For the past three years, pro-abortion members of the Oireachtas have been making wild and unfounded claims that pro-life volunteers are consistently engaging in abusive and harassing behaviour outside abortion facilities. The claims are made on an almost weekly basis and are amplified by the media coverage each new story receives.
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan told the Seanad some months back that “intimidatory” pro-life protests were taking place in Limerick – a claim later refuted by the UL Hospitals Group who said no such protests had occurred. Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee used the word “terror” to describe the protests taking place, again without an ounce of evidence.
Given the amount of coverage this issue receives, it’s likely at this stage that even some committed pro-life supporters believe it has reached a point justifying exclusion zone legislation being introduced. And yet there’s no basis whatsoever for the extremely serious charges being levelled against individuals who engage in silent pro-life witness near abortion centres.
Last week, in reply to a Parliamentary Question from Cork South West pro-life TD Michael Collins, the HSE revealed that it had compiled a list of 21 events since January 2019 that had taken place in the vicinity of abortion centres. They stated that the list “should not be taken as exhaustive” as it was likely that more events of a similar nature had taken place.
On close inspection of the list they produced, there’s not a shred of evidence that any of the events listed were abusive or harassing in any way. Yet, this thrown together list from the HSE is now being used as evidence that legislation for exclusion zones (so-called safe access zones) is urgently needed.
Certain politicians no doubt will keep shouting “harassment” and “intimidation” and the media will keep churning out headlines about how frightening and menacing these peaceful protests are, without ever verifying the claims.
The goal is to get legislation passed that singles out pro-life volunteers and criminalises them and facts are not going to be allowed to stand in the way.
When dealing with this issue, there will always be posters and images used from time to time that could be described as ill-judged or in poor taste. But having these isolated incidents repeatedly emblazoned across the front of newspapers does not constitute evidence that legislation is needed to ban all such gatherings.
The campaign for censorship zones is not about protecting civility and stopping harassment. It’s so important that we take note of this and continue to oppose the Government’s attempt to pass into law such a draconian measure that would strip every pro-life volunteer of their basic rights and civil liberties.
Click here to read this week’s press statement from the PLC on the matter