As a Catholic of Irish descent, I have gone out of my way over the years to buy products (often, comparatively pricier products) from the Emerald Isle. With the recent popular vote to legalize abortion, however, I will be boycotting Ireland.
Ireland’s giddy rejection of its 1983 pro-life amendment has an Orwellian 1984 aura—when “Repeal” voters heard the news that the unborn had been stripped of their constitutional right to life, they literally danced in the streets.
Abortion has come to Ireland to the sound of cheers. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, if Ireland lasts for a thousand years, men will look back on this vote and say, “This was their darkest hour.”
It’s tempting to refer to this vote as “Ireland’s Roe v. Wade.” It’s important to remember, however, that Roe v. Wade was not put into effect by popular vote. Seven judges created Roe, an unconstitutional decision that was—at least initially—unpopular in America. Had abortion been up for a national vote in 1973, it wouldn’t have come close to winning a majority. Contrast this with the ballot results in Ireland, which saw two-thirds of the electorate jettison the right to life for Irish babies.
Moreover, a closer look at the numbers points to a deeper malignancy. The protection of innocent life was on the ballot in Ireland, and 36% of the citizens did not even bother to vote, meaning that over one-third of adults refused not only to stand up for the unborn, but refused to even stand in line.
Thus, due to its widespread democratic adoption of abortion, the overturn of the 8th Amendment by popular vote is not “Ireland’s Roe v. Wade,” but something far worse. And it is indicative of a broader trend in defiance of divine law. This vote, hailed as a move toward modernizing Ireland, was a thinly-veiled referendum on Christianity itself. As Ryszard Legutko recently observed in The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, “Modernity and anti-Christianity cannot be separated because they stem from the same root and since the beginning have been intertwined.” This was a referendum on God, and God was voted down at the ballot box in Ireland.
Though other countries have enacted ordinances to allow abortion, the case of Ireland is particularly heartbreaking. This is a country that has bravely kept the Catholic Faith for centuries, through some rough waters. Because of this faithfulness and its distinctive Irish characteristics, many Catholics have financially supported the nation by buying products produced in Ireland. The vote, and the pictures and videos of the celebration of the outcome, was an eye-opening experience to many of us: This isn’t the same country we have so long held up as an exemplar of Catholic culture.
This makes me think that a boycott of Ireland is in order. In the coming months, Ireland will be voting on laws regarding abortion—the constitutional vote simply paved the way for legislation, it didn’t itself create pro-abortion laws. There is still a contingent of staunchly pro-life citizens in Ireland, and they will work tirelessly to help legally protect unborn babies. I want to help them. In the coming months, pro-life advocates around the world can boycott Ireland in an effort to send a message that we are heartbroken about the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but that we want to see Ireland adopt laws that protect the unborn.
Whenever the discussion of a boycott arises, one often hears the argument that boycotts don’t work. From an economic perspective, that is often true: one side boycotts and the other side increases their financial support. I have no special insight as to whether a boycott will make an economic difference or not. But beyond mere economics, if we Catholics don’t boycott Ireland in an effort to have pro-life laws enacted, we risk sending a message that it’s business-as-usual. We risk sending a message that our consumer preferences will remain unaltered regardless of whether Ireland protects her unborn babies or not.
We risk sending a message that we simply don’t care.
And that is a message we cannot send.