Pro-abortion campaigners are celebrating after the UK Supreme Court today ruled a Northern Irish bill banning protest or prayer near abortion facilities was lawful.
The ruling means a similar law is now likely to be passed in Scotland.
The UK Supreme Court (above) ruled today that the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Northern Ireland Bill, which seeks to establish buffer zones outside of abortion providers does not breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The bill, which was voted through the Northern Irish Assembly in March, had been delayed from becoming law after the Northern Irish Attorney General intervened.
Attorney General Dame Brenda King had referred the bill to the UK Supreme Court on the grounds that it may disproportionately interfere with the rights of those carrying out pro-life vigils.
Liam Gibson, Policy and Legal Officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said the ruling will lead criminalisation of pro-life vigils in Scotland.
“Scotland’s Lord Advocate, who intervened in this case, claimed that silent prayer was more psychologically damaging than noisy protests,” he said.
“Without any evidence to back up such claims, the Supreme Court has agreed to criminalise silent prayer in the vicinity of abortion facilities.
Mr Gibson said the decision endangers ‘everyone’s right to freedom of speech and the right to engage in peaceful protest.’
“Freedom of assembly is not only necessary in a democratic society but legal restrictions on peaceful protests undermine democracy itself,” he said.
Anthony Horan, Director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office called the decision ‘disappointing’, stating it failed ‘to protect basic freedoms, including the right to free expression and freedom of assembly.’
The decision will embolden efforts to criminalise peaceful, prayerful vigils in Scotland,” he said.
“A draconian and grossly disproportionate proposal has already been put forward by Gillian Mackay MSP which would prohibit simply ‘occupying’ space around abortion facilities; a proposal which could herald the introduction of areas of Scotland where prayer is illegal.”