Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

The long-awaited general election has been called. Political activists of all types will switch into full-on campaigning mode for the next few weeks. The pro-life movement worldwide has always been very politically engaged; Ireland is no exception to this. Many pro-life people want to vote or even canvass.

However, we at the Minimise Project would like to address an elephant in the room when it comes to the political side of the pro-life movement: the fact that the movement is perceived to be home to several anti-immigrant activists and even candidates. This perception may or may not be justified, and this blog post is not about the unfairness with which the pro-life movement is treated by both the media and those using social media. That’s another story for another day. 

Rather, the purpose of this post is to argue that pro-life activists would do well to clearly distance themselves from anyone who campaigns on racist or anti-immigrant platforms. While determining whether or not someone or something is racist can sometimes be subject to debate (although obviously this is only sometimes, and other times there is no debate to be had), the Minimise Project is of the view that a (thankfully small) minority of election candidates who claim to oppose abortion have done and said overtly racist things. 

We do not believe such candidates are worthy of support. If a pro-life voter has a choice between between an anti-immigrant candidate and a slew of pro-choice candidates, they should make it clear that if they vote for the former, they do so in spite of, and not because of, their views on immigrants. 

There are several reasons we believe distancing ourselves from racist candidates is the right course of action:

  1. Racism exists, and is a terrible thing

This may seem like a strange way to kick off, but unfortunately we do need to spell out that there is such a thing as racism, and there is racism in Ireland. Just because you personally cannot imagine harassing or discriminating against someone because they are a different race or nationality doesn’t mean that everyone is as enlightened as you are. While thankfully Ireland has not experienced the most extreme and horrific types of racism in history (we never had overtly racist laws, for example), this does not mean that racism is not and has never been a problem here. It is arrogant and ignorant to claim that racism does not exist simply because you personally have not witnessed it – but if you would like to witness it, take a look at some of the comments that were made on social media regarding Victoria Setuke, the first baby born in the Republic of Ireland in 2020. Victoria happens to be black.

We at the Minimise Project are appalled and disgusted by some overtly racist content posted or spread by candidates who are anti-abortion, and that’s why we feel obliged to address the issue.

  1. We must be able to claim to be pro-life rather than simply anti-abortion.

The pro-life position should be incompatible with a racist or anti-immigrant stance. The entire pro-life movement is based on a desire to protect vulnerable human beings who do not have the protection of law and cannot speak for themselves. Even leaving aside the plight of those who are extremely likely to die if they remain in their home country, for example as a result of war, migrants in general move to other countries to try to forge a better life for themselves and their families. While there is grounds for legitimate debate about immigration policy, there is absolutely no room for spreading falsehoods about people from other countries, implying that they are (deliberately or otherwise) destroying Ireland or what it means to be Irish. Nor is there room for discriminating against, harassing or disparaging them, or generally treating people of other races and nationalities with anything other than respect. Someone who is pro-life, rather than just anti-abortion, should be in favour of more than simply ensuring people cannot be legally killed. Even if you think that improving the lot of people from other countries is best achieved by improving economic conditions in other countries so that people can stay there, that is not an argument against the levels of immigration we are actually seeing in Ireland, and it is certainly no excuse for racism. It’s an argument for improved foreign aid and international development.

To be clear: we don’t think, nor do we intend to imply, that being pro-life commits you to an open borders policy on immigration, but we do believe that it commits you to opposing unjust discrimination, including racism. It is for this reason that everyone in the Minimise Project adheres to our Pro-life Pledge.

If we deny the contradiction between claiming to be pro-life and turning a blind eye to racism when we encounter it, especially within the pro-life movement itself, not only are we handing our opponents a very large stick with which to beat us, but we are turning our back on vulnerable human beings who most need – and deserve – our compassion and support.

  1. Much of the anti-immigration rhetoric is completely inaccurate.

The intellectual soundness of the pro-life position is in serious need of rehabilitation. We are perceived as being blind to truth and facts. Again, this perception may be unfair, but if the pro-life movement refuses to reject and distinguish ourselves from campaigns and movements based on falsehoods, we damage our reputation further and we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.

Correcting the untruths that crop up in public discourse surrounding immigration would require several separate posts and lies outside our area, but here are some headline facts: 

It is also misleading to suggest that immigration is contributing to the housing crisis. The housing crisis is a result of there being more people seeking houses than there are houses available, and is limited primarily to our cities. This is because jobs are being created in our cities, and so people, both from within Ireland and from abroad, want to move to where the jobs are. Every politician is in favour of more jobs. Almost every politician states that they are in favour of housing, and yet opposes the vast majority of proposed housing developments. The housing crisis is a result of creating jobs faster than we are building houses. Immigrants from outside Ireland are no more to blame for the housing crisis in Dublin and Cork than are people who move there from rural Donegal.

  1. An anti-immigration platform is a poor political strategy.

Compared to our nearest neighbours, most Irish people are positively inclined towards immigration, immigrants, and the EU – perhaps because historically many Irish have become migrants themselves and have themselves been subject to discrimination and racism. The opinion polls show this clearly, as do election results. If you think that migration is an incredibly important issue, you’re in a tiny minority. There are few, if any, votes in this issue. If you want to convince someone to be well-inclined towards the pro-life position, associating with a platform that is at least anti-migrant and at worst openly racist is very poor political strategy.

  1. There’s no such thing as a successful single-issue politician.

Single-issue candidates hardly ever succeed in elections. They may make their (few) followers feel great about having a True Blue candidate to vote for, but they will very, very rarely be elected. Only politicians active on a wide set of political issues, at least some of which are popular, are successful. If you vote for someone because they are pro-life, but whose other key political issues are unpopular anti-immigrant ones, chances are, they won’t be successful even if you vote for them. Election candidates are useless unless they get elected. Only candidates who get elected can do anything. There is absolutely no point in blindly throwing yourself behind a racist candidate just because they are pro-life. You won’t get them elected, but you will feed the idea that there is a cross-over between the pro-life movement and the anti-immigrant movement. This will guarantee us more racist pro-life candidates in the future, but won’t get us anywhere closer to having pro-life elected representatives. The only tangible result from this strategy is further reputational damage for the pro-life movement and further growth of racism in Ireland.

  1. Discussing rather than ignoring these issues is good for the pro-life movement

Some people might take exception to this blog post because they think we are trying to stifle the views of those who question our current immigration policy. Many people might argue that it should be possible to raise questions around the level of immigration in Ireland without being accused of being racist. We agree that discussing various public policies is very important and different electoral candidates will bring different viewpoints to the debate. Crucially, however, we see this blog post as being an important part of that discussion. People are free to disagree on whether there are any racist anti-abortion candidates in Ireland, and if there are, they are free to disagree on whether we should vote for them. The Minimise Project supports open discussion on these topics. What we do not support is refusing to acknowledge the issue at all. We do not support giving any candidate a free pass just because they oppose abortion. We do not believe that such an attitude or course of action is in the spirit of open discussion and free enquiry. We believe in sound debate based on facts, and we want to facilitate it.

  1. Associating with racist people who happen to also be anti-abortion is a real slap in the face to the many members of the Irish pro-life movement of other races and nationalities.

We believe this point speaks for itself. Some of the most enthusiastic pro-lifers are first or second generation immigrants. In a time where Ireland seems to be less and less pro-life, we should be welcoming and grateful for any help we can get as we stand up for life.