A pro-life group has threatened the Northern Ireland Executive with court action after MLAs backed legislation which bans peaceful protests outside abortion clinics in the Province.
Precious Life say the introduction of ‘buffer zones’ – which will criminalise people who hand out pro-life literature or speak to anyone about abortion within the vicinity of a clinic – cannot go unchallenged.
Green Party leader Clare Bailey’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill passed its Final Stage in Stormont by 55 votes to 29 last month.
Immediately following the Assembly vote, Precious Life’s Director Bernadette Smyth announced: “This law will be challenged right through to the European Courts of Human Rights to ensure our rights are upheld. We will never comply to an unjust law, we are not giving up.”
Smyth told the Belfast NewsLetter on the same day: “The ultimate ‘safe zone’ for unborn babies should be in their mothers’ wombs”.
A statement on the campaign organisation’s website branded the Bill “draconian and oppressive” and said the 55 MLAs who voted in favour of it “should be ashamed”.
The ultimate ‘safe zone’ for unborn babies should be in their mothers’ wombs.Bernadette Smyth
It also criticised the Bill for denying “people their fundamental human rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression”.
Speaking against the Bill in the debate last month, TUV Leader Jim Allister MLA said that, with abortion, a woman’s womb is “the most dangerous place” for an unborn child.
“It should therefore be no surprise that that provokes unease, distaste and protest. When it ceases to do so, this society will have entirely abandoned any semblance of a moral compass.”
In a public consultation on the Bill, only 13 individual responses out of more than 6,400 were in favour of the introduction of ‘buffer zones’.
On the same day Stormont passed Bailey’s Bill, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Westminster of his determination to force the Northern Ireland Executive to increase abortion services in the Province.
He said: “It is increasingly clear that the Northern Ireland Department of Health is not going to ensure relevant healthcare services are available by the 31 March 2022 deadline that I set in my direction of July 2021.”
He added: “This ongoing inaction leaves me no choice but to prepare work on further regulations to ensure services are commissioned.”