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WATCH: Senators slam SF’s abortion clinic exclusion zone bill

Irish senators have slammed Sinn Féin’s proposal to ban prayers and demonstrations outside of abortion clinics, asserting that such legislation is “unconstitutional” and “unnecessary.”

The remarks were made yesterday during a debate on the proposal by Senator Sharon Keogan, who said that this piece of legislation “may be the first time a bill has sought to criminalise the act of praying.”

“Of course, people should be able to visit healthcare buildings without harassment but the need for this Bill is certainly subject to scrutiny,” she said.

THERE HAS BEEN NO CRIMINALITY

“The Department of Health has stated that protests outside healthcare facilities are limited and that where problems do arise, there is existing public order legislation in place to protect people accessing services, staff and local residents.

“Indeed, the Garda Commissioner said the same in a letter to the then Minister for Health, Deputy Harris. He outlined that the introduction of protest prohibition zone legislation would be redundant because of the existence of current laws and the fact no incidents of criminality had been reported or observed.”

She continued: “If the situation around access to healthcare facilities was akin to what we see in the United States, for example, with large-scale, organised, high-energy and confrontational protests, that would be handled using current public order legislation.

THIS BILL SEEKS TO BAN PEACEFUL GATHERINGS

“The fact this does not occur demonstrates that what this Bill seeks to ban is small, peaceful groupings of individuals who gather to discuss alternatives to abortion with women who may be open to such or simply to engage in quiet prayer, as is their right.

“The fact that the Bill explicitly mentions prayer as a “prohibited action” in section 3(2)(f) is astounding. It might be the first time a Bill has sought to criminalise the act of praying.”

AN EXAMPLE OF “ANTI-CHRISTIAN SENTIMENT”

She added that there was “more than a whiff of anti-Christian sentiment” about the Bill, and asked if its proponents would be so quick to encroach on the faith practices of “other major world religions.”

“The right to protest and assembly cannot be limited to what one wants. The law must treat all equally,” she concluded.

Additionally, Senator Ronan Mullen asserted that the proposed legislation was “not constitutional” or “legally necessary.”

THE LEGISLATION IS ALREADY IN PLACE

“There is legislation [already] in place to prosecute and punish anybody who would intimidate or harass people,” he said.

“The Garda Commissioner has said as much not too long ago.”

THIS BILL SEEKS TO DEMONISE PRO-LIFERS

He added: “I am afraid this legislation ultimately seeks to demonise people who want to offer positive alternatives to abortion. It is an attempt to deny there is a legitimate human rights argument in favour of protecting the unborn baby as well as a mother’s health and well-being. That counter narrative will always be there as long as abortion is legal in this country.”

LARGE INCREASE IN NUMBER OF ABORTIONS SINCE REFERENDUM

Mullen asserted that the purpose of the legislation was to “drive the abortion agenda forward,” as he said people had begun to wonder about the fact that there were over 13,000 abortions since the referendum.

“That is an increase of between 40% and 75%, depending on how one calculates it, on the rate of abortions that would have been taking place, judging by the figures the government supplied prior to the 2018 referendum,” he said.

“There are questions about the failure to guarantee precautionary pain relief where terminations of pregnancy take place in late pregnancy. There is also a refusal to provide that women would be offered an ultrasound as part of the counselling that is available.

“All of these things could, in a non-coercive and non-deceptive way, offer people real and positive alternatives to abortion in an attempt to save lives and continue to support women.

“However, all this is to be denied because there is a desire, not just to nail down abortion services and ensure they expand and continue, but to deprive those who would try in any way to offer an alternative point of view or an alternative source of hope and healing.”

GOVERNMENT HAS “SOLD ITS SOUL” TO PRO-ABORTION NGOS

Mullen went on to add that the government had “politically sold its soul” to the pro-abortion NGO sector.

“The government cannot admit this because it has politically sold its soul to pro-abortion groups and NGOs, which it funds and which want this legislation,” he said.

“The government is terrified of a backlash from them.”

CONSTITUTION GUARANTEES RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE

The Senator continued: “Article 40 of the Constitution “guarantees liberty for the exercise … subject to public order and morality … of the citizens to assemble”. This Bill would target the constitutional freedom of assembly of a specific group of people.

“None of this is permissible under the Constitution because everybody has the right to assemble peacefully and make their point.

“When the 1983 referendum was passed, the third of the population who were on the losing side were never denied their access to the airwaves and they were never denied their voices being heard.

“It seems, however, as though the one third of people in this country who expressed their belief that the unborn deserve to be protected, in addition to the mother, are expected to go under a rock, disappear from the airwaves and are not allowed to express their views respectfully and in public. That is what is going on here. That is not good for our democracy or for mothers and their unborn children. I hope it will stop.”

 

 

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