REPEAL: THE MOVEMENT
OF THE MOMENT
Reading time: 3 mins
One of the more interesting things we've spotted in recent months came from the Know Your Repealers account on Twitter. The account gives an eager young repealer a unique platform every week, in which he or she can tweet for a whole seven days to an approving, pro-repeal audience.
A recent curator was a young lady called Katie from County Cavan, who opened her time in charge with this:
Interesting phrasing, isn’t it? “The movement of the moment”.
More than any Irish political movement in recent years, repeal has been commercialised to a barely credible extent. Repeal earrings. Repeal bags. Repeal shirts. Repeal cosmetics. Repeal is no longer an idea, it’s a tribal expression of who a person is. It’s become, like so many modern crusades, less a set of ideas and more a way of life, an identity in itself.
Unsurprisingly, when a movement becomes an identity, protection of the identity becomes much more important than the original goals of the movement itself. We see this with the phenomenon of Donald Trump in the United States. Under Trump, the Republican Party has changed utterly. A party that was in favour of free trade three years ago is now passionately opposed to China.
So it is in Ireland. The repeal movement has become a tribal identity, its members are now “repealers” first, and everything else second. Increasingly, it has become divorced from any sense of the reality of the country we share, and instead become “the movement of the moment”. As young people, we’re not being sold “abortion on demand up to birth”, we’re being sold “repeal”. It’s a clever piece of marketing, but it’s not altogether honest.
Let’s be frank here – the overwhelming majority of people are opposed to the abortion of a healthy pregnancy at a point when the baby can survive outside the womb. I say the overwhelming majority, but not repealers. They seek the introduction of abortion in Ireland without time limits – any time, any stage of pregnancy. Don’t believe them? Ask one. Now, the clever repealer will answer your question by saying “that never happens”, or “most abortions take place inside 20 weeks”, or something like that. But push them. Ask if they think abortion should be illegal at, say, 34 weeks, where a pregnancy is totally healthy.
They will not say “no”. They will say many things that sound like “no”, but never the word itself.
And why would they? After all, the Abortion Rights Campaign, the driving force behind the Repeal movement, openly oppose any time limits on abortion. It's on their website, feel free to check.
The same thing applies to other situations where most people would disagree with a repealer. Ask them if they think abortion should be illegal if parents have two girls and want a boy. They will never say “no”, but they will say lots of things that sound like “no”.
In short, we’re being sold a very extreme pro-choice agenda in the guise of a woman’s rights movement. It’s very clever politics, and their success in turning “repealers” into an identity is to be admired, but it’s also a very dangerous development in Irish politics.
Identity politics as expressed in the repeal the 8th campaign has hardly anything to separate it from identity politics as practiced by the National Rifle Association. The NRA, too, is a master of branding, and a master of “us against them”. Gun rights are not a conversation where one can meet in the middle, from the NRA’s point of view, and the same is true of the repealers here at home.
This polarisation of debate has a tactical purpose, and the purpose is to prevent us from asking awkward questions. Because what happens when you “meet in the middle”? Could it be that we start asking awkward questions?
If the NRA concedes for a moment that an assault rifle can be banned, the logical next step is to ask why people should be allowed automatic handguns, which are easier to bring into schools. So too with repealers: If they concede that abortion at 26 weeks is wrong, then they have to ask why abortion at 20 weeks is okay – and that’s a question that is very difficult to answer.
The reason for the extremism, by both groups, is that once the principle is conceded (that some guns are bad, or that some babies in the womb have a right to life) it is very easy to extend it.
This article by itself will probably not change your mind on whether an unborn child has a right to life. It is not an attempt to do so. But you should think carefully about the way the repeal argument is being presented to you, and how it works: it’s an attempt to box us into a tribal position, and to make thinking independently about the issue a betrayal of the movement, or a betrayal of women. It’s a clever piece of marketing, but it’s designed to make it harder for us to think honestly about abortion, and all the complexities the debate involves.
Before you make up your mind, ask yourself if that marketing has worked on you, and whether you have tried to escape it.