News from Europe

Supreme Court allows Northern Ireland’s prayer ban in front of abortion clinics

The United Kingdom Supreme Court has ruled that Northern Ireland can ban pro-life demonstrations and prayers outside of abortion clinics, arguing that it is not a violation of the freedom of assembly.


Northern Ireland passed an “Abortion Safe Access” bill in March, which creates buffer zones around abortion clinics that would prohibit any effort to deter a woman from getting an abortion.

A concern was raised that the legislation’s clause 5(2)(a), which puts a total ban on pro-life actions within the buffer zone, violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Court President Robert John Reed wrote that the court unanimously concluded that the bill does not violate the human rights of protesters.

While acknowledging the legislation does restrict pro-life demonstrators’ rights, Reed argued that “this restriction can be justified” as it “pursues a legitimate aim.”

“It seeks to ensure that women have access to advice and treatment related to the lawful termination of a pregnancy under conditions which respect their privacy and dignity and are not driven instead to less safe alternatives,” said Reed.

“It is also designed to enable staff who work at hospitals and clinics where terminations are available to attend their place of work without being intimidated, harassed, or abused.”


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