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Anti-abortion protests planned at Dublin and Cork airports told they don't have permission

Pro-choice campaigners have called the plans 'despicable'

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 27 June 2017 16:54 BST
Planned posters by the ICBR
Planned posters by the ICBR

Pro-life campaigners are planning to try and stop Irish women travelling abroad for abortions by protesting at airports with graphic images of aborted foetuses.

However Cork and Dublin airports have said the organisation will not get permission to go ahead.

The Irish Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (ICBR) is planning on using placards and banners to discourage women from flying to the UK to terminate their pregnancies.

With abortion illegal in Ireland, at least 3,500 women a year - or about 12 a day - travel abroad, mostly to England, for abortions.

But in a recent mail to supporters, the ICBR has revealed how it wishes to try and stop this with an “airport education project.”

“This Public Education Display will consist of medical images of aborted foetuses displayed on vinyl banners with brief, content-neutral, identifying captions,” the ICBR told The Independent.

“They are non-judgemental and non-polemical and offer no negative commentary concerning abortion, or the people who choose abortion, or the people who perform abortion.”

They are appealing for volunteers and funding, and have included examples of the graphic images they would use on posters at the protests which would take place between Saturday 29 July and Sunday 13 August.

“We intend on standing at the airport with our airport themed images as part of our consumer protection initiative,” they say. “We will show their ‘consumer client’ what they would never dare to – abortion reality.”

The ICBR’s plan is to show images of aborted foetuses on placards.

“The more days we can organise volunteers to stand there, the more women will see these images and the fewer will undergo abortion,” they say.

“We will liaise with local crisis pregnancy centres and direct women who approach us to them for further counselling and support. But many no doubt will simply do a U-turn at the airport or never arrive for their abortion appointment having decided on life-affirming options for their babies.”

The ICBR are planning on holding the protests in the centre of Cork as well as Dublin and Cork airports.

But both airports have said they won’t give permission for the demonstrations to go ahead.

A Spokesperson for Cork Airport told The Independent: “Under statutory airport by-laws, the distribution of leaflets, pamphlets or other documentation to staff, passengers or visitors, or leaving such items on vehicles or in any areas at or within the airport and conducting or taking part in public meetings, demonstrations or processions are specifically prohibited unless permission has been given by the airport authority.

“We do not give permission for protests of any type at Cork Airport.”

And Dublin airport has said the same.

Pro-choice supporters are unsurprisingly angry about the idea of the protests:

“The planned protests are a stark example of the onslaught, trauma and shame that Irish women are put through by the anti-choice campaigners,” pro-choice supporter Anna Cosgrave told The Independent.

“Such campaigns further shame Irish women, mislead the public and detract from the reality of the crisis.”

A spokesperson for the Abortion Right Campaign added: “Obviously we think it’s disgusting.”

She told The Independent that they believe the ICBR are trying to intimidate women who “are forced to travel to get the healthcare they need.”

“It’s bad enough to have to travel but to be subjected to the harassment like this when leaving and returning to the country is despicable.

“The only possible motivation for these proposed acts is to bully women into remaining pregnant against their will. This is reproductive coercion. Women who seek abortion deserve our support, not aggressive and underhand tactics.

“The people of Ireland want an equal society and a broadening of access to abortion, as many polls have shown. The general public will see this for what it is: bullying, harassment and something that belongs in our dark past.”

One of the most active pro-choice groups in Ireland is the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Sinéad Kennedy, a spokeswoman, told The Independent: “The only reason that women living in Ireland are travelling abroad for abortions is because their rights and choices are ignored and criminalised by the Irish State.

“Instead of facing up to the reality of women’s reproductive healthcare needs, the Irish state buries its head in the sand, forcing women into exile.

“These hard-core US style tactics of bullying and intimidation by anti-abortion activists will do nothing to stop women travelling; instead they only serve to increase the stress and stigma faced by women who need abortion services.”

Despite this criticism and the comments from the airports, the ICBR have told The Independent they intend on going ahead with the protests.

“We are confident that An Garda Siochana [the Irish police force] will abide by its obligation to protect the rights of every citizen within its jurisdiction, including the rights of those who speak out publicly against abortion,” ICBR Director Jean-Simonis Engela said.

“It is our hope that they will do what they can to ensure that we, the volunteers, are free from unlawful interference with our Constitutional right to freedom of speech.

“In turn, we continue to pledge to scrupulously abide by all lawful rules and regulations governing public order on the public walkways of Dublin and Cork in which we intend on holding our education displays i.e. as close to the airport buildings as we may lawfully stand.”

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