Pro-choice campaign manager responds to open letter

The campaign manager for the ‘Yes’ side in this week’s SU abortion referendum has criticised an open letter published on social media last week by a campaigner for the ‘No’ side. Claire Donlon, who is campaigning for the SU to be mandated to campaign for abortion on demand, has refuted points made in the letter by Emily Murtagh, a student who intends to leave the SU if the referendum is passed and it adopts a long-term pro-choice policy.

In an open letter to the provost on Thursday, Murtagh outlined her opposition to the union campaigning for any one side of the debate. She cited  the university’s “great emphasis on the promotion of independent thought and enquiry” and the risk that a pro-choice policy could alienate students from “non-traditional backgrounds” among the reasons for her opposition. Such a policy would defy the right of religious students “to hold and pursue their moral and political stances as they see fit”, she stated.

Speaking to Trinity News, Claire Donlon, campaign manager for the ‘Yes’ side, said that Murtagh’s points were “anti-democratic”. “Minorities are usually defined by the fact that they are socially excluded, persecuted and/or oppressed in a way that causes harm,” she said. “Christian views are not minority views, rather views that have defined our country since the foundation of the State. These ‘minority’ views are enshrined in our laws. These are laws that are outdated and harmful.”

Donlon said that the passing of the abortion referendum would ensure that the union “is working for the betterment of our students who are faced and forced into really, really awful situations. Our laws are shit. They treat women like shit. They make women feel like shit for having to go to the lengths they do to do what they feel is what is best for them. [The ‘No’ side] want their views to be minded and as a consequence are happy to ignore the fact that their actions are harmful. This isn’t some abstract thought experiment. This is real life.”

“I went to an abortion speak-out some months ago in the Exchange that was run by the Abortion Support Network,” she said. “One woman was raped by her best friend, tried to take her life by suicide soon after, then found out she was pregnant. She went to the UK and had an abortion. Some had to take out bank loans to fund the procedure. The pain these women had to go through, is etched on my soul. For anyone who is still undecided about their stance on whether we should have abortion in Ireland, all I can say to that is, please just still down for a while listen to these women. Saying a union will campaign to have accessible abortion in Ireland is not violating your individual morals, unless those individual beliefs mean you want to keep your fellow students on the planes, boats, buses and internet to get an abortion. ”

Education officer Jack Leahy has also commented on the open letter on social media. In a tweet to his 1,867 followers on Sunday, he said, “Just seen a blog post of an open letter to the Provost about a @tcdsu referendum. Imagine if the Provost had a say in the SU? No thanks.”

The final count of last February’s abortion preferendum found that just over half of Trinity students wanted the SU to campaign for abortion to be upon request of the woman. 32% of students voted for the union to campaign for abortion under certain circumstances, while only 4% of students were in favour of the union continuing its policy of only providing information.

Catherine Healy

Editor of Trinity News. Interested in politics, history and all forms of media.