Supreme Court to decide on Right to hold Pro-Life Vigils in Northern Ireland
Today (Tuesday 19th July) the UK Supreme Court will hear a case on the so-called “Abortion Safe Access Zones Bill” that pro-abortion MLAs passed in the NI Assembly in March.
The judges in the Supreme Court will decide if the Bill interferes with the rights of persons who wish to express their opposition to abortion in Northern Ireland. These rights are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. These include the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association guaranteed by Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention.
Pro-abortion Green Party Leader Clare Bailey (who lost her seat in the Election to the new Assembly on 5th May) introduced the Bill in the previous Assembly to set up so-called "safe access" zones at centres where abortions are carried out. It was passed by the Assembly in March with votes from pro-abortionists in Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance UUP, Green Party and PBP.
The draconian Bill criminalises women and men who pray outside abortion centres. In fact, the Bill makes it a CRIME to DO ANYTHING outside an abortion centre which might “influence” a person in their decision to attend an abortion centre.
Simply holding a sign; distributing information leaflets; talking to a woman to offer her help, or simply praying outside an abortion centre will be '...punishable on conviction by fines' up to £2500. The Bill also gives police the power to '...use reasonable force' to physically '...remove' a pro-life person from the zones.
The Bill has nothing to do with ‘safe access’ to health services. These abortion zones will only apply outside the baby-killing centres, and will specifically target any person who stands anywhere within 150 metres of a centre. The terms of the legislation are so broad and sweeping, that any innocent person who acts in any way that might ‘influence’ a woman to keep her baby, will be charged with committing a crime.
The legal inconsistency of the Bill is that it does not allow for a "reasonable excuse" defence within the legislation. Most of our laws provide the “reasonable excuse” defence for someone accused of a crime. The whole basis of our legal system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. But to pro-abortion parties like Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance - being pro-life means your guilty – full stop! Not only did they vote to criminalise pro-life people, they also voted to remove all legal defence that would prove their innocence.
The outcome will affect the right to free speech not only of pro-life people in Northern Ireland, but the right to free speech of ALL people across the UK.
If the judges rule that the 'Abortion Zones Bill' does indeed interferes with the rights to freedom of thought / conscience / religion / expression / assembly / association - this will strengthen the rights of ALL people who wish to protest or express opposition on ANY issue.
However, if the judges allow the 'Abortion Zones Bill' to become law in Northern Ireland, this will be used to ban all pro-life presence outside abortion centres across the UK.
And if pro-life vigils can be banned, then any public speech, assembly or protest can also be banned.
Freedom of thought / conscience / religion / expression / assembly / association are fundamental human rights, and must be upheld
The hearing will continue on Wednesday with judgement expected to be delivered later in the year.