Censoring Pro-life Ireland

On February 22, 2019, The Irish Times reported  that “a four-year-old child, who was found to have been injured at 20 weeks’ gestation, is to receive €45,000 damages for personal injury arising from an accident in a [supermarket] store.”

The Irish Times went on to report that the judge declared that the injury of an unborn child in a shopping accident was a most unusual case and one that had not previously come before the court. The newspaper concluded its report observing: “Such a case is practically unknown to the Irish courts.”

The irony is that this latest legal settlement for injury to a child in the womb comes just weeks after the killing of unborn children was made legal in Ireland.

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The new Irish law permitting abortion took effect on January 1, 2019. This controversial legislation was rushed through the normally sluggish Irish Parliament. The current political class then proceeded to pat itself on the back, with the Irish prime minister describing the new law as ushering in an “historic moment for Irish women” worth celebrating.

Viewing these developments from afar, one could be forgiven for thinking that the most pressing issue affecting all Irish men and women was the need to facilitate the destruction of the unborn in the womb. Rather than “celebrating” this new law, those in government and the people of Ireland should see its implementation as marking one of the most shame-filled moments in all Irish history.

Shortly after the law was enacted, The Irish Times reported that the first consultations for abortion had taken place on January 1, 2019. (Ironically, January 1 in the Catholic Church is observed as the Solemnity of the Feast of the Mother of God within the Octave of the solemn feast of the Nativity of the Lord.) At the moment, there are nine hospitals in the Irish Republic lined up to perform abortions, including Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth. That hospital is dedicated to the Mother of God and honors her concern for the sick and vulnerable pilgrims who travel each year to Lourdes. From now on that hospital is to become part of the system for killing the unborn.

On the morning of January 3, 2019, a group of seven men and women stood outside the Galvia West Medical Centre in Galway for a few hours. They were dubbed the “Peaceful Seven.” By all accounts, they participated in a restrained and dignified pro-life witness—silently promoting alternatives to abortion through the words on the placards they held. This pro-life witness, the first of its kind in Ireland—for, until now, there has been no abortion facility outside which such witness was needed—carried a number of placards. These read: “There’s always a better option,” “Love them both,” “Say ‘No’ to abortion in Galway.” The group left just before lunchtime.

Shortly afterwards, Ireland’s pro-abortion lobby reacted to the Galway witness. The pro-abortionists who had campaigned for a “Yes” vote in the Irish abortion referendum in May 2018 started to complain that the measures to kill the unborn, so rapidly introduced by a compliant Fine Gael government, were not enough. They now wished to restrict the rights of free speech and peaceful witness of those morally opposed to abortion. They demanded that Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, introduce emergency legislation to bring about UK-style censorship zones around medical practices offering abortion services.  Immediately, Harris, who is one of the most pro-abortion politicians in Ireland, promised to do so.

The Irish pro-abortion strategy is a straightforward one, namely, to silence any further debate on abortion. The method to achieve this is similar to that effectively deployed in the United Kingdom: censorship zones around abortion centers. These zones make it illegal to mount peaceful pro-life witness, as well as prohibiting any offers of practical and emotional support to pregnant women, and, above all, the public offer of an alternative to abortion.

The censorship zones in England, of which there are now two in the London area, may appear to have “solved” one issue for the pro-abortion lobby but it has infringed upon the basic civil and human rights of British citizens, effectively criminalizing the expression of public disapproval of abortion at certain locations. As a result, there is a lengthy and costly legal challenge contesting the “buffer zones” around abortion facilities now making its way through British courts.

The pro-abortion lobby in Ireland and its many friends in the Irish parliament are wary of widespread street protest on the subject of abortion. For such protest flies in the face of their carefully crafted narrative that the Irish as a nation want abortion and are as “chilled out” about killing the unborn as any “modern democracy.” It is the view of Irish pro-abortionists, and many Irish politicians that the debate about abortion is over. All that remains to be done is to silence and censor any remaining voices that oppose abortion. Those who pushed for abortion on demand can never allow the Irish public to know the truth of what an abortion entails or what has been unleashed on generations of, as yet, unborn Irish children.

On the Sunday night of January 6, 2019, a social media post from “Pro-Life Ireland” alerted the country to the fact that: “The first abortion in our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is scheduled for tomorrow morning, Monday 7th.”

The following Monday morning when the rest of Ireland was returning to work and school after the Christmas break, a group of  “concerned citizens,” stood outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. The hospital is a large and busy maternity unit serving a wide geographic area. The pro-lifers were there to witness to a life about to be taken. They held placards saying: “Abortion is murder,” “Let him be born,” “Let her be born,” and “Killing in progress.”

These fledgling pro-life vigils were causing concern to Simon Harris. He described the pro-life posts on social media about abortions at Our Lady of Lourdes as “despicable.” Yet no one, in particular no patient, had been mentioned by name on social media or elsewhere. The pro-life campaigners were simply present at the hospital gates to alert people to what was taking place at a local and well-regarded maternity hospital. The witness that ensued was, as it had been earlier in Galway, dignified and peaceful, solemn even.

Nevertheless, once more, Harris began threatening legislation to introduce censorship zones around abortion facilities. As it turned out, this was a helpful distraction from more challenging matters for the Irish health minister: Ireland’s new abortion regime was only weeks old but it was already beset with all kinds of difficulties. Perhaps this was to be expected given how rushed the relevant legislation had been. Even the pro-abortion Irish Times observed: “Minister for Health Simon Harris’ decision to introduce terminations of pregnancy on January 1 has all the hallmarks of an exercise in political box-ticking …[Especially so] when even pro-choice doctors have said they are woefully prepared to provide the service.”

Media reports then suggested that the number of General Practitioner (GPs) willing to participate in the state-sanctioned abortion system was only about 3 percent of all Irish GPs. Those doctors willing to participate in the new abortion regime also expressed concern that there was a lack of clinical guidance. This was nowhere more evident than in the case of proposed abortions for girls aged 15-years-old and younger. The Irish abortion law allows this to occur without the involvement of a parent “in exceptional circumstances.” But the Irish health authorities have yet to define what these exceptional circumstances are and, more importantly, who makes the decision as to what circumstances fulfill the criteria. No doctor—however pro-abortion—was going to feel comfortable acting in such a legal vacuum.

In addition, there was another political scandal brewing, one with Harris at its centre.

On February 4, 2019, Irish media outlets reported that Dr Michael Harty, the Chairman of the Irish Parliament’s Health Committee, had called on Harris “to step up and take political responsibility” for the overrun of €450million in the construction costs for the country’s new National Children’s Hospital. Harty said it seemed unbelievable that the Health Department’s representative on the hospital development board had not reported what he knew about the budget overrun to the minister. Opposition Labour spokesman, Alan Kelly, was quoted as saying what many in Ireland were thinking: “The Minister took his eye off the ball. In the space of a few months the amount went up €450million… Government departments were asleep at the wheel on this, the biggest project ever undertaken in the State.” In response, Harris denied knowing of any overspend until relatively recently.

A few days after these press reports, Ireland had its first censorship zone. On February 18, 2019, Louth County Council imposed it around Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Council officials are still clarifying the legality of the measure that has been passed—which was inspired by and based on similar English ordinances. This zone, however, is expected to become law in due course. Again, there were calls for Harris to introduce national legislation on this issue. The minister tweeted: “Efforts to undermine our democratic decision to repeal the 8th [pro-life amendment] and provide abortion care in our own country will be robustly called out and actions taken. … We are moving ahead with legislation for exclusion zones…” Harris can once more win plaudits from Ireland’s mainstream media for his renewed virtue signaling on the subject of abortion. For a while, at least, concern about the Irish state’s largest capital project financially spiraling hopelessly out of control has been pushed aside.

The irony is that as the state builds, at an ever increasing cost, a children’s hospital, the Minister for Health seems preoccupied with only one subject: preventing any further public objection to the silent slaughter of the most vulnerable Irish children of all, namely, those in the womb. Yet, this is a real cost to Ireland, and a human cost that is incalculable.

(Photo credit: Galway pro-life protest; LifeNews.com)


  • K. V. Turley

    K.V. Turley is the National Catholic Register’s U.K. correspondent. He writes from London.

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