Prayerful pro-life supporters need no longer fear legal repercussions as the right to pray near abortion counselling facilities cannot be prohibited under law, a German court has ruled.
The decision, welcomed by pro-life prayer groups, reverses the ban originally put in place by Pforzheim, Germany in 2019, and later upheld by a lower court in May 2021.
Justice prevailed on Wednesday, August 31st in Mannheim Administrative Court, as the appeal brought by Pavica Vojnović - with the support of human rights organisation, ADF International was successful. The court ruled that silent prayer assemblies outside abortion counselling facilities did not pose a threat to public safety, and therefore could not be banned.
The initial ruling was challenged in 2021 by Vojnović, leader of the 40 Days for Life prayer vigils in Pforzheim. However, the challenge was dismissed by the courts, “indirectly approving the ban” on silent prayer gatherings outside abortion counselling centers, Vojnović said. This stance taken by the courts was never tenable, as it was a clear restriction on the “freedom of expression, assembly and religion”, as highlighted by Dr. Felix Böllmann of ADF International. Now it has been overturned.
In response to the recent decision of Mannheim Administrative Court, Vojnović stated that she was “heartened that we will be able to resume our prayer vigils in support of women and their unborn children in the place where we think it makes the most sense. It is a great relief that the court has recognised our fundamental freedoms”.
While the ruling on August 31st is a big victory for 40 Days for Life, and, indeed, all pro-life supporters in Germany, it is Dr. Felix’s Böllmann’s comments in response to the dismissal of the 2021 appeal that are of special relevance to us in Ireland:
“We are still awaiting the reasons for the verdict, but the dismissal of the case obviously fails to recognize that freedom of expression is the foundation of any free and fair democracy. What kind of society denies prayer to women and children in need? … The fact that the Pforzheim authorities had banned even silent prayer near the abortion counseling center is not proportionate. Having a belief is a fundamental right, as is the right to express that belief through peaceful assembly or to pray silently in public … Regardless of whether one shares their views in substance or not, there should be agreement that the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, and assembly enjoy the protection of the Basic Law.”
Substitute “Pforzheim authorities” for “Irish government”, and Dr. Blöllmann could be addressing the current catastrophe that is the ‘The Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021’, heavily endorsed by Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.
Should this Bill be passed, it would essentially make silent prayer, as described above, within 100m of premises providing abortions, illegal and punishable by fines or imprisonment.
One could argue that support for this Bill from the public comes largely as a result of the repeated and relentless misinformation spread by ‘Together for Yes’ about prayer vigils outside abortion centres in Ireland, attributing sinister behaviours and motives to people who did nothing more than simply pray or witness for abortion-vulnerable women and babies. The pro-abortion group was so effective in spreading this misinformation, that it successfully wormed it’s way into the Oireachtas, un-factchecked, and repeated by Ivana Bacik TD, who falsely declared that “anti-choice activists have been obtaining information about dates and times of appointments for terminations so they can harass women”. More can be read about this story here and here.
Minister Stephen Donnelly was eager to see the Bill drafted as “quickly as possible”, and stated that he would “love to see this pass through all stages into law and become operational in this calendar year”, as it would “protect the freedom” of women to abort their unborn child.
The terrible impact of this Bill would be two-fold: the right to freedom of expression would be curtailed, once and for all stamping it as ‘negotiable’ and dependent on the opinion of government officials on objectively contentious political and societal issues, but more seriously, it would ensure fewer abortion-vulnerable women could see the support of pro-life individuals before entering the hospital or GP practise as a two, and leaving as one.
Is Donnelly so obsessed with abortion that ending the lives of 21,000 babies in 3 years isn’t enough for him? Alongside the ‘The Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021’, the Minister has called for “wider provision of services” with more hospitals across the country to provide abortions. The two academics appointed by the Minister to carry out research for the 3 year review of the legislation also raise concerns about the mandatory 3 day waiting period (between a mother’s first consultation with her GP about an abortion, and actually receiving the abortion pill), as these 72 hours, seemingly, are providing too many mother’s with the opportunity to choose life for their baby. The hundreds, if not thousands, of children who are alive today due to the 3 day wait and its ability to give mothers time to seriously think about the decision they are making, are a missed opportunity. Those children narrowly escaped being “small victories” for abortion campaigners, and we can’t let that happen again.
There is a concerted effort to work against any and all pro-life demonstrations, especially those most close to home, outside hospitals and GP practices providing abortions. The freedom of expression, religion and assembly of life-affirming people is a threat to the increasing death toll of innocent unborn children. Anything to keep this number up, even if that means fining and putting people in prison for praying the rosary outside the Rotunda.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and others ought to do us a favour and learn from the mistakes, and corrections, of the German courts. Better yet, they ought to do themselves a favour and prevent, while they can, another hideous indictment of the value they place on the most fundamental of human rights.