International protest at Marie Stopes abortion center in Dublin [Photo by Eric Scheidler]
This fall it was my great privilege to speak at the second annual “Viva la Vida” pro-life youth conference in Dublin, Ireland. The conference was hosted at Griffith College by Youth Defence—one of the world’s most dynamic pro-life groups—with hundreds of pro-life youth in attendance from across Ireland and throughout Europe.
After flying through the night from Chicago, I arrived in Dublin the morning of Friday, November 5 to be picked up at the airport by Kate Bryan and Liam Sheehan. They got me to my hotel with just enough time to snatch a quick one-hour nap before meeting up with Crossroads’ Dave Bathon and a group of young pro-lifers from Belgium for a protest at the Marie Stopes abortion referral center.
International Protest at Marie Stopes Abortion Referral Center
Together we walked the two miles from the hotel to Marie Stopes, where we met up with the regular prayer warriors at the facility. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, but Marie Stopes arranges package deals for Irish women to get abortions in England and the Netherlands.
A van soon arrived bearing Stand True’s Bryan Kemper and a group from Youth Defence, headed by Katy Robinson. Katy and Bryan distributed large posters depicting fetal development and abortion to the group, which continued to grow asgroups arrived from Germany, Scotland and France.
For many, this was their first pro-life protest ever, and they got a great lesson in pro-life dialog when Bryan Kemper drew a passing heckler into what became a very cordial discussion about abortion. Interest in this kind of street activism is growing in Europe.
After the protest, I spent the afternoon sight-seeing in Dublin with a group of young pro-lifers from Belgium and France. They were eager for my advice on bringing activism to Europe, and it was a privilege to be able to share my experience fighting abortion in the U.S.
Fantastic Viva la Vida Program
Eric shares pro-life victory stories at the Viva la Vida youth conference [Photo by Bryan Kemper]
The conference opened Friday evening with a talk by Sr. Rosanne Reddy, a Scots nun from Glasgow who heads the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative, helping women with crisis pregnancies get the help they need. Sr. Rosanne exudes a tremendous compassion for these women, and her talk was one of the best I’ve ever heard on reaching out to abortion-minded mothers. I’m eager to bring Sister over to the U.S. to share her wisdom with the growing ranks of pro-life counselors.
After sister’s talk I stayed behind for a Guinness or two before heading back to my hotel for some desperately needed sleep. It was well I got a good night’s sleep, because Saturday’s conference program was packed with fantastic pro-life talks.
Bernie Smyth of Northern Ireland’s Precious Life spoke on “walking the walk” to keep abortion out of Ireland. Joe Lee and Monica McGhee of SPUC Scotland shared moving personal accounts of dealing with unplanned pregnancies. Bryan Kemper highlighted the special opportunities students have to share the pro-life message on campus, and Hilary White of LifeSiteNews.com spoke on the work of pro-life journalists.
Two talks focused on a major concern of Youth Defence: fighting efforts to allow research on human embryos in Ireland. Niamh Uí Bhriain explained Youth Defence’s new campaign, which includes creative billboards reading, “You. Me. Everybody. We’re all just grown up embryos.” Then Dr. Colin McGuckin, a world-class Irish scientist, revealed the amazing therapies coming right now from research with umbilical cord stem cells.
Eric Shares Pro-Life Victories
My talk came right in the middle of the day’s program. I shared some pro-life “war stories” with the audience, illustrating that when pro-lifers trust in God and work together, we can score victories over the abortion industry.
I encouraged all to believe that God is—at this very moment— putting the pieces together for their own pro-life victories. Throughout the day, “A-Team” pairs from Youth Defence shared their practical experiences fighting abortion in Ireland, encouraging others to get involved. The program ended with an excellent keynote address by fellow American Jill Stanek on her experience exposing the practice of leaving babies who had survived attempted abortions to die in a soiled materials room at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
After this great day of talks, we all gathered in the Griffith College pub downstairs for a céili—traditional Irish music and dancing. The Viva la Vida conference is not just about upholding the value of life, but celebrating God’s gift of life together.
Ireland: A Sign of Hope in Europe
Eric (right) with pro-life youth beneath a Youth Defence billboard [Photo by David Bathon]
Sunday morning I attended a traditional Latin Mass at St. Kevin’s Church before returning to Griffith College for a talk by Carolyn O’Meara on working on the front lines of the abortion battle with Youth Defence.
Next came a fascinating talk by Englishman Andrew Pollard on the demographic crisis facing Europe, as birth rates continue to drop across the continent. While the future looks bleak for much of Europe, Ireland is a beacon of hope, with abortion still illegal and a strong Catholic faith surviving. Pollard’s message to the Irish was to “stay different” from the rest of Europe.
The next presentation was of special interest to me, as Kathryn Sloane and Andy Stephenson of Abort67 shared their experience displaying graphic abortion signs in England. The pair were arrested for this pro-life work only a few weeks ago, but charges were dropped. After the talk I told Andy how encouraged I was to see a project similar to the League’s own Face the Truth Tour going on in the U.K.
After a talk by Irene van der Wende about her own horrible experience with abortion after being the victim of rape, and her outreach to postabortive women in her home country of the Netherlands, Youth Defence co-founder Dr. Eoghan de Faoite gave a rousing closing speech which left no one in doubt as to Youth Defence’s resolve to keep Ireland abortion-free.
Building Bridges with the Pro-Life Movement in Europe
After the conference, a few of us gathered at a pub called Against the Grain, where I was delighted to find a few favorites from the U.S. on the beer list. As I shared a drink with pro-lifers from Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany and America, I was struck by how quickly friendships form around a shared belief in the sanctity of life. The international abortion cartel has much to fear from the youthful pro-life spirit rising throughout the Western world.
Viva la Vida was hands-down the best pro-life conference I’ve ever attended and it was truly an honor to be one of the presenters. I’m eager to begin working together with all my new European pro-life connections to end abortion throughout the West, using American-style grassroots activism to achieve what Ireland shows us is possible: that we can be abortion-free.