Pro life activists must retain right to protest at abortion clinics

News Letter editorial of Wednesday June 2 2021:

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 7:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 8:29 am
News Letter editorial

The has been a political revolution in moral and ethical and social issues.

Only three decades ago, the notion of same-sex marriage was a fringe one. When civil partnerships became a prospect 20 years ago, advocates of such legal recognition for gay couples often said that there was no desire for gay marriage.

Then, when gay marriage itself became a prospect a decade ago, supporters said that there was no prospect of churches being forced to recognise such ceremonies. That remains the case, but already there are hints that some LGBT activists might not be happy with such exemptions.

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A recent push to bar what is known as gay conversion therapy has led to fresh concern about ever shifting goal posts on conscience matters, with one NI councillor seeming to confirm that he would like it to be illegal for a minister to pray in support of someone who wants to lose same sex tendencies.

There is a similar, rapidly moving political environment when it comes to abortion. Only a few years ago, some Stormont MLAs were seeking limited reform to allow terminations in pregnancies such as those involving so-called fatal foetal abnormality. Yet few supporters of that then opposed the later sweeping reform to allow abortion on demand.

And now politicians are not only largely accepting of terminations on demand, they are in some council areas (including Belfast) seeking to prevent protests at abortion clinics.

There are irreconcilable views on abortion, from people who believe that terminations should be entirely legal until far into a pregnancy to people who believe that life begins at conception, and any abortion thereafter is murder.

But while these positions will never be reconciled, people who feel that abortion is completely abhorrent should be allowed to express that impassioned belief outside clinics where terminations are being performed.

Harassment or intimidation is already illegal, as it should be. But curbing the right to protest should only happen in extreme situations, and standing outside an abortion clinic to show disapproval of the facility is not one of those situations.

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Alistair Bushe