A video being circulated on the internet shows Youth Defense anti-choice posters being sprayed with paint. Over the last month more and more billboards from the anti-women anti-choice organisation Youth Defense have been appearing all over Dublin. It appears they have spent hundreds of thousands of euro in their latest campaign targeting women who have had abortions. In the last days we have seen or been sent photos of their posters that have been altered all over the city and just now we received notification of the video below which shows several of these sites being covered with paint or torn down.
According to the person who uploaded the video ""On the shortest night of 2012 some people got together for some direct action against the appalling Youth Defense posters that have been plastered all over Dublin city center." This video was sent to me anonymously to upload and share as citizen journalism."
These direct actions against the offensive and misleading billboards seem to have begun once news circulated that the Advertising Standards Authority was refusing to act on the dozens of complaints they had received about the bill boards. So many complaints have been received that the ASA has gone so far to alter their 'Make a Complaint' web form to begin with their excuse for not acting (text below).
"RE: Youth Defence Campaign
The primary objective of the ASAI Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing is the regulation of commercial marketing communications in the interest of consumers.
Marketing communications that do not have a commercial element and which whose principal purpose is to express the advertiser's position on a political, religious, industrial relations, social or aesthetic matter or on an issue of public interest or concern do not come within the remit of the Code.
We have received a number of complaints about the current Youth Defense campaign. However, as this advertising does not have a commercial element (e.g. a fundraising element) and is expressing the advertiser’s position on an issue of public interest, it is outside the remit of the Code.
We are therefore unable to investigate complaints about this campaign."
The billboards have been seen inside Connolly station and DART stations across Dublin. They are inside shopping malls and even beside hospitals. One women pointed out that "There's one at Dublin Airport and one at the port so people entering the country can see what a mental country this is." They have been altered in a wide variety of ways, some have simply been partially torn down. Others have been carefully altered with stick on panels that explain why some women choose abortion. Many have been written on with pens or stickers while yet more have had paint thrown on them.
At Connolly Dart station one that claimed women regretted abortion had "This is caused by STIGMA around abortion NOT abortion itself" written on it by a passerby. Around the corner on Pearse street another one had been physically torn down - as was the one across the river at Store street and another in Sallynoggin. On Wedenesday morning we heard that the Youth Defense HQ on Capel Street ('Life' House) had been covered with pro-choice stickers - these had been removed by later that day. The range of methods and techniques, many of which seem to be down to spontaneous anger, reflect the wide spread revulsion at Youth Defence and their attempt to deny women access to abortion.
Although most people in Ireland want to see the introduction of abortion in at least some circumstances, and a sizable minority are pro-choice, there is no pro-choice movement with anything like the financial resources that have been supplied to Youth Defense. For 20 years all the political parties that have been in power, including both Labour and the Green Party, have refused to legislate for the X-Caseas required by a Supreme Court judgement and not one but two referendums. Thousands of women are forced to travel to Britain every years for abortion, yet more take the risk of carrying out home terminations with medicine ordered from the internet. At least some of the migrant women in this second group have no other choice as they don't have the required papers to allow them to travel.
The Youth Defense campaign is taking place at the same time as the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin which attracted religious extremists from across the globe. It's quite probable that the timing of the campaign is as least in part to reassure Youth Defense funders ampng them that they are leading the anti-choice movement in the country. Many bigots internationally have identified Ireland as the current front line in restricting women's access to abortion.
Of course they are aware that religious based objections to women's freedom to choose do not have the force they once had in Ireland. The publications of account after account of priests and other religious who raped and abused children in their care and the bishops and cardinals who covered up for them has ended the power the church had up to the 80's to order people from the pulpit how to vote on 'moral' issues. They are very quiet about their opposition to sex education, contraception and sex before marriage. Today's anti choice bigots are all about carefuly crafted messages pretending that forcing women to go through unwanted pregnacy and give birth is somehow in their interests. Likewise on their annual march they put a lot of effort into hiding the ranks of priests, nuns and religious extremists waving rosary beads, crucifix's and other religious paraphenlia behind a thin front rank of young women for PR purposes. This album of WSM photos from last years Dublin anti-choice march demonstrates this.
The extent to which the anti-choice movement internationally is all about controlling other women was demonstrated in a September 2000 article that presented account after account of anti-choice activists who choose abortion themselves when faced with a crisis pregnancy but who remained active in denying that chooice to other women. We reproduce one of the many examples here "I've had several cases over the years in which the anti-abortion patient had rationalized in one way or another that her case was the only exception, but the one that really made an impression was the college senior who was the president of her campus Right-to-Life organization, meaning that she had worked very hard in that organization for several years. As I was completing her procedure, I asked what she planned to do about her high office in the RTL organization. Her response was a wide-eyed, 'You're not going to tell them, are you!?' When assured that I was not, she breathed a sigh of relief, explaining how important that position was to her and how she wouldn't want this to interfere with it." (Physician, Texas)
This Youth Defense campaign comes ahead of the annual 'Rally for Life' march which alternates between Dublin & Belfast in a display of cross border bigotry uniting the religious extremists across the usual sectarian barriers. An ad-hoc counter demonstration is to take place in Belfast on July 7th, WSM members from Belfast and elsewhere are helping to organize this. WSM policy is "for free, safe & legal abortion provision as part of the health service".
We are collecting a record of the altered Youth Defense billboards - if you spot any let us know about them and include a photo if you can. The one's we have seen or been sent so far are in this Facebook album.