The Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform (HEAR) campaign has briefed MHKs against the imposition of censorship zones, delineated areas in which last minute offers of help for pregnant women and alternatives to abortion would be banned, contravening freedoms of association and expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a letter to MHKs and other Tynwald members, HEAR has noted that there have been no attempts at harassment or intimidation in the UK, and certainly none on the Island. Amendments by Ralph Peake MHK to introduce censorship zones around any facility in which abortions take place are therefore utterly unnecessary, and would chill freedoms of association and expression, preventing groups that may be set up in the future from offering assistance to women who want an alternative to abortion.
Also concerning is that such zones would contravene the Article 10 right to freedom of expression under the European Convention of Human Rights, which has already been asserted in the case of anti-abortion activities by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Annen v. Germany, a contradiction of which could lead to such laws being voided by the European Court, to the humiliation of Tynwald and the Isle of Man.
Whilst HEAR has been thoughtfully and publicly critical of groups like Abort67, whose interventions last year and earlier this year were counter-productive in terms of advancing the debate on abortion in Manx politics and society, their actions should not be used as an excuse to prevent more prudent and helpful means of opposing abortion by offering help to women and witnessing to the dignity and right to life of the unborn child in public.
HEAR spokesperson Sue Richardson, said:
“The amendments under consideration today are legally ill-thought, and should be rejected by MHKs.
We hope that the points we have raised about the unnecessary and illiberal nature of censorship zones, which are forms of counterfeit compassion, will be considered in the debate concerning the amendments, and that the House of Keys will especially bear in mind women who are helped by abortion vigils, and the importance of freedoms of association and speech (including, and most especially in protection of, people whose association and speech they may dislike). If they do, they will reject the intolerance and authoritarianism of the abortion lobby on this issue”.