Actor Liam Neeson campaigns for REPEAL of right to life amendment

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Actor Liam Neeson speaks at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Awards in Los Angeles, California November 8, 2014. | REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

DUBLIN (Christian Examiner) – Actor Liam Neeson may have played a man with "a particular set of skills" trying to save a life in Taken, but the gifted actor isn't on the side of life off screen.

The Belfast Telegraph reports Neeson has resigned from leadership of the children's All Saints Amateur Boxing Club – an organization to which he's belonged since the age of 9 – after the club, associated with the Catholic Church in his hometown of Ballymena, found out he was working for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to Ireland's Constitution.

The 1983 amendment protects an unborn child's right to life, but not to the exclusion of the mother's.

Neeson joined up with Amnesty International – ironically, an organization which claims it supports human rights – to pitch the repeal of the amendment in a dramatic commercial. In the minute-and-a-half long ad, Neeson's voice can be heard warning of "a ghost" that haunts Ireland while the eerie sounds of howling winds, bringing to mind the legendary Banshee of Irish folklore, play in the background.

This ghost, Neeson says, is a "cruel ghost of the last century," and it "blindly brings suffering – even death – to the women whose lives it touches."

Most of the commercial is set among the ruins of an ancient Catholic church on a foggy night, and the phrase about suffering and death can be heard as the camera pans over an iron cross – presumably a grave marker. When Neeson asks viewers to "repeal the Eighth," the sun rises over the Irish plains.

The commercial is followed by Amnesty International's pitch for repealing the amendment, including a statement that abortion is illegal even if the mother's life is in danger or there are severe fetal deformities. Neither of those things, however, is expressly mentioned in the amendment.

"The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right," the Eighth Amendment reads.

According to Amnesty International, that makes Ireland's "women's health care" laws among the most restrictive in the world. According to the organization, 87 percent of the once-staunchly Catholic country wants "wider access to abortion."

Several Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI polls have pegged support for repeal of the amendment at 55 percent and 67 percent.

In terms of dramatic flair, the advertisement featuring Neeson is effective for pro-abortion advocates. In full, Neeson claims:

"A ghost haunts Ireland, a cruel ghost of the last century, still bound to the land. It blindly brings suffering – even death – to the women whose lives it touches. Feared by politicians, this is a ghost of paper and ink, a spirit that lives in a Constitution written for a different time. It is the shadow of the country we'd hope we'd left behind. Ireland doesn't have to be chained to its past. It's time to lay this ghost to rest. Repeal the Eighth."

Amnesty International's advertisement is based on the idea of choice, but a far more compelling pro-life advertisement from Youth Defence has shifted the debate to the root issue behind the repeal campaign – the murder of children denied the right to life "for the manner in which they were conceived."

The pro-life ad compares the word "repeal" with other historically significant words and phrases associated with injustice, such as "servitude," "final solution," and "segregation."

"Words matter. They can be used to save life or end life," the voice in the advertisement says. "When you hear the slogan, 'Repeal the Eighth,' do you really know what it means? Are those behind the campaign explaining what 'repeal' really means? It means unrestricted access to abortion on demand, abortion for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Repeal means discrimination against those who are deemed 'imperfect.' Repeal means basing someone's rights on the manner in which they were conceived. Repeal means not providing the supports women need during an unexpected pregnancy. Repeal means taking the right to life from another human being."

Youth Defence's campaign is an uphill battle. According to the organization, the pro-abortion lobby has "the backing of wealthy foreign donors and organizations like Amnesty International."

"They also have the full sympathy of the media," the group said.

Neeson has not spoken publicly about the controversy. His publicist did acknowledge that he had resigned from his position as president of the youth boxing club. It did not acknowledge that his new commercial was the reason for the resignation.

Neeson was also, ironically, the voice of Aslan the Lion in the Chronicles of Narnia movie series. Aslan is widely regarded as C.S. Lewis's depiction of Jesus Christ in the tales.