79% of Women Want Fine Gael to Keep Its Pro-Life Commitments.
This billboard is clearly based on a poll done by Millward Browne Lansdowne which was commissioned by the Pro Life Institute. Several organisations, including Youth Defence, have cited this statistic as definitive proof that 79% of Irish women are pro life.
Unfortunately, this claim is not supported by the evidence.
1) Respondents were asked:
Just prior to polling day in the 2011 General Election, Fine Gael said it was opposed to the legalisation of abortion and experimentation on human embryos. It said that Fine Gael’s representatives would bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld. Would you agree or disagree with this commitment?
The second question asked:
Current medical practice in Ireland does not allow the deliberate killing of the unborn baby. In a crisis pregnancy situation, the doctor has a duty of care towards the baby when intervening to save the mother’s life. Do you consider that this ethical practice should be protected by law?
The situation in question could be interpreted in one of two ways. The first is the current legal situation in Ireland, as established by the X case, where a woman is able to legally end a pregnancy if there is a risk of physical or psychological harm to the mother.
The second is the current actual situation in Ireland (as no guidelines from the X case have been brought into law) where women are only entitled to emergency life saving treatment which ends a pregnancy.
It should also be noted that by answering no, the respondents could indicate they were opposed to the existing practice of intervention.
It is disingenuous for the Pro Life Campaign to suggest all who answered this poll necessarily were expressing their reluctance for legislation consistent with the X case.
2) 79% of respondents did not actually answer yes to this question. As stated by the Pro Life campaign,
57 percent favoured the Government legislating to protect the human embryo, 16 percent were opposed and 27 percent did not know or had no opinion.
When this 27 per cent is excluded, 78 per cent favour legislation to protect the human embryo and 22 per cent are opposed.
By excluding the information the 26% of respondents did not know or had no opinion, this is ignoring a relevant opinion held by over 1 in 4 respondents. We would question why the Pro Life campaign felt this statistic should be glossed over.
3) This poll only queried 979 respondents.
This is unusually small for the 4.35 million population of Ireland and should be considered along with the 2010 poll from Marie Stopes/YouGov stating that 79% of Irish people supported liberalization of abortion laws and a 2010 Irish Examiner/Red C poll stating that 3/5 people between 18 and 35 believed abortion should be legalized.
4) 79% of women
Upon examining the Millward Brown information poll, it seems that when adjusted by demographic (and excluding those who did not know), women are actually less likely to answer yes to these questions, with women answering yes in (respectively) 79 and 77% of cases (while for men, it was 81 and 80%). It would be interesting o see the unadjusted data and this poll certainly does not represent the 12 women a day who travel to England in order to access an abortion and we would question why the Pro Life Campaign would not want to represent these gender difference accurately.
We would ask the Pro Life campaign to show definitive proof that most women are opposed to the implementation of the X case before claiming to represent women.