The Irish Government has proposed legislation to introduce censorship zones within 100 metres of buildings where abortions can be performed.
Actions deemed to influence a person’s decision in relation to abortion would be illegal outside hospitals, community care centres and other premises, including GP practices.
This could criminalise prayer as well as the distribution of pro-life literature, with fines of up to €2,500 and six months in jail.
The country’s Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has pushed for quick progress on the proposals, which have yet to be debated by the Irish Parliament.
a very dangerous precedent for denying freedom of expression
But Eilis Mulroy, Campaign Manager at the Pro Life Campaign, highlighted that when harassment does occur outside such premises, the police already have sufficient powers to act.
She called the proposals a “very dangerous precedent for denying freedom of expression and the right to peacefully assemble in public areas”.
Last month, Scotland’s First Minister announced that she intends to trial censorship zones around abortion clinics in Scotland.
Speaking at a summit on abortion in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon backed MSP Gillian Mackay’s Bill seeking to create 150m buffer zones around hospitals and abortion centres.
But Sturgeon acknowledged that a law preventing people from handing out pro-life literature, offering prayer, and speaking to women about abortion could be subject to legal challenge.
The consultation on the Bill closes on 11 August.