Pro-life supporters rally in Dublin, Washington, D.C.

Pro-life campaigners rallied over the weekend in Dublin and Washington, D.C. against the Irish government’s proposal to change the nation’s restrictive abortion law.

Estimates of the Merrion Square crowd range from at least 20,000 to more than 40,000. About two-dozen people gathered outside the Irish embassy in the U.S. capitol.

In Ireland, spokesperson Caroline Simmons of the Pro Life Campaign said:

The turnout today shows that the middle ground of Irish opinion is increasingly concerned about the Government’s abortion legislation. There are people here who never attended a pro-life event before. The message is getting through that this legislation is not restrictive or about saving women and children’s lives, despite the repeated claims by the Taoiseach and his Government.

picture of crowd vigil(1)

June 9 rally in Dublin. Image from Pro Life Campaign

At the core of the debate is when to allow exceptions to Ireland’s restrictive abortion law to save the life of the mother. The issue flared last fall when a woman having a miscarriage died for lack of the procedure. The government’s bill is perhaps most controversial because it allows for abortion when the woman says she is suicidal.

The government’s vote is expected later this month or July. Prime minister Enda Kenny has said he will not allow ministers of his Fine Gael government a “free vote” outside the party voting block, putting him further at odds with Catholic church leaders.