Pro Life TD’s Shine Challenge The Abortion Exclusion Zone Bill That Leaks Evidence


The second stage of the debate on so called “Safe access zones” which would target peaceful gatherings and pro life witness by enforcing exclusion zones within 100 metres of facilities offering abortions took place in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday.

You can read the debate in full from the Oireachtas site here

The Government seems to be pandering to the pro abortion movement as the arguments used are completely baseless as the many pro life contributions highlighted. 

Deputies, Peter Fitzpatrick, Sean Canney, Peadar Tóibín, Carol Nolan, Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins, Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae all had wonderful contributions which highlighted the inconsistencies of the bill and shows that the arguments for such a bill dont even stand up in this country. 

Deputy Fitzpatrick said, “The unintended consequences of this legislation are significant and deeply concerning. I fear we could see a situation with this Bill where the far-reaching consequences of it are not thrashed out here in a serious way and we are left with an unwieldy law which has the effect of crippling certain citizens' fundamental rights. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against the Bill.”


“The Bill will not achieve its intended outcome. In fact, it will criminalize the expression of a single ethical world view across sprawling zones of this country. While there are no reasons to oppose exclusion zones on the grounds that they violate fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression or freedom of religion, supporters of exclusion zones argue that there must be a balance of rights. This is the debate that is at play abroad but it does not fully apply in Ireland.”


“It must be stressed that we do not have the same abortion clinic systems that exist in countries like England and Germany. The Irish abortion system does not operate out of specific abortion clinics but rather within GP clinics, hospitals, and family planning centers, and is paid for by the taxpayer. Just 0.05% of all GP visits relate to terminations of pregnancy.” 


“A pro-life campaigner outside a hospital or GP clinic has no way of knowing who is going in to have an abortion and who is not. This means that we have not seen the type of activity in Ireland which accentuated the decision to introduce exclusion zones. The Irish situation is simply different. Importing the same model wholesale into Ireland strikes me as unworkable and it pushes against the upholding of civil liberties.”


“The idea that we urgently need legislation to stop people from exercising their constitutional rights falls flat when one examines what is happening.” 


Deputy Fitzpatrick pointed out tht in Ireland, the most common sort of pro-life activity has often been people “in small groups praying silently outside hospitals.” 


“Supporters of exclusion zones have pinpointed these small groups as creating terror. Yet, they are not harassing anyone. I know of a group that chooses to say the Rosary outside University Hospital Limerick. Its members offer intentions for the sick, for healthcare workers and for the unborn child. I know of a group of people outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda who took part in a quiet protest.” 


“They did not hand out leaflets or harass anyone.” 


”In fact, the UL Hospitals Group had to come out in December 2021 and state that it had not received a single complaint from any woman, partner or staff member in respect of anti-abortion protests. It leads me to believe that this legislation is nothing more than following a generic trend abroad where circumstances are entirely different.”


“Further to that, because this legislation singles out one particular world view it is inherently discriminatory and paints pro-life people in a negative light. This is undemocratic. because this legislation singles out one particular world view it is inherently discriminatory and paints pro-life people in a negative light. This is undemocratic. because this legislation singles out one particular world view it is inherently discriminatory and paints pro-life people in a negative light. This is undemocratic.”


Deputy Sean Canney said, “The effect of this legislation will go far beyond what the Government has sketched out with regard to its intended impact. Proponents of the Bill say that its purpose is to stop harassment, which we can all agree is wrong. However, the type of activities which supporters of exclusion zones claim are happening seem to have no serious evidence basis.”


“Sensational claims were made in the Seanad in February 2022 that rural GPs who have their offices in their homes have been subjected to unacceptable protests at their homes. There is simply not a shred of evidence to suggest that this has happened.”


“In December 2021, UL Hospitals Group, clarified that it had no record of anti-abortion protests and had received no complaints from patients or staff. Limerick was often held up as the epicenter of pro-life protests. The type of activity going on in Limerick involves a small group of mostly women praying near the hospital. It is hardly the crime of the century, and such activity should not be treated as a crime.”


“The activities specified in this Bill that would be illegal within the exclusion zones are already offences. Blocking access to a healthcare premises is already a crime under section 9 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. Intimidating or harassing any service provider or a person attempting to access the service of a healthcare provider is already illegal under sections 8 and 10 of the Non-Fatal Offenses Against the Person Act, 1997. A more subtle type of unwelcome activity by a third party has also been cited as a reason for introducing laws of this nature.” 


“Supporters of exclusion zones have looked abroad for examples of how these laws operate in practice England, Germany, Australia and elsewhere. However, although I have concerns about the exclusion zones in principle, the impetus abroad for introducing them around specific abortion clinics may make sense. It makes sense because in the countries in question abortion happens in single-purpose clinics and a pro-life activist could reasonably assume that a woman entering an abortion clinic in these countries was going in to have an abortion and might try to intervene by offering her a leaflet, for example.” 


“The situation in Ireland is not comparable, however. As the vast majority of abortions are happening in GP clinics, there is no way to know why a woman is entering a GP clinic or whether it is for an abortion. Only 0.05% of visits to a GP relate to an abortion. A pro-life activist near a hospital or a GP clinic will not be able to know that a woman is entering the building for an abortion in the same way as it could happen abroad.”


“This tells me that the real impact of the exclusion zones will be to shut down people who express pro-life views within one of these designated zones. I do not believe that the significant scale of the intended exclusion zones is truly appreciated.”


“Yesterday, the Taoiseach said that exclusion zones would apply to hospitals, as well as to GP surgeries in some cases. This is not what is in the Bill. It is clear that in all cases GP clinics, whether it is to provide abortions or not, will be the subject of 100 m exclusion zones. This radius would extend well beyond the boundaries of GP clinics and, in many cases, would encompass public streets and nearby buildings. In other countries that have exclusion zones they apply to abortion clinics where abortions are happening. These are limited by number. By contrast there will be thousands of designated premises which will become exclusion zones.”


“The impact of this legislation would be to blot out entire areas of the country, particularly compact areas like Dublin city centre, and criminalize the expression of any viewpoint which may be inferred to influence someone's decision to have an abortion. This will include large-scale public events like the annual March for Life passing through a major street like O'Connell Street.” 


“I have been provided with a map which clearly demonstrates the wide-ranging scale of exclusion zones in Dublin city centre. For example, with a zone around the Rotunda Hospital at one end of the street and a 100 m zone around two medical centers close to O'Connell Bridge, it would be illegal to walk the length of O'Connell Street holding a pro-life sign.”


“The impact of this legislation would be that the expression of any viewpoint or activity which could be inferred as influencing someone's decision to have an abortion would be criminalized in a vast amount of public areas.”


“This would even include criminalizing certain private conversations. It would include prohibiting one from handing out a leaflet outside Trinity College which might contain pro-life information. It could even shut down debates in the college on abortion from either perspective.”


“The Bill requires a serious rethink even if Deputies still feel it calls for a vote. I ask that they consider the far-reaching consequences of its proposals which go far beyond its stated intention. Some of these issues could be dealt with through amendments, although I would still have considerable reservations about what the legislation is truly trying to achieve.”


Deputy Peadar Tóibín said, “There is a saying that the past is a foreign country but for many people in Ireland today, this Dáil is becoming a foreign country - a Dáil that they no longer recognize as representing their own views. This Dáil is the most draconian Dáil in generations. Unfortunately, there is an authoritarian streak running through the political establishment in Ireland and it is shocking citizens across the country. The Government is trying to implement a number of Bills which are significantly reducing people's human and democratic rights.” 


“The Government is trying to implement the hate speech Bill that censors people's views. The Government has produced a Bill under which a person can be sent to jail for speaking. The Government is looking to criminalize citizens who speak respectfully on issues that they disagree with, which is the opposite of what a liberal democracy means.” 


“A liberal democracy is built on the idea that the competition of ideas is the engine of the democratic process.”


“The Government's censorship Bill deletes the right to respectfully but robustly challenge the convention of the establishment bubble here in Leinster House. That Bill is so poorly worded and no one, not even the Minister who wrote the Bill, is sure of exactly what the definition is and how the act will land people in jail. If I ask a child what something means and they give a circular definition back I could probably accept that. I would not accept it from an adult and I certainly would not accept in a law that seeks to criminalize people on that circular definition for speaking.” 


“The Green Party's Senator Pauline O'Reilly has stated in public that all legislation is about the restriction of freedom and that this is exactly what we are doing here. However, that is not true. All legislation is not about the restriction of democratic freedoms. Legislation should be about the defense of democratic freedoms.”


“The truth is this is an evidence-free Bill. It is ideological and yet another step on the well-travelled road of this Government deleting human and civil rights. There will be a more enlightened generation in this country. Martin Luther King said the arc of history bends towards justice. Unless the Minister reverses the direction in which he is going, future generations will look back on his actions with horror.”


Deputy Carol Nolan spoke next saying, “The abortion-supporting groups which campaigned for the Bill before the House today know that no harassment is taking place outside GP surgeries or hospitals where abortions are happening. They know that if any harassment were to happen, gardaí already have sufficient powers to deal with such a situation.”


“There is a skyrocketing abortion rate in Ireland and that is a fact. Yet the Government spends its time caving in to the demands of the most extreme elements of the abortion-supporting lobby. On the Minister's watch, for every seven babies born today, one will have his or her life ended through abortion. This is a national tragedy of epic proportions. So much for safe, legal and rare, which we were told. Is that rare?”


“Women facing an unplanned pregnancy are being kept in the dark about the support available to them should they decide to keep their baby. The Bill before us today is entirely about politics and nothing else. It has nothing whatsoever to do with protecting women from harassment or intimidation. If it were about safeguarding women, the Government would have adopted an evidence-based approach. Instead, the Minister ignored the advice of An Garda Síochána and conceded to the calls for exclusion zones from pro-abortion activist groups such as Together for Safety.” 


“The Bill on exclusion zones does something else that is truly awful; it criminalises help. In 2019, representatives from the group Be Here for Me gave a presentation to the Oireachtas Life and Dignity group in Leinster House. At that briefing Alina Dulgheriu said that "a just and caring society does not criminalize people for offering help to vulnerable mothers."” 


“She told her own story and said: The day I made my way to the abortion facility was the darkest day my heart has ever known. All I needed was help until I gave birth. A lady and a leaflet. That's all it took. Right there at the steps of the abortion center. From all that darkness, at last I felt hope, I felt for the first time that my child was wanted, not only by me, but also by complete strangers. For the first time, I felt that I was not walking alone on the day I was meant to end the life within me - my child. I cannot express the joy and how fulfilled I felt as a woman, as a mother, to be given the chance to have my child.”


“The Minister never met with women like Ms Dulgheriu to hear their stories or the other point of view in all this. It is unconscionable how the Minister has misled the public by claiming to engage in the widest possible consultation before making decisions. That is not true. Coercive abortion is a reality in this country. It is a fact. Under this Bill, if a mother intervenes to plead with her young daughter, or the daughter of any age, outside an abortion facility not to give into the pressure from her boyfriend or husband to have an abortion, she would face six-months imprisonment and massive fines, just for trying to protect her daughter and grandchild. What a travesty and attack on natural justice. As well as trampling on basic civil liberties, this Bill is a betrayal of women facing an unplanned pregnancy and their unborn babies.”


Deputy Mattie McGrath said, “The idea that this law is being introduced to stop people from engaging in actions such as blocking doorways or harassing people is totally untrue. There is ample legislation to stop people from doing that. The Commissioner and all the other gardaí have told the Minister that there is no need for this legislation.” 


“It is on Statute Book but the Minister is in a mad frenzy – a bloodlust – where he cannot get enough abortions and he cannot get enough services and he is going to force all the hospitals to deliver them and he is going to stop anybody from saying anything. This is some democratic country he has been elected in. I think he was elected on the 15th or 16th count?”


Danny Healy-Rae said, “How will these zones be marked for people who do not know where those GPs are? Someone could be within such an exclusion zone unwittingly. Are we going to mark these places or what? This is shocking and not needed.”

Michael Collins TD said, “the Minister has introduced a reckless and unworkable Bill that, if voted through, will trample on civil liberties and do immense damage to trust in government and the institutions of the State. The motivation behind the Bill has been clear from the get-go. It has nothing to do with public safety. It is about silencing pro-life opposition to the Government's abortion law and nothing else. That is abundantly clear when you take a close look at what it proposes. I urge Deputies to vote against this extreme and oppressive Bill.”


“The motivation behind the Bill has been clear from the get-go. It has nothing to do with public safety. It is about silencing pro-life opposition to the Government’s abortion law and nothing else. That is abundantly clear when you take a close look at what it proposes.”

Michael Healy-Rae said, “It is good there is someone who will stand up for those people. Most importantly, we are standing up for unborn persons - the babies who would grow up to be wonderful people.”


“One of the most hurtful days I ever had in this Chamber, and one of the lowest times I ever had, was the day we tried to pass an amendment on pain relief. We were beaten in everything else and we knew we were not succeeding on behalf of the pro-life movement, so we wanted to ensure that a baby who was going to be aborted would be given pain relief.” 


“In my lack of wisdom, I thought no one would want to go against that. We were admitting defeat, so we put up our hands and asked that these babies that were going to be aborted to please be given pain relief. It was only when the votes were counted and I saw that only a handful of Deputies had voted for our amendment that it occurred to me that the only reason no one else supported our amendment was that Deputies did not recognize the unborn as babies.” 


“They were not people, and that was why other Deputies would not vote to give pain relief. That goes back to what the whole debate was about. I believe they are people, and until the day I die, I will believe that God brings you into the world and God takes you out of this world.”


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