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Top cop says NI abortion buffer zones ‘must balance competing rights’

Abortion
12 January 2022
Pro life protest

A senior police officer in Northern Ireland has said competing rights must be balanced under any legislation introducing abortion buffer zones.

Giving evidence to MLAs on Stormont’s Health Committee, Chief Superintendent Melanie Jones said a ban would impact on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, expression, and free assembly.

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey has brought forward proposals to move pro-life protestors away from the immediate vicinity of abortion clinics. She claims that women are being subjected to “harassment and intimidation”.

However, pro-life groups insist that demonstrations are peaceful and respectful. They also point out that any threatening or abusive behaviour by protestors can be dealt with under current laws.

In November last year, the Scottish Government announced that it would not support a blanket ban on abortion protests. Women’s Minister Maree Todd said the decision should be left to local authorities.

During an earlier debate on the issue, Christian MSP John Mason defended the right for peaceful protestors to voice their opposition to abortion.

Mr Mason said he believes life begins at conception and argued that “someone has a duty to speak up for the baby, who has no voice”.

The MSP defended an event he had attended in Glasgow last year where “perhaps a dozen people” gathered and “much of the time was spent quietly saying prayers”.

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