Peaceful protest outside abortion clinics to become a criminal offence in NI

MLAs have backed the introduction of abortion ‘buffer zones’ in Northern Ireland which will criminalise people who hand out pro-life literature, offer prayer, or speak to anyone about abortion near clinics.

Green Party leader Clare Bailey’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill passed its Final Stage in Stormont by 55 votes to 29 last week.

During the debate, the pro-abortion Alliance MLA, Paula Bradshaw, welcomed Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis’ renewed commitment to commission abortion services across the Province without Stormont’s consent.

‘Vague and dangerous’

Prior to the Assembly vote, DUP MLA Pam Cameron warned: “The Bill is not good legislation. It is vague and leaves many grey areas, particularly around the definition of ‘influence’ as an offence.

“The right to protest is incredibly important to all of us, and surely the whole point of protest is to attempt to effect change or, indeed, to influence.”

She added: “Potentially criminalising someone on the basis of perceived influence is a very dangerous road for our Government to take.”

Moral provocation

Speaking against the Bill, TUV Leader Mr Jim Allister MLA said: “A woman’s womb should be the safest possible place for the unborn. Yet, with abortion, it is the most dangerous place”.

“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.”

He added: “I have heard talk today about human rights.

“It really is quite galling to hear talk of human rights when the rights of the voiceless — the unborn — are so trampled upon and despised that you cannot even abide anyone seeking to influence others against abortion.”


On Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary Lewis told Westminster: “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.”

In Stormont, later that same day, Bradshaw put “on record” her “thanks” to Lewis for his statement “on strengthening the regulations around the commissioning of abortion services here”.

At the same time, she expressed frustration that “there was nothing in the statement about timescales”. She claimed: “We are all losing patience in Northern Ireland waiting for abortion services to be commissioned.”

Also see:

MLAs back abortion ‘buffer zones’ despite overwhelming public opposition

Pro-life campaigners could face prison under new ROI buffer zones law

Edinburgh Council backs nationwide buffer zones around abortion clinics

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