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The Mother, Baby and Abortion Related Political Ephemera May 19, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Abortion, Irish Politics.
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One of the side effects of having the Political Ephemera site and collection is regular contacts from students looking for material, examples of something or simply asking questions about a certain Election or Referendum. One recent one was to do with the image of the Mother and Baby in Abortion related material. It got me thinking about how the Mother wasn’t initially a central part of the Debate……..

Prior to the 1983 Referendum, there was huge pressure from Pro-Life groups to have a Referendum. Here for example is a question about abortion from a 1981 Fianna Fail canvassers guide. Not a word about the Mother ..
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A simplistic motion from the 1981 Fine Gael Ard Fheis (which was like many political events of the time picketed by Pro Life campaigners with hand made signs), again showing the less than sophisticated level of debate around the issue at the time….
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A picture from a rally prior to the 1983 Abortion Referendum …note the collection boxes in the picture too.
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When the 1983 Referendum took place the Mother wasn’t mentioned at all, certainly in Political leaflets and posters that I saw at the time. Indeed here’s a letter comparing support for Abortion to support for the IRA.

1983let
The Referendum was focused mainly on the baby and foetus.Little or nothing about the Mother. Like the below sticker.
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That said , The No Campaign saw it as a far wider issue as this “Men Can’t Get Pregnant, Let Women Decide” poster shows.
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Indeed during the 1983 debate and beyond I heard many people wondering why ‘girls’ didn’t just give the baby up for Adoption.
It was really only the X-Case that led to the Mother being part of the Abortion debate.For the first time the health of a pregnant Mother entered the debate. The only Pro Choice leaflet I have from that with a picture of a Mother and Child is one from Democratic Left. Given the Referendum was on Information, The Right to Travel and Abortion, It’s a Mother and her teenage daughter rather than an image of a mother and baby or a a pregnant mother.
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The below graph from a 1992 Abortion Referenda leaflet from SPUC, gives an indication of some of the moral views towards unmarried pregnant women. Associating Mothers , Abortion and “Unmarried Mothers”
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The Pro Life Campaign and Youth Defence material had babies but no mothers (as well as a lot of misinformation).
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The only picture of a Mother I have in Pro Life Material from 1992 is Mother Teresa, although there were plenty of leaflets with pictures of Our Lady.
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Post 1992 there were various leaflets showing babies, foetuses produced by Youth Defence and other pro life groups, again Adoption was a focus…
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There were other themes mostly outlandish claims around the foetus. One Youth Defence leaflet warned us about

“Foetal Experimentation, Harvesting pre-born children’s organs, Using abortion to fuel the cosmetic industry ,The use of aborted children as pieces of art-work”

In the late 90’s the pro-life sides focus changed slightly to the mother and more importantly the ‘repentant mother’. There was material produced with a generic picture of a woman with “Anne’s Story” and other stories of how women had regretted their abortions as well as some who changed their mind when on the boat or in the clinic.
In the 2002 Referendum The image of the mother and baby appeared on many pro life leaflets like below.
prolifena

Post 2002 Pro Life groups have produced material with soft focus pictures of pregnant women, babies and Mothers and babies.
As the debate broadened one of the interesting images is of a woman from a Labour X-Case leaflet, a woman (presumably pregnant) alone……
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Of course the saddest ones of the lot are the ones with Savita.
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and yet post Savita and increased awareness of fatal fetal abnormalities, the Pro-Life campaign has regrouped. These were produced for the 2016 General Election and a number of By-Elections listing candidates that were Pro Life. The mother and baby are central.
prolifersl1

As the campaign continues to Repeal the 8th, the tactics and imagery will probably change again.

You can find Abortion related ephemera on Irish Election Literature here
And material on the CLR Left Archive here

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