A pro-life group emailed schools in Ireland urging principals and religion teachers to show students a DVD that included excerpts from a 1980s anti-abortion propaganda video.
The video, The Silent Scream, shows an ultrasound of an abortion in which the foetus appears to open its mouth "in a silent scream" - a deceptive assertion refuted by the medical community.
The anti-abortion group, Donegal Pro Life, reportedly sent letters to schools last week, asking that they play their 50-minute DVD to students in the senior cycle, which are typically aged 15 through 18. Aside from excerpts from The Silent Scream, the video also includes graphic visuals of aborted fetuses and illustrated abortions at different stages of pregnancy, according to the Irish Times. The video also reportedly argues that women who have abortions increase their risk for developing mental health issues, which researchers have concluded is untrue.
The Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU) responded to the group's letter asking that they stop pushing their anti-abortion agenda at the schools. "I think it's completely inappropriate for an outside organisation to send a letter to schools asking principals to play a campaign video to students," ISSU president Leon Egan said, TheJournal.ie reported. "The sanctuary of school is something that is fundamentally important to us and it's clear a line has been seriously crossed."
Donegal Pro Life's letters to schools across the country come just weeks ahead of Ireland's historic abortion referendum. On May 25, citizens will vote on whether to repeal the country's Eighth Amendment, which is effectively a ban on abortions in the Republic of Ireland. The anti-abortion group's letter reportedly alleged that teachers had been endorsing a "yes" vote to their students - voting "yes" is a push to repeal the amendment and relax abortion laws. The group wants students over 16 to watch the DVD in an attempt to influence them to vote no and maintain the country's harsh abortion laws. Margaret McGeehan, chair of Donegal Pro Life, reportedly said in the email that it's "particularly important" for students over 18 to watch the video "before making up their minds" about their stance on the referendum.
"To think that a short DVD played by your religion teacher would drastically change a student's position is insulting," ISSU's Egan said, according to TheJournal.ie. "We think that students will play a huge role in the outcome of this referendum and absolutely believe that students who can vote should vote. We sent voter registration forms to every secondary school in the country but the difference is we did not try to influence students' opinions."