Irish Government Program to Ban Pro-Life Vigils at Abortion Centers

Colleen Wallace (L) and Eamonn Gill, who oppose abortion, attend a pro-life vigil on the street outside the Marie Stopes clinic, that offers contraception and abortion services, in Ealing, west London, on April 21, 2018. - A ban on pro-life protests outside an abortion clinic in London came into force …
ALICE RITCHIE/AFP/Getty

The Irish government has adopted a radical new program that will create “exclusion zones” around abortion facilities to eliminate pro-life demonstrations, counseling, and even silent prayer vigils.

The “final draft programme for government,” a 126-page, five-year plan, was agreed upon this week by the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Green parties and will now pass to internal ratification by party members.

In a section titled “Protecting Women’s Health,” the text states that government will provide free contraception, enact the “Assisted Human Reproduction” bill, and establish “exclusion zones” around medical facilities.

Writing for the Iona Institute, Dr. Angelo Bottona called the programme’s measures against pro-life protests “extreme” and a threat to freedom of speech, noting that as a national law, it would also be unique in Europe.

The programme will facilitate gender transition for minors, seek legal recognition for “non-binary people,” and introduce hate crime legislation.

The assisted reproduction bill promised by the new programme will allow surrogacy, gamete “donations,” and experimentation on embryos, Bottona said.

Regarding the establishment of “exclusion zones” for abortion facilities, Bottona notes that Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar has acknowledged that such a measure might be unconstitutional, saying last year: “We are running into real difficulties around restricting peaceful protest and restricting free speech.”

In placing a ban on peaceful protest, “we do enter a difficult space in a democracy when you decide that certain opinions can’t be held, certain types of protests can’t happen,” Mr. Varadkar said. “In a democracy, if you’re going to restrict free speech and if you’re going to restrict the right to protest, you need to be on very solid ground.”

Moreover, Bottona adds, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has stated that there is no evidence of threatening, abusive, or insulting behavior by pro-lifers, and present legislation is sufficient to prevent harassment without introducing new measures.

“I re-confirm my views expressed at our recent meeting that protests to date at such centres have not contravened the law and are peaceful,” Mr. Harris said.

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