A Youthful Pro-life Experience in Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Summer of 2010

Note: Cassandra Donatelli is a 19 Year Old student from Portland, Maine attending the University of Rochester. She has chosen to spend a part of her summer assisting in the Pro-life movement with CEC For Life in Ireland and Alabama. She is currently preparing for the Pro-life Freedom Rides being launched in Birmingham July 23. She is a priceless gift to our communion and to the culture of life.

This year’s annual pro-life trip to Ireland had a little of everything. I had the opportunity to join with Fr. Terry Gensemer, Jessica Kessler and Margaret House from Californiato participate with Youth Defense Ireland and Precious Life Northern Ireland at the All ireland Rally for Life in Belfast and the Annual Road Show across Ireland. We were also joined by Bishop Douglas and Karen Kessler and Bishop Gregory and Cathy Ortiz for the Rally. Overall the trip was wonderful as usual.

Youth Defense is a Pro-Life group based in Dublin, Ireland. They have been fighting to keep Ireland abortion free since 1992 when the court tried to use the rape of a 14-year-old girl to bring abortion into the country. Since then YD has launched many more campaigns, following the government and media countless attempts, and successfully keeping Ireland abortion free, making it the safest country in the world for a woman to have a baby.

Youth Defense has also been organizing rallies since April of 1992 and has since joined with other groups and leaders to make it a huge annual event bringing thousands from all over Ireland, and the world, to join the cause and march for life. This year’s Rally was held in Belfast and hosted by Bernadette Smythe of Precious life in Northern Ireland. They worked together with Youth Defence to organize and run the event. The crowd was estimated between three and four thousand, successfully drawing attention as we marched through the crowded City Centre area.

The Road Show is an annual 10 day tour of Ireland. Every day, the group travels to two different towns or cities and gets the word out about life. In these daily Street Sessions, the team hands out leaflets and and booklets (balloons and lollipops for the kids) while asking people to sign a pro-life petition. The signatures serve to show the government that the Irish people do not want abortion to be legalized in their country. The sessions usually go off smoothly with support shown through the thousands of signatures on the petitions. There are rare occasions when people do not agree with what we are doing. Most of the complaints are about the graphic nature of some of the pictures shown on the boards and signs. These pictures show the truth of what abortion is. This reality brings spirited discussion and debate to the most serious issue that is faced by present day civilization.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland; however, this does not stop abortion clinics from sending Irish women to England to have their children killed. The clinics make it easy for the women to book flights and lets them know exactly where to go and what to do while they are there. There are even English host-families that will take care of the girls, giving them food and a place to stay before and after the pregnancy is terminated. Youth Defense, along with other pro-life groups in the country, is trying to stop the practice of shipping pregnant women off to England to get abortions.

Working with Youth Defense is always an amazing experience. They are incredibly good at what they do and they teach new members by example. While at the Street Sessions, there is a strong emphasis on educating the people, not protesting. This is something I would like to see emphasized more in the US. I think the biggest problem here is that people do not know what abortion really is and what it does to the unborn child and the mother. We need to teach and show people that there truly is a child in the womb, not just a clump of cells and tissues as the abortion clinics would have us believe.

Traveling to Ireland to learn how to fight for life is an incredible, uplifting, and educational experience. Going to a country that protects life offers a glimpse into what our country could be like without the scourge of abortion. I recommend the trip to anyone and everyone who wants to immerse themselves in a culture that truly loves all forms of life.

Please pray that our nation and the world will have their eyes opened by what is going on in the world.

Cassandra Donatelli