Tag Archives: Pro-Life


O’Connell Street, Dublin 1.

A Pro-Life protest outside the GPO, one of 55 local ‘Rallies for Life’ that took place on Saturday urging the public and TDs to ‘Rethink Abortion’.

Government figures published last week showed 13,243 abortions were carried out since the Eighth Amendment was abolished; 6,577 in 2020, of which 6,455 were carried out in pregnancies of less than 12 weeks.

Sam Boal/RollingNews

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

From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris speaking to reporters yesterday; Pro-life protesters outside the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin on January 1

Yesterday, it was suggested by Minister for Health Simon Harris that local authorities could be given powers to impose exclusion zones outside maternity hospitals preventing pro-life protests.

Further to this…

As someone who has carried a tiny white coffin out of Holles Street, I can attest to the anguish caused by the wilful insensitivity of the protesters who assembled there on New Year’s Day.

The lack of Christian kindness and basic human empathy displayed by these people reveals the truth of their oft-cited claims to “Love Both”.

While there is a right to peaceful protest, there is also a right to access legal healthcare without intimidation, and a right to provide care without being subjected to harassment.

Our Government must now act and legislate for safe access zones to protect medical staff and their patients from such interference.

Can we truly consider ourselves a secular democracy while the Vatican has a say in the ownership of our National Maternity Hospital and religious fundamentalists dominate the footpaths outside?

Bernie Linnane,
County Leitrim

Harris Mulls Abortion Safety Zones (Irish Examiner)

Abortion: Minister warns of exclusion zones after hospital protests (Irish Times)


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

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)




Close to one thousand people marched through Drogheda [yesterday] to protest at proposals to change the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

The hospital, which is one of the busiest acute hospitals in the country, was bought by the HSE from the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1997.

It is understood that staff were asked which of three other names it should be called: Drogheda University Hospital, Drogheda Regional Hospital or Drogheda General Hospital.

Hundreds march to protest name change of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (Independent.ie)

This afternoon.

Merrion Hotel, Dublin 2

A press conference for Nurses and Midwives 4 Life addressed by pro life independent TD Michael Healy Rae.

Above left Nurses and Midwives 4Life Vice ChairMargret McGovern, RGN, PRO Fiona McHugh, a clinical paediatric nurse specialist and Lecturer in Nursing Mary E. Fitzgibbon

The group claim 350 nurses and midwives on the NMBI Register have signed a petition asking the Minister for Health “to protect freedom of conscience in not forcing us to participate in abortions”.



As the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 enters Report Stage, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has said the Bill needs significant amendment if it is to fulfil the promise of the Yes vote in the May referendum. Parliamentarians must take the criminal law out of medical consulting rooms and replace it with a provision guaranteeing access to abortion care.

IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “This legislation needs to facilitate access to quality abortion care. But instead of supporting doctors to provide best practice care, the Bill criminalises abortion and leaves healthcare providers vulnerable to vexatious allegations by those who oppose abortion. These criminal sanctions are already having a chilling effect on doctors.”

Mr Behan continued: “Continued criminalisation means the threat of sanctions – including a possible 14-year prison sentence – will be hanging over doctors, affecting the care they provide to women and girls. And some may decide not to provide abortion care at all.”

The IFPA says there are multiple provisions in the Bill which serve only to act as barriers to abortion access.

Irish Family Planning Association


Nine TDs want to amend the bill to make it a criminal offence for a woman not to have a burial or a cremation after an abortion, including in cases where they had taken abortion pills prescribed by a GP at home.

The TDs who backed the proposal are: Mattie McGrath, Michael Lowry, Michael Healy-Rae, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Collins, Michael Fitzmaurice, Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish and Carol Nolan.

TDs want women to have aborted foetuses buried (TEllen Coyne, The Times Ireland Edition)