• Home
  • Blog
  • "Untruths and gross distortions" used to justify abortion zones law, says group

"Untruths and gross distortions" used to justify abortion zones law, says group

A leading campaign group has said that a law which criminalises "even silent prayer" near abortion centres was passed through the Oireachtas using "untruths, fake news, and gross distortions to justify trampling on basic civil liberties."

The Health (Termination of Pregnancy) (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2023 passed through the Oireachtas yesterday and will now be referred to the office of the President to be signed into law.

The legislation seeks to impose a 100-metre exclusion zones around all hospitals, GP practices, and family planning clinics offering abortion, and includes fines of up to €2,500 or six months in prison. Critics have pointed out that those engaged in silent prayer or holding a small sign offering help to pregnant women face being arrested and charged under the law.

Life Institute, who have previously slammed the government for "punching down on peaceful protesters", under the legislation, today said that the law was "an act of spite and malice" which was "introduced without necessity and on false foundations".

Spokeswoman Sandra Parda said that the claim that women were being intimidated while entering abortion services was "untrue" and "unsupported by the facts". She said that Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, had "written to the Minister for Justice to point out this fact".

In 2019, Commissioner Harris wrote to then Minister for Justice, Simon Harris saying that he wanted to re-confirm his views expressed at a recent meeting with the Minister "that protests to date at such centres have not contravened the law and are peaceful."

"To date no incident of criminality has been reported or observed as a result of a protest placed at or near the vicinity of a service centre," he said.

 "There is no evidence to suggest that there is threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour directed towards persons utilising such services. Consequently, the introduction of any further legislation to ensure 'safe access' to termination pregnancy services, would be redundant at this time," he wrote.

"Nothing changed after the Commissioner wrote that letter, " Ms Parda said. "But we saw abortion supporters use untruths, fake news and gross distortions to justify trampling on basic civil liberties, and seeking to lock up people of compassion for even silent prayer."

She said that "wild stories" which were "proven to be untrue" were used to "push through a law which has been introduced simply to punch down on pro-life people who want to offer women another option than abortion."

"We even had TDs and Senators making false claims in the Dáil about women being targeted at Limerick Hospital which were shown to be untrue," she said. "And the biggest newspaper in the country had to delete part of its story when it was shown that a woman who was peacefully praying was misrepresented."

"Most of the media have acted as tawdry cheerleaders for this law: accepting wild allegations as fact; failing to challenge or investigate clams; and promoting a trampling down of civil liberties as a protective measure," she said.

"This law isn't about preventing intimidation, because that's not happening," the Life Institute spokeswoman said. "It's about targeting and silencing anyone who seeks to help women who may feel that abortion is the only choice they have, wen that's often not the case. It's a desire to punish and penalise and lock up people for prayer and witness that is usually silent and peaceful, and its shameful to see this being approved by legislators."

She said that many Irish people were alarmed at the spirally abortion rates - with an estimated 10,000 abortions in 2023 alone - and that peaceful outreaches which could offer women a better alternative should be supported, not criminalised.

Minister Stephen Donnelly said he was now looking forward to enacting the legislation “as soon as possible”.

“The fundamental premise of this Bill is about respect. It is about dignity. It is about ensuring that people can access healthcare services and feel safe and not be intimidated,” Donnelly said.

“I have listened to women, to families, to health care professionals who unequivocally expressed their support for this Bill," he added.

But Ms Parda said that the Minister was just listening those "in his pro-abortion bubble" who "affirmed his own views".

"The healthcare system is in crisis while Minister Donnelly focuses on this absolutely unnecessary and vindictive law," she said. "The March 8th referendums showed just how out of touch this government is. This bill is another example of them being led by the nose by NGOs who are completely out of touch with the people."


Máirín de Barra 

This article was first published on Gript and is printed here with permission


back to blog