Irish government leaders pushed forward a plan this week to ban pro-life prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling outside of abortion facilities across the nation.
Breitbart reports the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Green parties agreed to support the plan for future government actions, including the abortion “exclusion zones.” The plan also must be ratified by all party members.
Though the plan does not outline specific requirements for the “exclusion zones,” many believe it will ban all pro-life free speech within a certain distance of abortion facilities, including silent prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling.
Dr. Angelo Bottone of the Iona Institute said the “extreme measure” is unlike anything else in Europe, and even government leaders have admitted it is not necessary.
He pointed to comments by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris that there is no evidence of threatening, abusive or insulting behavior by pro-life advocates. Harris said Ireland already has sufficient legislation to prevent and punish harassment.
“In other words, the exclusion zone plan has no justification and is possibly unconstitutional. It is certainly draconian,” Bottona wrote.
He said Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar also has questioned the constitutionality of an exclusion zone.
“We are running into real difficulties around restricting peaceful protest and restricting free speech,” Varadkar said last April. In banning peaceful protest, “we do enter a difficult space in a democracy when you decide that certain opinions can’t be held, certain types of protests can’t happen. In a democracy, if you’re going to restrict free speech and if you’re going to restrict the right to protest, you need to be on very solid ground.”
The exclusion zone likely will be similar to buffer zones in America, England and Australia that prevent pro-lifers from reaching out to pregnant women and unborn babies in their greatest moment of need – just before entering an abortion facility.
Pro-life protests, sidewalk counseling and other outreaches are overwhelmingly peaceful. However, pro-life advocates frequently are targets of harassment, threats and violence by abortion activists.
Buffer zones not only prevent free speech, they also block pro-lifers from offering life-affirming information and support to pregnant moms. Often it is information that women will not receive inside an abortion facility, including the material support available to them and their babies, the risks of an abortion and the facts about their unborn baby’s development.
Pro-life advocates have been fighting against city and state buffer zones for years. In 2014 in the United States, pro-lifers won a huge victory when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a 35-foot Massachusetts buffer zone law. However, other smaller buffer zones still are in place in the U.S.
In 2018, the British city of Ealing adopted the country’s first buffer zone to prevent pro-lifers from doing outreach outside a Marie Stopes abortion facility. Months later, a young man was arrested for praying outside the abortion facility in violation of the buffer zone. Pro-life advocates are challenging the 100-meter buffer zone in court.
In 2018, Ireland abandoned its pro-life Eighth Amendment and stripped away the right to life for unborn babies. Abortions became legal in Ireland in 2019. Unborn babies now may be aborted for any reason up to 12 weeks and up to six months in a wide variety of circumstances, often at taxpayers’ expense.