and untrue. The dark irony is that they increase the suffering of the very women they claim to care about. The even darker side is that Youth defence are almost certainly aware of this.

Of course, abortion is still hugely taboo in Ireland despite the fact that the majority of people support relaxing abortion laws. So naturally, it got some religious fire and brimstone whackjobs which you'll see on the thread. What is unsurprising is anti-choicers tried vigorously to argue that there was no scientific consensus by citing debunked or non-applicable studies, in between howling with rage and comparing 'pro-aborts' to Hitler. What really heartened me, however, was how quickly these shallow attempts at creating a distraction were hulk-smashed by other Irish posters; just have a look -

Only a matter of Time before someone tried the mispresenting Gissler attack - expertly countered by Nick Beard here

Rex O'Dea nicely summing up the discredited Coleman study

Someone needs to give Nick Beard a highfive for that....

Again, Rex O'Dea debunks yet another attempt to muddy waters

There were many more outlandish claims made by antichoicers, determined to try and prove that the scientific consensus is all wrong and abortion damages women. Of course, even if they had been able to find a single study indicating this, it would be incredibly unlikely to overturn the vast amount of evidence to the contrary.

What really heartens me is the amount of people willing to challenge this scaremongering nonsense; before I'd even had the time to write a retort to the spurious, furious citing, people on twitter and the Irish Times site were blowing these claims out of the water. For a country that only legalised divorce in 1995 and contraception in 1973, that is a huge step forward. Better still, there are hundreds of young Irish people outraged at Youth defence, from all walks of life, making their voices heard. A quick search for the twitter hashtag Youth defence shows the level of contempt for them, and even the broadsheet and the journal have reported negatively on their campaigns

This really makes me optimistic for Ireland, even though it's been 20 years since we were supposed to legislate for the X-case. Although one twitter user that popped into my timeline could have come straight out of a Monty Python sketch...

To quote Inigo Montoya; "I do not think that word means what you think it means!"

Curiously enough, prolife atheists had very few followers and seemed to be tweeting the same links as the Catholic prolifers at pretty much the same time. This on it's own proves nothing, apart from the fact that the user has a tenuous grasp on the concept of scientific consensus. In any case, the much larger Atheist Ireland seemed to quite like the article, and someone sent me this charming screen cap.

This cracked me up. Thanks, blacked out person. I AIM to please! *Gets coat*

So what was the response in general ? Hundreds of positive tweets about the article, and about 5 negative ones. Youth defence didn't even respond, despite their page being trolled with dozens of people posting a link to the article - I'm not surprised; they are smart enough to know they will not win a logical debate, so they will stick to scaremongering. What delights me is that Irish people are finally seeing their tactics for what they are - the opposition to their current campaign has been incredible and fills me with confidence that the Irish are no longer slaves to the whims of Rome and recycled Catholic dogma masquering as 'concern' for women while depriving them of their right to bodily integrity.

Finally, I'd like to thank the handful of women who wrote to thank me for the article, telling me about their experience of abortion, and the stigma poured upon them by prolife groups.  I admire your bravery, and very much look forward to a day when everyone has the right to determine their own destiny without the interference of bigots determined to impose their own petty morals on everyone else.

Finally for a laugh...

Vive la Liberal agenda ! Same guy went on to prove Godwin's law about 3 posts later..

One of the better photoshop protests!


  1. I suspect it's enlightened self interest. We are aware of the existance of certain safety nets and see no need to deprive ourselves of them if they do become necessary.

  2. The irritating thing about these groups is that they are able to spout study and law after law ad hoc to people on the street, and it doesn't matter that they are complete lies. I had the same issue debating their other guise, cóir, on the street. You are always at a disadvantage in a debate with them if you are an honest person.

  3. Sad but true. I call it the homeopathy defence - cite anything that even sounds like it supports your point, ignore scientific consensus, claim victory. Shallow, stupid and intellectually dishonest. BUT if everyone is wise to their nonsense, and we debunk it time after time, it will no longer hold sway on the people in them middle who are still making their minds up. Or I live in hope anyway!

  4. The pro life "Atheists" are just like the "secular" pro-life page that occasionally posts on the youth defense page, if you look at the secular prolife page you'll find most of its supporters are anything but secular. It's the religious equivalent of a KKK member saying he has black friends.

    While i am certain there are a few pro-life atheists out there these are not those pro-life atheists.Just more youth defence AstroTurf.

    1. They also retweet Cora sherlock https://twitter.com/#!/CoraSherlock and keep a link to her page in their list of organizations to support on their blog. http://prolifeatheists.wordpress.com/events-and-volunteering-opportunities/ .The Organisation she helps run http://prolifecampaign.ie/ is just another Astroturf group.

      A quick check of her facebook confirms her as a friend of David Quinn who runs the Iona institute.she's far from secular.

  5. Yes, Cora keeps claiming it's a human rights issue but fails to acknowledge that the right to bodily integrity is a human right. While I like Cora, I tired of her cyclic reasoning and stopped discussing the issue with her. Interestingly, I'd had another tip off they were just astro-turfing. Even if they're not, they're still bloody clueless.

  6. What annoys me is that the pro life people even try to quote studies saying it harms women. They don't care about the women, they just (for the most part) care that people are disobeying their god. He's not my god. Even if abortion caused all the health problems and mental illness they claim, I would still support a woman's right to do it, because I believe that people should be allowed to do whatever they want with their own body.

    1. A very good point - what really galls me is the shallow attempt to make this appear as if it's to protect women when actually it's nothing of the sort!!

  7. This whole fiasco reminds me of a great line I once heard in Futurama:

    "I'm a Professor! Why isn't anyone listening to me!?"

    It is so infuriating that the scientific research and results of the pro-choice campaign continue to be drowned out by scaremongering, misrepresentation and good old fashioned lies.


What do you think? Have your say!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...