A People's History of the European Court of Human Rights

By Michael D. Goldhaber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
When Irish Eyes Are Crying

The American antiabortion movement failed to push through a constitutional amendment in 1982. The next year, it tried the same strategy overseas, and succeeded. In 1983, U.S. and Irish activists collaborated to engineer Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn.” The early consequences were grimly antilife.

In 1984, the Irish public was mesmerized by a series of abandonedbaby dramas. In County Longford, fifteen-year-old Ann Lovett was found dead by the body of her infant son in a church grotto beside a statue of the Virgin Mary. In County Kerry, a newborn baby with a battered head and multiple stab wounds was found on the beach. A young Kerry woman named Joanne Hayes, whose pregnancy had ended mysteriously at the same time, was arrested and pressured into a confession. But it turned out that the newborn on the beach wasn't Joanne's. Hers was yet a third baby, found stuffed in a fertilizer bag and abandoned in a muddy field.

Those who favored a right to abortion had seen enough abandoned babies in Eire. They realized that, in order to combat a globally organized antiabortion movement, they too needed to go global. European courts would be their forum of choice.


The Counseling Wars

In the late 1980s, in Ireland as in America, the abortion wars shifted to a new front, from surgical clinics to counseling clinics—and the question of abortion information. In 1985, two activists from Ireland's Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) posed as pregnant women pondering abortion. The undercover pro-lifers got advice from Ireland's only two clinics: Open Door Counselling and Dublin Well Woman Centre. Armed with evidence from these two women, SPUC sued the two clinics in Irish

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