Pro Life Campaign

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Pro Life Campaign
FormationMarch 1992; 27 years ago (1992-03)[1][2]
HeadquartersSuite 60, Clifton House, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2,
Deputy Chairperson
Cora Sherlock[3]
Legal Advisor
William Binchy[4]
Honorary President
Des Hanafin

Pro Life Campaign (PLC) is an Irish pro-life advocacy organisation. Its primary spokesperson is Cora Sherlock. It is a non-denominational organisation which promotes anti-abortion views and defends human life at all stages from conception to natural death, and opposes abortion in all circumstances.

The Pro Life Campaign was established in 1992. Its office is located in Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin.


After the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was ratified in September 1983, a number of those involved in that campaign, including some lawyers, decided to initiate legal proceedings through SPUC (Ireland). The targets were two pregnancy advisory agencies in Dublin. The cases started in 1985, won at the Supreme Court of Ireland (1988) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (1992). That same year, the X case arose, and abortion in potentially wide circumstances was endorsed by the Irish Supreme Court.

The group that had planned the SPUC (Ireland) cases at once advised the setting up of the Pro Life Campaign (PLC). Within a week of the court judgement, it had set up an office in North Great Georges Street and held its first press conference on 10 March. The chairman, and later honorary president,[5] was Des Hanafin, who had played a central role in the 1983 campaign.[1][6]

Pro Life Campaign is a trading name of VIE Ltd, a private limited company incorporated in Ireland in June 1993.[7][8][9] Its founding directors were Joe McCarroll, Owen Doyle, Mary Barrett, John O'Reilly, Barry Kiely, Des Hanafin, Marie Vernon, Catherine Bannon, Jerry Collins, Michael Lucey and Desmond McDoland.[10]

1992 Abortion Referendums[edit]

In 1992, in the wake of the X Case, there were three abortion referendums in Ireland (12th, 13th and 14th).

The government had proposed the 12th Amendment Bill as an attempt to rule out the risk of suicide as a ground for an abortion. It would have added the following clause to Article 40.3.3º:

It shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother where there is an illness or disorder of the mother giving rise to a real and substantial risk to her life, not being a risk of self-destruction.

The Pro Life Campaign rejected this wording as too broad, and proposed the following alternative wording:

It shall be unlawful to act in such a way as to bring about the termination of the life of an unborn unless such termination arises indirectly as a side-effect of treatment designed to protect the life of the mother.

The PLC also called for a No vote on the 14th Amendment which allowed for the provision of information on services outside the state. It was strongly opposed to the 13th, which allowed for travel outside the state, but did not call for a No vote.[11]

Both the 13th and 14th amendments were passed. The 12th amendment bill was defeated, after a combination of liberal campaigners who did not support excluding a risk of suicide as a ground, and those in the PLC.

2002 Abortion Referendum[edit]

The Pro Life Campaign campaigned for a Yes vote on the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2002.[12][13][14][15] A statement on their website read:

We welcome the proposed 25th Amendment (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill and are calling for a 'YES' vote.
The Amendment restores protection to unborn children. It protects women by ensuring the lawful availability of necessary medical treatment to save their lives.

The reality of unexpected pregnancies also challenges us to put the resources in place to meet the real needs of women. A clear law on the right to life is an important first step to framing social policies to help reduce our abortion rate. [16]

During the campaign, a member referenced the Finnish study published in the British Medical Journal which claimed women were six times more likely to commit suicide after abortion than if they went through with their pregnancies.[17][18]

The Pro Life Campaign was the second largest spender during the referendum, spending €350,000. It received €200,000 of undisclosed donations during the campaign.[19]

NGO status at UNESC[edit]

The Pro-Life Campaign has consultative NGO status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council, granted in 2011.[20]

It has participated in regular sessions organised by the Council to oversee the various covenants affecting Ireland, and attended and made written submissions to Universal Periodic Reviews into Ireland.

In June 2015, the PLC participated in a General Discussion on Article 6 (Right to Life) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[21]

In February 2017, the PLC participated in the 66th Session of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), where it advocated against any change to Ireland's abortion law.[22]

Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013[edit]

The PLC organised a protest in Merrion Square in June 2013, as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 was being debated. Official figures put the crowd at 15,000 to 20,000 people, with the organisers claiming 50,000.[23] Attendees included GAA Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, Adele Best of Women Hurt, Jennifer Kehoe, Maria Steen and Íde Nic Mathúna, co-founder of Youth Defence.[24] The Bill was approved in the Dáil by 127 votes to 31.[25] It passed its final stage in the Seanad on 23 July 2013, by 39 votes to 14.[26] It was signed into law on 30 July by Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland.[27]

A 2014 "National Vigil" took place at Merrion Square on 3 May 2014,[28] and was attended by about 4,500 people, with the organisers claiming 15,000. They criticised the newly passed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. Speakers included Cora Sherlock, Caroline Simons, and Lynn Coles of Women Hurt.[29]

Irish General Election 2016[edit]

The Pro Life Campaign spent €40,000 during the Irish general election, 2016.[30][31] They produced recommendations for who to vote for[32] based on which politicians voted for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013

Citizens Assembly[edit]

In 2016 the Irish government established the Citizens' Assembly, a group of 99 citizens, to discuss the Eighth Amendment, and then make recommendation to the government. This is similar to the 2012 Constitutional Convention.

While the PLC criticised the Citizens' Assembly, claiming it has a pre-arranged outcome,[33] it nonetheless participated, making a presentation to the Assembly in March 2017.[34][35]

2018 referendum[edit]

In the referendum on the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 to replace the provisions of Article 40.3.3º with a clause allowing for legislation on the termination of pregnancy, which passed by a two-thirds majority, the Pro Life Campaign organised the unsuccessful Love Both campaign.

LGBT issues[edit]

Joe McCarroll co-founded, and was Chairperson of the Pro Life campaign [7][36] until December 2015.[5][37][38][39][40] In 1993, as national secretary of Family Solidarity, he campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality, calling it "unnatural",[41] In 2015, in the lead up to the marriage equality referendum, he campaigned against it, and called for a no vote.[42] Writing in The Brandsma Review after the referendum (where same-sex marriage was approved), he accused the media of lying, and complained about funding from outside the State.[43]

Des Hanafin, co-founder, former leader[44] and former honorary president, accused equality campaigners in the same-sex marriage referendum of spreading a "palpable climate of fear", and called for a No vote.[45][46] His son, Senator John Hanafin resigned from Fianna Fáil rather than vote for civil partnerships for same sex couples in 2010.

In 2005 Pro Life Campaign members had written to a Dáil committee arguing against legal recognition of same-sex couples.[47] The submission from the North Tipperary branch opposed any legal recognition of same sex couples, claiming same sex relationships were an "unnatural union" and "totally unacceptable, and an attack upon the family". The Cork North West branch submission asked "why can’t they [same-sex couples] make their own legal arrangements distinct from marriage?" and claimed "a homosexual environment is incomplete" for raising children[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Guide to the pressure groups". The Irish Times. 19 September 1992. p. 4. Retrieved 27 July 2016. Pro-Life Campaign (PLC): Started last March
  2. ^ "About". Retrieved 1 August 2016. The Pro Life Campaign was established in 1992.
  3. ^ "Cora Sherlock - ProLife Campaign". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Professor William Binchy - ProLife Campaign". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Birthright". Birthright. May 2011. p. 3.
  6. ^ Kennedy, Geraldine (20 June 1992). "Anti-abortion group gearing up for the autumn referendum". The Irish Times. p. 5. Retrieved 28 July 2016. The Pro-Life Campaign was already preparing for the next substantive issue on the political agenda at its headquarters in North Great George's Street, in Dublin
  7. ^ a b "The Problem(s) with the Pro Life Campaign: Charity?". 21 June 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  8. ^ "V I E Company Limited By Guarantee". SoloCheck. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Pro Life Campaign". Standards in Public Office Commission. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  10. ^ "V I E Company limited by Guarantee - Directors". Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Pro-Life Campaign not to field candidates". The Irish Times. 5 November 1992. p. 4. Retrieved 27 July 2016. The PLC will campaign for a "No" vote on the proposed constitutional amendment allowing the termination of pregnancy to save the life as distinct from the health ... will also campaign against the amendment allowing for abortion information ... On the travel amendment, the PLC will make no recommendation but is "strongly critical" of it
  12. ^ "'Reasonable compromise' beset by a tide of controversy". The Irish Times. 8 March 2002. Retrieved 2 August 2016. The bishops gave it their enthusiastic backing and, unlike in 1992, never wavered in their support. The main pro-life groups, the Pro-Life Campaign and the Pro-Life Movement, did likewise.
  13. ^ "'No' campaigners hope rejection will open door to abortion". The Irish Times. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 2 August 2016. The campaign for a Yes vote is spearheaded by the Pro-Life Campaign
  14. ^ Kiely, Berry (4 March 2002). "Vote Yes". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Ireland's Pro Life Campgaign website". Archived from the original on 27 May 2002. Retrieved 2010-12-17.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  16. ^ Pro Life Campaign, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 May 2002. Retrieved 2010-12-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  17. ^ "Statistics on abortion and related issues". Archived from the original on 10 June 2002. Retrieved 2016-08-02.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  18. ^ McDonagh, Michelle (27 February 2002). "Seasoned anti-abortion activists battle voter confusion in Galway". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 August 2016. She alluded to the Finnish study published in the British Medical Journal which claimed women were six times more likely to commit suicide after abortion than if they went through with their pregnancies
  19. ^ "Anti-abortion poll outlay €750,000". The Irish Times. 27 March 2003. The second biggest spender was the Pro-Life Campaign, which said it spent €350,000 during the campaign and received €200,000. The source of the donations was not disclosed. Individually, the two groups spent more than the main political parties.
  20. ^ "List of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council as of 1 September 2015". United Nations Economic and Social Council. 22 August 2016. p. 82. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Human Rights Committee discusses draft General Comment on the right to life" (Press release). United Nations Human Rights Committee. 14 July 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  22. ^ Pro Life Campaign (20 January 2017). "SUBMISSION ON THE CEDAW" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  23. ^ Keenan, Dan (8 June 2013). "Thousands attend Dublin abortion rally". The Irish Times. Official estimates put the crowd at between 15,000 and 20,000 although protest organisers claimed “a conservative figure of 50,000"
  24. ^ Barry, Aoife (11 June 2013). "Thousands turn out for Pro-Life vigil in Dublin".
  25. ^ "Ireland's parliament approves 'life-saving' abortion". BBC News. 12 July 2013.
  26. ^ O'Halloran, Marie (23 July 2013). "Seanad passes abortion legislation by 39 votes to 14". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  27. ^ "President Higgins signs abortion bill into law". Irish Independent. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  28. ^ "28.03.2014 PLANS ANNOUNCED FOR NATIONAL VIGIL FOR LIFE ON 3RD MAY". Pro Life Campaign. 28 March 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  29. ^ Holland, Kitty (3 May 2014). "Thousands protest in Dublin against abortion law". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  30. ^ "Donation oversight was 'my fault', says Reilly". RTE. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2017. Figures from SIPO also show the Pro-Life Campaign spent more than €40,000 in the General Election last year, with more than half of that spent on advertising.
  31. ^ "Dáil General Election 26 February 2016" (PDF). Standards in Public Office Commission. December 2016.
  32. ^ "GENERAL ELECTION 2016 : USE YOUR VOTE TO PROTECT HUMAN LIFE". Pro Life Campaign. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  33. ^ "Pro Life Campaign says Citizens' Assembly has pre-arranged outcome". RTE. 10 September 2016.
  34. ^ "PLC presentation". Pro Life Campaign. 5 March 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  35. ^ "17 Advocacy Groups to Address Citizens' Assembly on the Topic of Eighth Amendment". Citizens' Assembly. 21 February 2017.
  36. ^ "Birthright". Birthright. Pro Life Campaign. Winter 1998. p. 4. DR. JOE McCARROLL, Chairperson
  37. ^ Cora Sherlock [@CoraSherlock] (22 September 2012). "Opening remarks by Dr Joe McCarroll, Chair of Pro Life Campaign at start of national seminar #plc2012" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  38. ^ "Our People". Pro Life Campaign. Archived from the original on 29 April 2015. Dr. Joseph McCarroll is Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign.He is also an author and social commentator.
  39. ^ Cora Sherlock [@CoraSherlock] (22 September 2012). "Dr Joe McCarroll giving closing address at #plc2012 after a very successful seminar" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  40. ^ Cora Sherlock [@CoraSherlock] (6 April 2016). "@daithigorman What? Joe McCarroll is no longer Chairperson, hasn't been since December 2015. @JimJRedmond @Colmogorman" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  41. ^ McCarroll, Joseph (23 April 1993). "The case against homosexual law reform". The Irish Times. p. 4.(subscription required)
  42. ^ "Slippery Slope, 1993". 12 May 2015.
  43. ^ McCarroll, Joseph (5 August 2015). "WHAT DO YOU NEED TO SWING A REFERENDUM? BIG BUCKS, A BIG LIE AND A COMPLIANT MEDIA". The Brandsma Review. No. 137.
  44. ^ Brennock, Mark (1 December 2001). "Abortion debate emerges again to vanquish illusion of consensus". The Irish Times. p. 10.
  45. ^ O'Connor, Niall (16 May 2015). "Yes camp has spread 'palpable climate of fear' says Hanafin". Irish Independent.
  46. ^ Hanafin, Des (18 May 2015). "Government's dictatorial attitude makes people slow to say they're voting No". The Irish Times.
  47. ^ Beelsey, Arthur (11 March 2005). "Thousands join call for no change in status of family". The Irish Times. p. 1.
  48. ^ "Tenth Progress Report THE ALL-PARTY OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION" (PDF). Oireachtas. January 2006.