So it’s been a little over a week since the 4th Annual March for Choice took place in Dublin, a march that does, but by all means shouldn’t have to, happen in the 21st century in a developed country. I could spend this entire article going through the reasons why it shouldn’t have happened, the reasons why we need an immediate repeal of the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, the reasons why women living in Ireland deserve better than to spend their hard-earned, already-cut-to almost-nothing-by-austerity-measures, glass-ceiling lowering money on ‘a little trip’ to England, but I’m sure you already know exactly why without needing me to explain it to you.
Instead I’ll be covering the media’s behaviour towards the pro-choice contingent of the human race, and importantly, coverage of this year’s March for Choice.
First of all, coverage was minimal. Of the news websites that did run an article, or channels that showed footage of the march itself, focus was instead directed at the anti-choice groups who, shockingly, made up an extremely small proportion of the groups that were present on the day of the march. Just to give you a feel for how unbalanced the numbers were:
-At the Rally for Life on the 4th of July, Youth Defence claimed there were up to 25,000 people in attendance. Lies, obviously, as always from Youth Defence. The reality was closer to 2,000 people, with nearly 200 pro-choice protesters.
-At the Abortion Rights Campaign’s March for Choice on the 26th of September, almost 10,000 people were in attendance, with Gardaí refusing to give an estimate of numbers. This 10,000 does not, of course, include the monumental anti-choice contingent, which amounted to only 6 people.
Yet, which contingent was the one that received the most airtime on RTE News when it reported on the news of the day? But of course, Pro Life Ireland were, with their lead-off into the AS ALWAYS fact-driven argument of abortion rights, being “repealing the 8th Amendment will allow for abortions throughout the entire 9 months of pregnancy”, accompanied by a measly 6 seconds of footage from the March for Choice.
And that is what people saw of the 10,000 strong crowd that campaigned for women’s rights. The people who weren’t there, who may not have known that the event was even happening, or who didn’t have the time or interest in attending, mostly saw propaganda for the other side of the argument, the side that’s been losing traction for years, as their numbers dwindle, their arguments fall flat on the ears of people who know the facts and reality of abortion rights and abortifacients, and who were recently forced to admit that despite being called Youth Defence, they realistically have very few actual youths in their ranks.
The importance of what non-attendees saw on the news can’t be undermined; the media, in all its forms, is the direct route of information for people who either know everything or nothing about different cultural, human, social, and political issues. When that media is predominantly owned and run by people and groups who openly manipulate the results, as they have previously done with other issues such as the migrant crisis, the anti-water charges protests and contingents in general, the gross austerity measures that have been implemented and the heart-breaking outcomes for the families affected by them etc., people will only see what they don’t need to see, and people need to see that the issue of abortion rights is not going to fade away. But as long as Iona-Institute-funding media broadcasts exactly what they want people to hear and see, that’s what people will inevitably, and unfortunately, get.
Media that is dedicated to only highlighting issues that people will be interested in are obviously going to be let off the hook on this one; websites such as TheLiberal.ie (anti-choice) and Abortion Rights Campaign (pro-choice) will obviously cover issues that their respective audiences are interested in hearing (some of these, I won’t mention which, will cover issues and stories that are entirely made up in order to boost their audience and ‘shares’ online), so I won’t beat about the bush complaining about how one highlighted something the other didn’t, but it’s of the utmost importance to everyone, pro-, anti- or undecided, that the state broadcaster, which is supposed to be a middle ground for all types of issues, a taxpayer funded beacon of unfiltered information and, dare I say it, ‘news,’ remain impartial and unbiased, rather than making it painfully clear where their allegiances lie on issues so delicate and heated as a woman’s right to choose what will happen to and in her own body.
Needless to say, coverage from other outside news networks and websites, such as the Irish Times and the Guardian, was far more in tune with the issue: touching on the number of people who attended, again leaving it up to guesswork without the help of the Gardaí’s count-how-many-heads-you-see division; and mentioning (shocking I know) the names of the various people and groups who attended and spoke at the March, while the people-funded RTE didn’t even get that far before Labour intervened with their ‘promises,’ and Pro Life Ireland butted in with their ‘facts.’
What should have been a monumental day for pro-choice people across the country (monumental in that the March boasted first-time speakers from migrant support group Akidwa and a national traveller’s rights group) was instead roundly ignored by local media, and swept under the rug, just like the issue of abortion itself.
The rug isn’t big enough anymore.
By Doreen Manning
Based in Cork, Doreen is an activist, writer, graphic designer and self-styled “feminazi cunt who is taxed as a non-essential item.” You can follow her on Twitter here