People Very Upset that Liam Neeson, “the Guy Who Voiced Aslan,” Lent His Voice to a Pro-Choice Commercial
In anticipation of Ireland’s general election next spring, the country’s abortion laws are growing increasingly controversial. On Twitter, the hashtags #RepealtheEight and #NotaCriminal are taking aim at Ireland’s 8th Amendment, which was passed in 1983 and prohibits abortion even when, in Amnesty International’s words, “there’s a risk to health, and in cases of rape, incest, and severe foetal impairment.”
The 8th Amendment is the target of Amnesty International’s new ad “Chains,” narrated by Liam Neeson and condemning the Amendment as a “a cruel ghost of the last century.”
Amnesty International produced “Chains” in partnership with Helen Linehan and her husband, IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan. In 2014, Helen had an abortion in London after learning the fetus had no chance of survival. Graham Linehan explained to The Guardian: “In Ireland, Helen would be a criminal to have undergone the termination. She would have had to carry the child knowing it would die in great pain shortly after she had given birth to it.”
Helen, who could have faced a 14-year prison sentence had she undergone an illegal abortion in Ireland, told The Guardian that the 8th Amendment is “abusive” and would have forced her to carry her pregnancy to full term knowing the child would die a painful death minutes after birth:
It would have been life-changing. To endure the full-term pregnancy, and to come home empty-handed and with the physical changes that come with pregnancy – it would have been awful. I don’t know how I would I have got through that, mentally or physically.
[…] It is a form of abuse against women. We need to have our own choices. If men had babies, the laws would be very different.
The Guardian writes that approximately ten women travel from Ireland to Britain or another part of Europe to have an abortion every day, an option that’s obviously not available to many women due to practical or financial constraints.
The Linehans, Liam Neeson, and Amnesty International have all drawn fire for the ad, with many critics saying the video’s depiction of a crumbling church and the cross on a headstone, combined with Neeson’s critical voiceover, is Anti-Catholic.
Matthew Archbold of the National Catholic Register writes,
I expect this from Amnesty International but not the guy who voiced Aslan.
There’s a push in Ireland right now to legalize abortion which would require a repeal of the 8th amendment. Amnesty International Ireland has recruited actor Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia movies, to literally be the voice of the movement.
The ad itself is blatantly anti-Catholic.
[…] Make no mistake, the forces of secularization and abortion know who their enemy is, it is the one institution that stands for a radical commitment to love and the sacredness of human life. Europe was built on the back of the Church, I shudder to consider its future once it has eschewed Christianity. It is a sad culture that attempts to demonize an institution that preaches love at every turn and begs people to treat others as they would wish to be treated. I understand they want to turn their backs on the Church and march away. But the real question is, what are they marching towards?
Dave Andrusko of LifeNews.Com infers that the “whole point of the ad is that the Church–the Catholic Church–is outdated and abandoned by the people and therefore its evil,” while Katie Yoder of NewsBusters writes:
After voicing Aslan in the film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, actor Liam Neeson is lending his voice again — this time in support of abortion […] Besides championing abortion, the short film contained anti-Catholic messaging.
I imagine there’s a fair amount of history and context surrounding the backlash that I’m not fully appreciating; “Anti-Catholic messaging” has implications in Ireland that, as a North American, I might not be comprehending the weight of. Still, as someone who can easily imagine herself in the same position as Linehan (and countless Irish women), it’s hard to be sympathetic to a male-led backlash that condemns abortion rights just as sweepingly as it condemns the ad’s supposed anti-Catholic subtext.
In other words, I fully respect that some people might see the ad’s depiction of the cross as a jab at the Church, even though to me the headstone represents the danger the 8th Amendment poses to women’s lives. I can respect Archbold and other critics’ interpretation of a piece of media, but I don’t have to respect their views on what I should do with my body.
Jezebel points out that Neeson, who has yet to respond to the controversy, was raised Catholic and named after his local priest; in recent years he has described acting as “a form of prayer.” The Linehans have spoken out against allegations that Amnesty International “exploit[ed] the tragedies of people like the Linehans for the sake of a political campaign,” and say “the sadists and ghouls we’ve encountered make us even more determined to continue the fight.”
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