Tag Archives: Abortion

From top: pro-life protesters pray outside the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin; Donnchadh Ó Conaill

Ireland’s new abortion regime has been in place for just over a year. From the first days of its implementation there have been protests at hospitals, and attendant calls for legal limits to such protests. Simon Harris is considering introducing exclusion zones around hospitals and other medical facilities which provide abortions.

Exclusion zones raise a number of different challenges, and it is important to distinguish between them.

The most obvious worry is that such zones would infringe the rights of people to peacefully and legitimately protest. Whether this is correct as regards anyone’s legal or constitutional rights is a question which may be tested in court, should exclusion zones be introduced.

Whether the state has the right, morally speaking, to impose such zones is another matter. The principle that people should be able to peacefully protest against activities with which they disagree, even if those activities are legal, is a very plausible one.

This principle can be overridden if the protests involve intimidation or harassment, or physically prevent people from using legally available facilities. But this does not seem to have been a feature of the anti-abortion protests over the past year – at any rate, I am not aware of legal proceedings arising from any such incidents.

That said, it is not clear if exclusion zones would actually contradict the principle. It is surely not the case that anyone should be able to protest in any venue, at any time or in any way whatsoever.

You may be free to organise a march down O’Connell Street, but not whenever you so choose; you may be free to protest the government’s actions, but it does not follow that you can do so using a loudhailer in the Dáil chamber in the middle of a debate.

There is some evidence that these protests are causing distress to people seeking to use hospital services (and not always for anything to do with abortion; some reports have mentioned the distress caused to women who have miscarried).

This is not a reason to ban all protests against the provision of abortion, but it does provide some reason to prevent them from being held at venues where the chances of causing such distress will obviously be higher.

But exclusion zones would raise another problem. Even if they would not in and of themselves infringe the rights of protestors, there is still reason to regard them as dangerous, because of the precedent they set.

When thinking about whether a law limiting someone’s freedom should be introduced, it is useful to ask yourself whether you would be prepared to have this law applied in your own case.

How happy would you be if a government was to use exclusion zones to limit protests against something to which you were opposed (e.g., renditions or troop movements through Shannon, an arms fair, an industrial development despoiling a historical site)?

Even if you agree that the state has the moral authority to do this, you might not agree that it should.

The freedom to protest is particularly important for minorities and groups which do not have much social or political power. Most people will be in the minority on at least some issues, and would potentially stand to lose if the right to protest is limited in this way.

Whether or not you have much sympathy for the anti-abortion protesters is beside the point. Their freedom to protest peacefully is your freedom as well.

For this reason, it is worth exploring alternatives to exclusion zones which can counteract the protests without limiting the freedom of protesters. One option would be to organise counterprotests, but it is difficult to imagine these reducing distress caused by the initial protests.

Another alternative would be to use the protest as a means to undermine its own aims. Every year neo-Nazis march in the town of Wunsiedel in Germany in memory of Rudolf Hess, who was once buried there. In 2014, the march was turned into an anti-racist fundraising event: for every metre the neo-Nazis marched, €10 was donated by local businesses to EXIT-Deutschland, a group that works to rehabilitate right-wing extremists.

The We Counter Hate campaign used similar tactics – it would reply to tweets containing hate speech, informing the author that for every retweet a dollar would be donated to the anti-extremist group Life After Hate. This led to a 65% reduction in retweets.

As Tony McAleer, co-founder of Life After Hate and himself a former neo-Nazi puts it:

“The answer isn’t to suppress behaviour, the answer is to change it”

To be clear, anti-abortion campaigners are not comparable to neo-Nazis. But in principle the same tactic could be employed: people could pledge a certain sum of money for every protest, or even every protester, at a hospital which provides abortion.

The amount per individual could be quite small if enough people signed up, and could be capped at a certain amount each month. The money could be pledged to groups working to advocate for abortion rights or providing information on how to access services.

The aim would be to disincentivise the protests without limiting anyone’s rights. Protesters would have to decide if they were happy to go ahead with an action which would have the effect of potentially raising thousands of Euro for the very causes they oppose.

Of course, this tactic may not work. Many people will regard this as a request for citizens to do the government’s job for them; others might worry that similar tactics could be employed to disincentivise campaigning on behalf of all manner of causes.

And the anti-abortion protesters might decide that their actions are worth pursuing in any case. Since abortion services are now widely available in Ireland, the extra financial support for abortion advocacy groups might not seem much of a drawback.

In any case, there is a more general issue here, concerning how we ought to respond to speech that we find offensive or even hateful.

Some restrictions on freedom of speech are inevitable and perfectly justifiable, but these are mostly related to fairly direct correlations between speech and some specifiable harm (e.g., defamation or incitement to violence).

Other forms of speech which people may find objectionable, such as anti-abortion protests outside hospitals, pose a rather different challenge. It is dangerous to think that such speech can be legislated away.

A more useful approach is to ask what can be done without restricting anyone’s freedom to protest. I’ve outlined one suggestion; perhaps Broadsheet readers can improve on it?

Donnchadh Ó Conaill is a postdoctoral researcher in philosophy at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. He is writing here in a personal capacity.

Last week: Pray Away

Top pic: Rollingnews

Siobhán Fenton tweetz:

A rare sight here at Stormont, where there hasn’t been a government for almost three years.

Politicians enter the chamber in a bid to block the legalisation of abortion and equal marriage, due to be legalised tonight.

The DUP have now walked out of the chamber.

Leader Arlene Foster tells press “It’s a very sad day” and a “critical matter for the lives of the unborn… an issue of life and death”.

Concedes reform is likely to go ahead tonight but says party are exploring other legal options.

Abortion law: NI politicians return to Stormont (BBC)

Pics: Siobhán Fenton

Sarah Ewart outside Belfast High Court this morning

This morning.

Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Via Amnesty International UK:

Sarah Ewart and Amnesty International have won a landmark case in Belfast’s High Court today, as judges found Northern Ireland’s strict abortion law to be in breach of the UK’s human rights commitments.

[This case was launched following a UK Supreme Court judgment in June 2018, in which five of the seven judges ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion law breaches the UK’s human rights obligations.]

The court has stated that in cases of fatal foetal abnormality Northern Ireland’s abortion law is incompatible with the UK’s human rights obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In July, Parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, which will see abortion in Northern Ireland decriminalised and made lawful including in cases of risk to health, sexual crime and where there is a serious and fatal foetal abnormality, unless the Stormont executive is restored by 21 October.

In light of this law change, the Court will now seek further advice about whether a formal declaration of incompatibility will need to be made

Abortion: NI law ‘breaches human rights’ (BBC)

Pic: Sky

UPDATE:

In a statement, Ms Ewart said:

“Today’s ruling is a turning point for women in their campaign against the outdated laws prohibiting against abortion in Northern Ireland.

“It should never have had to come to this.

“Today’s ruling is a vindication of all those women who have fought tirelessly to ensure that we never again have to go through what I did in 2013.”

Ms Ewart’s solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said:

“This has been a long and difficult journey for our client. The Court has now formally ruled that the current law breaches our client’s human rights.

“This is a hugely significant ruling in our clients’ campaign against the discriminatory and archaic laws that have denied the rights of many.

“We now look forward to an early hearing on the question of relief, so that this matter can be finalised once and for all.”

Above from left (back row): Linda Kavanagh, Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC spokesperson, Steph Hanlon, Choice and Equality Network, Bulelani Mfaco, of the  Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI) and front row, from left: Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network (ASN) and Danielle Roberts, Alliance for Choice Belfast

This afternoon.

Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin 2.

Pro-choice activists held a media conference to release details of this Saturday’s 8th Annual March for Choice, including this year’s theme: No One Left Behind.

March For Choice (Abortion Rights Campaign)

Earlier: Meanwhile, Opposite Holles Street

This afternoon.

Dublin City Centre.

The organisers of the Rally for Life march in Dublin estimate that around 10,000 people are taking part in the event.

Pro-life campaigners have marched from the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square to the Customs House, where a rally is being held this afternoon.

Many of those taking part in today’s rally are calling for another referendum on abortion.

Thousands turn out at Rally for Life march in Dublin (RTÉ)

Sam Boal/Rollingnews


Leaked documents show how YouTube created a blacklist for search terms related to last year’s abortion referendum.

[US-based] Project Veritas has obtained a youtube-blacklist-large-upload from an insider at YouTube which appears to show the manipulation of political content in an Irish election.

The document entitled, “youtube_controversial_query_blacklist,” seems to show a series of blacklisted terms by YouTube.

These terms include phrases that are directly related to the referendum that occurred in May of 2018 to repeal the 8th Amendment in Ireland.

In the run-up to the vote, Google publicly announced that it had suspended all advertising connected to the referendum as part of an effort to protect “election integrity.”

Said Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe:

“On Monday Project Veritas released a viral investigation that raised questions of Google’s interference in American elections.  This new document shows their subsidiary, YouTube, appeared to have attempted to influence elections in Ireland.”

A YouTube spokesperson said:

“… In the midst of the Irish referendum on abortion, our systems brought authoritative content to the top of our search results for abortion-related queries. This happened for both pro-choice and pro-life queries, there was no distinction.”

Leaked You Tube Doc Appears To Show Election Interference (Project Veritas)

Meanwhile…

Capt Evan Cullen, president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association

Yesterday.

Capt Evan Cullen, president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association, appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection to discuss bogus self employment.

Further to this…

Tim O’Brien, in The Irish Times, reports:

Some women pilots [working as self-employed contractors] in Irish-registered airlines are being told they have a choice: terminate their pregnancy or terminate their employment, the president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) has claimed.

…Capt Cullen told the Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection that many pilots were afraid to speak up.

He said women pilots were being told not to get pregnant, and that women pilots who present as pregnant were told: “you have a choice, you terminate your employment or you terminate your pregnancy”.

Women pilots told ‘terminate your pregnancy or employment’ (Tim O’Brien, The Irish Times)

Watch back the Oireachtas committee meeting here

Previously: Couriers: The Untold Story Of The Biggest Heist In Irish Tax History (Martin McMahon, Broadsheet, February 23, 2018)

Couriers Part 2 (Martin McMahon, Broadsheet, February 26, 2018)

 

From top: Belfast, London, Glasgow and the Project Arts Centre, Dublin

A year on from Repeal.

Shining a light on the UK Government’s “inaction on reforming Northern Ireland’s abortion law”.

Via Amnesty International Ireland

A giant heart – part of an Amnesty collaboration with Irish artist Maser, who re-worked his ‘Repeal the 8th’ artwork to say ‘Now for Northern Ireland’ – was projected onto the Northern Ireland Office in Westminster, The Mac building in Belfast, the Mary Barbour statue in Glasgow, and the Project Art Centre in Dublin – where the original repeal mural was painted…

Maser sez:

“By consciously making the Repeal artwork copyright free, the public were empowered to take ownership of it, I was a messenger watching from the side lines. With the people’s fierce collective energy, the artwork built huge momentum and spread across the state

Our friends in the north are now on their journey to revoke their outdated abortion laws. I am here to show my alliance, I am your defender.”

Amnesty Ireland International

Last night: Together Again

‘Now for Northern Ireland’ projections across UK and Ireland put spotlight on strict abortion ban, one year since Ireland’s vote to repeal (Amnesty)

The lopsided vote suggests a veto could be easily overcome. Ivey spokeswoman Lori Jhons said in a statement after the vote that “the governor intends to withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill that passed.”

Alabama Senate passes ban on abortion, with few exceptions (AP)

Meanwhile….