The Belfast Health Trust has apologised to MLAs, after it admitted boosting the number of incidents at pro-life protests retrospectively from 11 to 41 over six months.
The inflated and false figures were given to MLAs as they considered introducing censorship zones banning pro-life prayer, witness and protest outside abortion centres in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Newsletter reported. The legislation was voted through last month, making it a criminal offence to offer information on alternatives to abortion outside abortion facilities.
Whilst abortion rights groups and politicians, including architect of the law, green party leader Clare Bailey, alleged incidents of harassment and intimidation by pro-lifers, it has now been revealed that many of the alleged incidents did, in fact, not happen at all.
The Belfast Health Trust confirmed to the Belfast News Letter that, between the two Assembly Evidence Sessions as the law was considered, it added more incidents to its database to inflate the figures from May to October – some of them apparently 8 months after they were alleged to have happened.
The Trust also admitted that out of the 41 alleged ‘incidents’, only 4 were considered worthy of reporting to police. To date, the PSNI has not provided the outcome of the four complaints made by the Belfast Health Trust.
Pro-life organisation Precious Life, who have decried the legislation, said that the impending law must be reconsidered in light of Thursday’s revelation.
In a press release, the veteran pro-life group, who are continuing to be a presence at abortion centres across the North, said: “Precious Life are demanding the Abortion Access Zones law, passed at Stormont in March, must now be scrapped after it was revealed a Health Trust manipulated the evidence it provided to the Assembly.”
The group said the figures of alleged ‘adverse incidents’ linked to pro-life vigils at the abortion centre in College Street in the city centre of Belfast had been ‘manipulated’ to push for the criminalisation of peaceful protest.
“The number of alleged ‘incidents’ during pro-life vigils at the Belfast abortion centre was presented to MLAs as strong justification for passing the law to criminalise pro-life woman and men. The Abortion Access Zones law now criminalises innocent people, allowing them to be fined up to £2,500 for simply praying outside abortion centres in Northern Ireland.
“The number of alleged ‘incidents’ that Belfast Health Trust presented to the Assembly increased by a massive 1,950% between two different evidence sessions last year.
“In July the Trust had told the Assembly Health Committee that there had only been 2 ‘incidents’ in the previous year and that “…the vast majority of the protests have been peaceful and respectful”. But by December its evidence was that there had been 41 ‘incidents’ since March,” the organisation added.
“It’s no surprise that those in Belfast Health Trust who justify killing a baby in the womb, would be totally untrustworthy when it comes to giving evidence to the Assembly. But what other untrustworthy evidence and misinformation were presented by other Health Trusts and pro-abortion groups? The Abortion Access Zones law must now be torn up and thrown in the bin where it belongs,” Precious Life concluded in its statement.