Ireland Effectively Bans Pro-Life Ministry, Prayer Outside Abortion Clinics

University of Toronto Students for Life, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, Northern Ireland passed a bill that criminalizes street ministry outside abortion clinics by establishing censorship zones in which citizens will be disallowed from offering help to abortion-seeking mothers.

A constitutional amendment that recognized the rights of the unborn in the Catholic-majority nation was repealed in 2018.

Lawmakers and pro-life activists argue that the harmful legislation banning members of the public from offering assistance to scared, pregnant women both contradicts the will of the Irish people and restricts life-saving ministry, as Live Action reported.

“The day that I turned up to my abortion appointment, a volunteer outside the clinic gave me a leaflet. It offered the help that I had been searching for,” Alina Dulgheriu, who chose life for her own child after speaking with pro-life activists outside an abortion clinic, wrote prior to the vote.

“I weighed up the two options I had before me, and I chose motherhood. I chose to accept help to get housing, help to find a job and help to obtain a pram, a cot and nappies. It wasn’t easy. But with the support of the group who had given me that leaflet, I couldn’t be prouder of the life my daughter and I have charted out together,” she said.

“I sincerely believe that this Bill will not have the impact that its supporters believe it will have, and it will almost certainly result in protracted legal action. The Bill is not good legislation. It is vague and leaves many grey areas, particularly around the definition of ‘influence’ as an offence,” argued MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Pam Cameron during the debate for the bill last month.

“If we all took a step back in relation to the legislation, I do not think that there would be anybody who would not agree that there are things that still need to be ironed out but have not been, due to the rushed-through nature of the legislation. We have not had the time that we might have had, had it not been for time constraints, to fully engage with other organisations,” argued MLA Deborah Erskine.

Live Action also noted that polling found just 13 out of 6,412 supported the proposed legislation.

Nonetheless, it passed in a vote of 55 to 29 on March 24.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, introduced by members of the left-wing Green Party, makes it illegal to “influenc[e]… a… person [seeking an abortion], whether directly or indirectly” within “safe access zones” of 150m around clinics, effectively banning even prayer where such “censorship zones” are in place.

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