A unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is paving the way for a law banning pro-life advocacy near abortion clinics in Northern Ireland, calling the legislation “justifiable.”
The legislation, called the Abortion (Safe Access Zones) (NI) Bill and spearheaded by abortion extremist Green Party MLA Claire Bailey, was approved by the legislature in March. However, before it was enacted into law, Attorney General Dame Brenda King sent the bill to the Supreme Court to find out whether it was in the competency of the Assembly to pass such a bill, as it appeared to violate the European Convention on Human Rights when it came to free speech, freedom of conscience, and right to protest. She further questioned whether it was a “proportionate interference” in the rights of “those who wish to express opposition to abortion services in Northern Ireland.”
After the affirmative judgment, Bailey tweeted her jubilation, calling it the “Best Christmas present ever.”
“The UK Supreme Court has just ruled that my Abortion (Safe Access Zones) (NI) Bill is within the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly meaning it can now proceed for Royal Ascent to become law. Best Christmas present ever.”
The UK Supreme Court has just ruled that my Abortion (Safe Access Zones) (NI) Bill is within the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly meaning it can now proceed for Royal Ascent to become law. Best Christmas present ever. #AbortionRightsAreHumanRights
— Clare Bailey (@ClurBailey) December 7, 2022
In fact, the Supreme Court came down strongly on the side of abortion activists. According to the case summary of the judgment, the legislation is “primarily designed to protect the right of women to access abortion,” and asserted that “it is an offence to do anything, intentionally or recklessly, in a safe access zone which has the effect of influencing a person attending an abortion clinic.” Any affront to freedom of speech or right to protest was “justified” in the view of the justices.
“A legal system which enabled those who had lost the political debate to undermine the legislation permitting abortion, by relying on freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, would in practice align the law with the values of the opponents of reform and deprive women of the protection of rights which have been legislatively enacted,” the judgment concluded.
The legislation comes only three years after the UK government imposed abortion on Northern Ireland, when abortion activists in the British Parliament took advantage of a crisis in Northern Ireland’s governing body and used a loophole to decriminalize abortion there up to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Precious Life, a pro-life group located in Northern Ireland, decried the Supreme Court ruling on the Abortion (Safe Access Zones) (NI) Bill. “Precious Life has condemned as a travesty of justice, the decision by the UK Supreme Court to uphold the banning and criminalising of pro-life vigils. For the first time in the UK, praying will now be a criminal offence,” the group said in a statement. “The judges in the Supreme Court ruled this is appropriate and justifiable, even though it breaches rights of freedom of speech and assembly protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.” The pro-life group called the decision “a travesty of justice.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and the Primate of All Ireland, likewise condemned the ruling and praised the pro-life work done outside abortion facilities. “Over the years many mothers in crisis have felt supported – sometimes at the very last minute – by a sensitive offer of practical help to find a way out of their crisis other than by ending the life of their unborn baby. It is perfectly reasonable to want to reach out in compassion to help vulnerable women and to be free to protect the life and well-being of both a mother and her unborn child,” said the Archbishop, according to the Independent.
“This court ruling also has serious implication for the rights to free speech and assembly of ALL people,” Precious Life’s statement said. “If pro-life vigils can be banned and criminalised, then public speech, assembly or protest on any other issue can also be banned and criminalised. Freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association are fundamental human rights, and must be upheld.”
Still, Precious Life vowed to continue its advocacy. “Our work to protect mothers and babies from abortion has always been peaceful and legal. We will use innovative and creative new methods to continue offering help and support to women outside abortion centers. In a humane society, the safest place for a baby should be their mother’s womb. Precious Life will work to create ‘safe zones’ for all unborn babies and their mothers throughout Northern Ireland,” the group’s statement said.