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20180511T1052 0184 CNS IRELAND ABORTION REFERENDUM GOOGLE 800People walk past a pro-life poster in Dublin May 7. Ireland votes May 25 on whether the right to life of the unborn should continue to be enshrined in the constitution. (CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters)DUBLIN (CNS) -- Irish pro-life campaigners have criticized a decision by tech giant Google to ban campaign advertisements before the May 25 referendum on whether the right to life of the unborn should continue to be enshrined in the constitution.

The government wants voters to amend the constitution to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which currently guarantees the right to life of unborn children "with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother." If removed, legislation will permit abortion on demand up to the 12th week of pregnancy and abortion in other specific circumstances up to 24 weeks.

Google announced May 9 that it would ban all campaign ads from its search engine and the YouTube video sharing website. The move was immediately welcomed by the leading pro-choice "Together for Yes" campaign. However, pro-life groups were sharply critical of the decision.

John McGuirk, communications director for Save the Eighth, accused Google of trying to rig the referendum.

"Online was the only platform available to the 'no' campaign to speak to voters directly. That platform is now being undermined, in order to prevent the public from hearing the message of one side," he said.

A spokesman for Google said it had become concerned by what it described as "electoral integrity." However, he refused to elaborate or to provide evidence of any alleged behavior that breached standards. Google sources quoted by The Irish Times newspaper said executives began to fear that if the referendum were defeated, the company would be the subject of "an avalanche of blame and further scrutiny" of their role in election campaigns.

Cora Sherlock of the Love Both campaign, which is working for a "no" vote in the referendum -- said the enthusiastic welcome for the decision from pro-choice groups is "extremely revealing."

She said the Google decision "clearly puts the 'no' side at a big disadvantage. Everyone who is paying any attention to the campaign knows that the pro-life side is being shut out of the debate by the mainstream media. It's woeful how little real debate is taking place on the extreme nature of the government's proposal for abortion on demand."

Social networking platform Facebook announced it would ban all foreign advertising in the campaign, but continue to permit Irish advertisements, a move welcomed by advocates from both sides.

Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland, except if there is a risk to the life of the mother, including if the mother says she is suicidal.

Polls have shown a clear lead for the pro-choice position, but a 10 percent swing against repeal has bolstered pro-life advocates in the final weeks of the campaign. The latest poll found that 45 percent said they would vote "yes," 34 percent "no," while 18 percent of voters said they were undecided. The remaining refused to answer.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.