Efforts to deny rape survivors who had refused abortions in speaking venues in Dublin are part of a concerted effort to shut down pro-life voices, Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has said.
Mr Tóibín was one of 11 members of the Oireachtas who last week signed a statement expressing concern about the increasing inability of businesses to facilitate presentations by pro-life groups.
Highlighting how an event hosted by Human Life International had been cancelled following “what seemed to be a concerted campaign by a small number of people to bully them out of that room”, Mr Tóibín told The Irish Catholic “and then obviously the same happened the following week with the people who were rape victims”, he said of the Unbroken group whose bookings at the Gibson and Spencer hotels were cancelled.
“That was even more shocking due to the fact that these women had already been victims of a horrendous crime and now were the victims of bullying by people who were claiming to be supporting women’s rights,” he said.
Pressure on hotels to deny pro-life groups speaking venues seem of a piece with the tearing down of pro-life posters outside Trinity College and a campaign to impeach UCD Student Union President Katie Ascough after she had material reprinted because it contained information on arranging abortions that she had been advised was illegal, Mr Tóibín said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were coordinated, because behind these actions you have a very small number of individuals on the extreme pro-choice side,” he said.
Such efforts, he said, were clearly intended to stifle debate. “I think what it’s trying to do is to create a chilling effect around anybody who tries to raise in public their experiences around abortion from this perspective,” he said.
“What this does is put the brakes on many people who may not have the confidence or the courage to swim against that tide, and that deletes their experiences and insights from that debate where they are sorely needed.”
“No matter what side of the pro-life debate you are on, freedom of expression and freedom of speech is critical to any discussion,” he stressed.