Category: Sex education

Those oh-so-convincing anti-repeal arguments re-capped (Greatest Hits version)

In the Irish abortion referendum, the ‘No’ side — those campaigning against the repeal of Ireland’s archaic Constitutional abortion ban — certainly had their work cut out.

The way the Constitution was worded meant they had to persuade the Irish electorate to defend all of the following: (a) forcing raped pubescent teens to carry unwanted pregnancies to term; (b) compelling incest victims to give birth to consanguineous offspring; (c) allowing critically ill pregnant women to bleed to death by making doctors too afraid to treat them; (d) trafficking parents whose unborn children have fatal foetal abnormalities to foreign countries in search of appropriate medical care, and then making them smuggle their cremated babies back to Ireland in hand luggage; and (e) threatening women who induce miscarriages in their own homes, or anyone who assists them in doing so, with a 14-year prison sentence for murder.

Ireland’s abortion ban had repeatedly been condemned. After several negative findings, the United Nations formally denounced Ireland in 2017 for adopting an approach that was “cruel, inhumane, and degrading.”

In other words, considering all the issues, the ‘No’ side had a difficult argument to sell.

So how exactly did they go about crafting the subtleties required to assuage voters’ concerns? How did they pitch their philosophical and ethical arguments to an increasingly sophisticated, critically aware, and well-read electorate?

Well, sit back and enjoy some hand-picked highlights from the ‘No’ side’s quite memorable campaign…

* * *

1. That time someone installed a giant ‘NO’ on Ben Bulben

Ben Bulben is a protected geological site in County Sligo. A mountain. Supposedly, a huge ‘NO’ installed on the side of a mountain was intended to persuade Ireland to put aside their reservations and vote to keep its internationally controversial abortion ban.

Sure, the ban produces terrible outcomes for women, their families, and wider society. Sure, the United Nations have condemned it. But a huge ‘NO’ installed on the side of a mountain? That really puts the whole issue into perspective, doesn’t it?

A ‘NO’ on Ben Bulben just makes you think.

Of course (spoiler alert), it turned out the Irish people are generally unswayed by moral argumentation conveyed on the sides of mountains. Seemingly they choose to prioritize women’s lives ahead of typographic masonry.

* * *

2. That time the Iona Institute started putting quotation marks around ‘mental health’ because, you know, mental health shmental health

This became something of a running theme.

The Iona Institute is a right-wing conservative Catholic think tank. They specialize in promoting awareness of research findings that happen to coincide with their preferred moral worldview, as if to imply they adopt an evidence-based approach when deciding whether or not to love Jesus.

Prominent anti-abortion campaigner Rónán Mullen went so far as to say this type of thing — repeatedly — on national television:

In other words, mental health is all in the mind (you see what I did there?).

As Fionnuala MacLiam pointed out on Twitter, such a claim runs counter to the pro-lifers’ usual trope that abortion itself damages mental health, by inducing something they call post-abortion syndrome.

Too bad that post-abortion syndrome is a myth.

In summary, the argument here is that (a) real mental health conditions are fake, whereas (b) fake mental health conditions are real.

This angle amounted to little more than mental health denial.

* * *

3. That time the Bishop of Ossory told us that having an abortion after being raped is actually far worse an experience than the rape itself

According to his interview on national radio, he knows this because he heard it from some women he spoke to.

Screenshot 2018-05-11 at 23.33.44

Coincidentally, this was the same day the Psychological Society of Ireland published a report stating that decades of research shows abortion does not hurt a woman’s mental health.

Presumably, however, rape does.

* * *

4. Or that time a pro-life parliamentarian suggested that mental health *was* important, and that women who have abortions could be considered de facto INSANE in order to receive reductions on their murder sentences

Er, yes. After spending weeks denying that mental health even exists, the ‘No’ side tried to switch the argument to imply that having an abortion was itself a sign of mental derangement.

As a psychologist I admit this strategy particularly irked me.

Its contorted logic — presented to parliament by the grandson of our republic’s first President — epitomized entirely the systematic inter-generational stigmatization of Irish women that the Eighth Amendment issue had come to symbolize.

It also revealed the panic that gripped the pro-life movement when public opinion began to overwhelm them in the campaign’s final days.

In some ways the idea represents a kind of cognitive dissonance. These people think their own position is so compelling that anyone who holds a different view to them must be mentally unstable. They think that no right-minded person would ever have an abortion. They just don’t get it.

The fact these people’s own grasp of reality is so poor will remain a one of life’s pathetic ironies.

They will never get it.

* * *

5. That time a Life Institute spokesperson argued that abortion statistics were inflated because they included Irish women who were not white

Here she is again in all her glory:

Obviously black women don’t count as Irish.

Or, indeed perhaps, as people.

* * *

6. That time the director of the Iona Institute mysteriously claimed there were 18,000 GPs in Ireland…

…when there are actually just 2,500. He had wanted to play down the proportion who supported a ‘Yes’ vote.

What gives? Well it’s a bit of a mystery. But as Aoife Barry pointed out on Twitter, 18,000 GPS locations were mapped on an Irish website a decade ago…

Maybe that’s what he was referring to?

It is a fundamental tenet of the scientific method that correlational reasoning is parlous.

The fact that 1,300 GPs supported repeal AND 18,000 points of interest were added to global positioning-system maps in 2008 seems, in retrospect, a particularly unconvincing correlation on which to base an argument against constitutional change.

* * *

7. Or that time he seemed to describe female bodies as “our property”, warning that providing women with bodily autonomy was akin to “nationalising half the housing stock”

Here he is again:

Cool the jets, snowflakes! David didn’t state that women’s bodies were men’s property. He merely implied that they were analogous to men’s property, because it was an analogy and that’s how analogies work.

David deleted this tweet, so even he might have seen the problem with this one.

* * *

8. That time the anti-abortion ‘Save the 8th’ campaign wheeled out a ‘psychiatric nurse’ who claimed to have assisted with abortions in an English clinic for five years but turned out actually to have worked just as a porter for 8 months…

…and who then — allegedly — misrepresented his qualifications by falsifying his certificates.

I think he was a member of the ‘Circulation Nurses with Fire Safety Training For ‘NO” group.

* * *

9. Or that time Save the 8th unlawfully used photographs of the Irish Defence Forces in press advertising, contrary to the Defence Act of 1954…

…in order to imply that while men can be trusted to protect children, women can’t.

The illegal use of our nation’s defence forces to support subliminally misogynistic messages about female child-killers was intended to convince the electorate to jail women for 14 years on murder charges for taking abortifacient pills in their own homes.

I guess it wasn’t effective.

* * *

10. Or that time Save the 8th used photographs of an apparently incompetent firefighter…

…to further imply that babies need to be protected from, not just fire, but also women.

It was perhaps a tad unfortunate that the firefighter they used seemed to know little or nothing about firefighting. Contrary to even basic practice standards, he was carrying the child in one arm, wearing no oxygen mask, and had his visor up.

I guess if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you just don’t know what you’re doing.

* * *

11. That time this guy…well, that time this guy produced this:

A sample lyric will capture the spirit of this haunting ditty for you: “Live and let live/In a land with Mammy and Daddy!

The ‘No’ side didn’t just have this guy though, they also had Crystal Swing. And Jim Corr.

The ‘Yes’ side had U2, Christy Moore, Hozier, Niall Horan, Pink, Lily Allen, Kate Nash, Boy George, Mark Hamill, Courteney Cox, Saoirse Ronan, Russell Crowe, Amy Huberman, Emma Watson, Cillian Murphy, Katherine Ryan, Sam Neil, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and many others.

If the referendum had been a sing-off/dance-off/act-off, I know which side my money would have been on.

* * *

12. That time an anti-abortion campaigner told the Drogheda Independent that allowing abortion would eventually reduce the pool of available Gaelic Football players

Yes. He really said it:

But at the end of the day, football is just a load of men kicking a bit of leather around a field, so I guess we’ll just have to get used to it.

* * *

And finally…

13. That time a public representative declared on radio that repealing Ireland’s abortion ban would lead to:
(a) the normalization of sex slavery;
(b) euthanasia;
(c) 14-year-olds being forced to have sex on demand;
(d) political assassinations.
Oh, and (e): it would make Hitler “very” happy

That is certainly quite a lot of consequences.


As a rider (if you will), he also offered this nugget of advice:

Mr Guckian also said Ireland should turn to a “culture of life” and to a “proper use of sex”.

This was the archetypal ‘slippery slope’ argument: Sure, the guy could be exaggerating. But could you really afford to take that chance? DO YOU WANT HITLER TO BE HAPPY? No, of course you don’t. Therefore, you must vote ‘No’.

Unless, of course, those various slippery slopes turn out to be illusory.

I suppose only time will tell now.

* * *

In the end, for some unbelievable reason, the Irish electorate were simply not swayed by all these powerful arguments…


Hmmm. I guess the Irish people have had enough of ‘experts’.

Democracy, folks. It’s out of control…

Reproductive rights in Ireland will lead to “normalisation of sex slavery”, “euthanasia”, and “the killing of political opponents”, according to local councillor who is not exaggerating at all

Is it libel if the person actually said it?

Oh well. This guy has been saying stuff. A whole lot of stuff actually.

Today he’s been discussing the forthcoming abortion referendum in Ireland:

A COUNTY councillor has defended claims that the abolition of the Eighth Amendment will lead to sex slavery becoming “normalised”.

Leitrim Independent Councillor, Des Guckian, said in an email to constituents that “Hitler would be very happy with the proposal to abolish the Eighth”. He also said repeal of the Eighth would lead to girls being forced to have sex “on demand”.

Speaking to Ocean FM today he said he was “glad” to stand over the claims….Mr Guckian also said Ireland should turn to a “culture of life” and to a “proper use of sex”.

(I have previously listed some of the proper uses of sex in the body of this blogpost.)

When asked what he meant by his concern that the introduction of abortion in Ireland would lead to the normalisation of sex slavery he said: “What I mean by it is this that the values that people always have held will be totally devalued and youngsters – I mean very young – will be asked and will be expected to indulge themselves in sex at an age when they’re just not able for that kind of thing.”

…In the lengthy email he said: “If abortion sweeps in, is euthanasia and the killing of political opponents etc very far behind? They are creating a Culture of Death.”

“This is a holocaust in the same way,” he said of his references to Hitler in the email.

Godwin’s law yet again. (That guy Hitler sure has a lot to answer for.)

Mr Guickan denied that the email was designed to create controversy.

So when he cites Hitler and refers to the Holocaust, this fellow is definitely NOT exaggerating.

He literally means it.

Of course, the proof of such a pudding would surely lie in an attempt to eat it. To test this man’s claims, all we need do is look at the countries where abortion has already been legalised. We can then check whether legalisation was followed by any discernible uptick in euthanasia, Holocausts, normalised sex slavery, political killings, improper uses of sex, plagues of locusts, soundings of the seven trumpets, intermittent Wifi outages, or any other resultant catastrophe that might be envisaged in such circumstances.

Let’s stick to euthanasia for now.

Based on the reality that euthanasia is legal in only 10 countries worldwide, but abortion has been introduced in 200, I think we can rule out a causal link between the two. What do you think?

But there’s more. Shock horror — today’s pro-life loon has a history of incendiary outpourings, and unsurprisingly his approach to ‘life’ has proven to be rather wide-ranging. This was him back in December:

A COUNTY COUNCILLOR in Leitrim has refused to apologise for repeatedly using the n-word at a local meeting on Monday night…The independent councillor commented, after receiving an answer he didn’t like, that “we are certainly not n****rs like in the eyes of the south of the United States, that is long gone”.

(I would have provided a relevant context if there actually was one.)

When challenged by Council chairman Seadhna Logan, who asked him to withdraw his remark, Guckian accused Logan of being “remarkably sensitive”, and told the meeting: “The reality is that in the US in 1964 n****rs were totally discriminated against”.

(Apparently he was discussing “road surfacing and repairs of by-roads.”)

Speaking to this afternoon Des Guckian said: “I said what I said at the meeting and that’s it.” Asked whether he planned to apologise for using the n-word he replied: “I’m not saying anymore, right? Thank you.”

You’re welcome, Des.

Hey, I might as well get them all in today. Here’s a musical interlude for your listening pleasure:

It’s a timeless three-chord structure, but if it were only a little bit catchier then I just might have changed my mind on the whole abortion thing.

Anyway. Still two weeks to go…

It’s 2018 and Irish parliamentarians still want priests in charge of sex education

Ah yes, I remember it well. I was twelve. A Catholic priest brought me into a private room, on my own, and showed me a photograph of a naked boy.

The boy was standing on some rocks by a river bank. He was trying to spear a fish with a stick, his tiny penis dangling between his legs made up of barely a dozen pixels. But it was there. I could see it. That was the point.

The priest used the tip of his biro to point it out to me, to make sure I knew what he was talking about. Judging by the swarm of blue ink-spots hovering around the boy’s genitalia, the priest had biroed this penis many times before.

I give you sex education, folks, Catholic-school style, in 1980s Ireland.

I don’t quite remember what the priest actually said about this boy’s penis. I just remember the biro, and the boy, and the feeling of intense discomfort at having a priest try to explain the facts of life to me.

He kept things simple. There was no mention of erections, ejaculations, or contraception, and certainly nothing about masturbation or fellatio. He was also quiet on the matter of positions — no doggy style, or missionary, or reverse cowgirls here.


The guy with the hat keeps looking at me.

Nor did he mention Alabama Hot Pockets, flying camels, bukkake, chili cheese dogs, golden showers, butt play, eating at the Y, Eiffel Towers, slurping of the gherkin, threesies, tongue-punching, watersports, Houdinis, happy endings, or furburgers.

And he made no reference at all to finger banging, snarfles, sixty-nines, rusty trombones, salad tossing, clam eating, chocolate cha-chas, barebacking, manwiches, smoke poles, facializing, cabeza, pillow-biting, carpet-munching, bob-knobbing, blumpkins, Hershey highways, punching of the starfish, playing of the skinflute, skiing, scissoring, rainbow kissing, muff-diving, dookie love, butt diddling, snowballing, handjobs, or anything to do with Abe Lincoln.

No, all there was was a general warning not to put my penis inside a lady. Ever. He was hazy on the reasons, but I remember that quite clearly.

Hey, if I kept my penis out of ladies, I could be cool, just like him!

Oh, don’t worry, he covered lady-parts as well. In that he literally covered them. There was no photograph of the female body, no actual vaginas per se, just one of those cross-sectional diagrams of a uterus that you see in anatomy textbooks.

You know, the one that looks like the logo for Dodge Trucks.



I can’t remember where he put his biro this time, but it was clear the priest had only a little knowledge, which of course he used to take him a long way.

And there was nothing about consent. I mean, we were boys. Why would we need to know anything about consent?

Ah the 1980s. Times were different back then. This was all the sex education we needed. What harm did it do? It’s not as though the Irish lack a mature and respectful approach to sex, sexuality, contraception, reproductive rights, or sexual consent, now, is it?



So guess what. Fast forward to 2018 and — drum roll please — nothing much has changed. In fact, the Catholic-school lobby want to take active steps to keep everything this way, with right-wing conservatives actively speaking out against the ‘undermining’ of ethos that might result from modernizing sex education in Catholic schools:

Fianna Fáil [the lead opposition party in the Irish parliament] will oppose legislation which provides for factual objective sex education without regard to the ethos of a school.

The party’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he was concerned that the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill would result in changes to the “characteristic spirit of schools” and had been drafted without consulting education partners.

In other words, the church was not asked first. You know, they might not want ‘factual objective’ education. Did you ever think of that?

Mr Byrne insisted that Fianna Fáil supported the call…“for improvements in sexual health and relationship education in schools, youth clubs and other settings”.

The Meath East TD said “we have a principled objection to this Bill on the basis that Ireland has never legislated in law for a curriculum of any type”.

You see? It’s a free speech thing. Shame on you for thinking it was something to do with religion.

He added: “We have never put in law what should be taught in our classes. We have left it to teachers and other experts to decide, and politicians have not got involved.”

Yes, experts. Like priests. With their biros.

Thankfully, these bozos are in a parliamentary minority and so cannot prevent the new law being passed. Soon our nation’s schools will be mandated to teach facts, for a change. How modern. The next thing you know, we’ll have computers.

We are soooo twenty-first century now.


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