Pro-life activists have rejected allegations that they have harassed and intimidated women seeking abortions and healthcare workers working in abortion centres as being “malicious” and “so far from the truth”
One woman told Gript that she felt the claims were “malicious lies” because they were “so far from the truth and the reality of the situation – which is that we gather to peacefully and mostly silently pray for both mother and baby.”
“To label us as being ‘intimidating’ or ‘threatening’ is just untrue, and it’s hard to believe that anyone who has observed our witness would say such a thing,” the prayer activist said. “I walk around the hospital saying the rosary for women and their unborn babies, just as I’d say a prayer or light a candle for a neighbour in crisis or for a grandchild doing an exam. What is intimidating about that?”
As draft legislation to criminalise pro-life vigils at abortion centres moves through legislative stages, abortion supporters have ramped up claims that levying fines of up to €5,000, and/or jailing protestors, are necessary because women seeking abortions or GPs offering abortions are being harassed by pro-life vigils.
However, the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris has previously stated that there was ‘no evidence to suggest that there is threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour directed towards persons utilising such services’.
He also added that existing public order laws were ‘sufficient to deal with any cases of harassment should they arise.”
One group who holds a vigil at a southside GP practice in Dublin said that the witness took place on Saturday when the practice was closed.
“We hold peaceful vigils outside GP practices on a Saturday when they are closed. The accusations of harassment and intimidation of staff and women are therefore false and unfounded and no evidence has ever been provided or even asked for,” they said.
Another Dublin-based group which prays across the road from the National Maternity hospital said: “At maternity hospitals, we pray for life. That includes all patients, whether there for safe delivery of their babies or not. We have often been approached by relatives of patients and asked to pray for them. Sometimes, those relatives have stood with us to join in the prayers for their loved ones’
An investigation by Gary Kavanagh of Gript showed that neither Limerick Hospital nor any of the other maternity units and hospitals throughout the country had, in fact, received any complaints from patients or staff.
The Life Institute said that the vigils at Limerick hospital usually amounted to two women at a time walking quietly around the hospital praying for mothers and babies. “The whole push to criminalise such activists is based on a complete fabrication of events and a distortion of reality that has gone completely unchecked by most of the media,” the group said.
Further claims were made alleging that staff in Limerick Hospital were leaking the times of abortion appointments to those praying for mothers. That was shown to be untrue when an FOI revealed there was no set day for abortion appointments, but at no time were the politicians or campaigners who has made this dramatic, highly-charged – and untrue – allegation held to account for misinforming the public.
All three vigils spoken to by Gript said that they would continue to hold vigils and said that they hoped that the legislation would be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.