People who pray or offer advice to pregnant women within 100 metres of an abortion clinic could face a fine of up to €3,000 or six months imprisonment under a proposed law in the Republic of Ireland.
The Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021 would also see holding pro-life signs within the exclusion zone criminalised.
The Bill, brought forward by Sinn Féin senator Paul Gavan, was produced by abortionist group Together For Safety, which is seeking to have prayer and advice to pregnant women outside clinics “strictly and legally prohibited”.
‘Outlaw free speech’
Gavan claims the legislation is required to halt “distressing and intimidatory” pro-life behaviour outside abortion clinics and hospitals, including prayer.
But The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly called the Bill “an unnecessarily restrictive response to legal protest which will reduce vulnerable women’s options on where to seek assistance.
“There are already laws against intimidation and harassment. A buffer zone won’t change that but could outlaw free speech, including prayer, counselling and other offers of assistance to women who may need them.”
A spokesman for Irish evangelical group Aontas added: “Every single life is precious. But regretfully we live in a society where we are all expected to remain silent while little babies have their lives taken.
“Now their mothers, in a time of crisis, are to be denied the opportunity to consider life-affirming options. And sadly these mothers are left to suffer years of heart-wrenching regrets.”
Earlier this month, a Bill seeking to impose similar ‘buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics in Northern Ireland passed its Second Reading and has since been referred to Committee.
In the Assembly debate, Jonathan Buckley MLA warned that the Bill has “an incredibly broad scope” which would criminalise “anything from a conversation to a leaflet”.