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Stormont votes to introduce censorship zones to Northern Ireland
MLAs have voted in favour of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, introducing censorship zones to Northern Ireland.
The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill was brought to Stormont by Clare Bailey MLA. The Bill will allow the introduction of censorship zones outside abortion clinics and hospitals offering abortions across Northern Ireland. This will make it a criminal offence to “influenc[e]… a… person [seeking an abortion], whether directly or indirectly” within “safe access zones”. The Bill will effectively criminalise offers of assistance in these censorship zones.
Claire Bailey MLA had attempted to fast-track the Bill so that it might be heard ahead of schedule on Tuesday 22 March. However, members of both the TUV and DUP objected to this debate being brought forward. The Final Stage of the Bill was instead discussed this afternoon.
This afternoon’s result comes only months after a public consultation revealed only 13 out of 6,412 respondents supported the Bill.
Prior to the vote, Alina Dulgheriu, who was herself scheduled to have an abortion but decided to not go ahead with it after receiving help from pro-life volunteers outside an abortion clinic, said:
“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. 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”.
“[This] bill, designed to prevent us from hearing about offers of support to continue our pregnancies, will shut down options open to women who find themselves in crisis. Such legislation would have been detrimental to the course of my life”.
“You don’t have to disagree with abortion to see that simply offering alternatives should be legally permissible”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said:
“The result of today’s vote is disappointing, not least because it is so blatantly contrary to what the Northern Ireland public wants. What is most saddening about this outcome is the impact it will have on women who are unsure, or worse, being pressured into having an abortion, denying them the ability to access help from peaceful pro-life volunteers when they need it most”.
“Current laws, including the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 and the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, already provide wide-ranging powers for authorities to keep public order and protect women and the public from harassment and intimidation, including outside abortion clinics. It is under the pretence of liberty and choice that women are being stripped of the ability to access support provided by peaceful pro-life volunteers”.
“Countless women, such as Alina, have found the help and support they needed when kindly approached outside an abortion clinic. This law change will prevent these women from having access to this vital support provided by peaceful pro-life volunteers”.
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- For further information on Right To Life UK visit www.righttolife.org.uk