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Europe's most draconian anti-free speech law censoring pro-life freedom of expression will come into effect Friday on the Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man's parliament, Tynwald, passed a statutory instrument on Thursday, creating no-go zones within 100 meters of the boundary of the land around the island's Noble's Hospital.
The Access to Abortion Services (Noble's Hospital Access Zone) Order 2019 is said to violate Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and has been described as "totalitarian" and "disproportionate" by a Manx legal expert.
In the case of Annen v. Germany, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in November 2015 that an injunction on distributing pro-life pamphlets and a website naming doctors performing abortions violated the right to freedom of expression even though the pro-life leaflets compared abortion to the Holocaust.
"The European convention protects various forms of freedom of expression. These may be restricted only in so far as is necessary in a democratic society and the measures must be proportionate," senior law lecturer Peter Murcott told Church Militant.
The problem with the "Manx legislation is that it effectively imposes a blanket ban on a contrary view about abortion in an access zone," Murcott explained, underlining the "draconian" nature of the penalties which include "a maximum of 10,000 pounds fine or one year’s imprisonment."
"Most importantly, no evidence has been given to show the access zones' necessity. Overall, the measures relate more to a totalitarian society than a democratic one," Murcott emphasized.
However, Dr. Alex Allinson, member of Parliament (MHK), a medical doctor who introduced the Abortion Reform Bill to Tynwald, said the "access zones" was a consequence of pro-lifers demonstrating on one occasion outside the hospital.
"During the passage of our new Abortion Bill through Tynwald there was a high profile demonstration against the changes which took place directly opposite the main entrance to the island's hospital," Allinson said. "There were complaints from patients and their families and several members of staff felt intimidated."
"This galvanized public opinion, and an amendment was introduced to allow for a restriction on such demonstrations taking place in the future within the hospital grounds or immediate vicinity," Allinson told Church Militant. "Tynwald voted unanimously to support this move to protect patients and staff accessing health care from any possible harassment or intimidation."
Since the bill was introduced in 2018, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical pro-lifers have been holding fortnightly demonstrations, with graphic images of aborted babies outside Tynwald and other parts of the island.
On Holy Saturday, the group held a "Prayer Vigil for the Sanctity of Life" outside Tynwald, which culminated in worshippers kneeling on the pavement and praying for the island's repentance.
Catholic pro-lifer Michael Scott, a member of the group, denied allegations of intimidation.
"Manx Catholics belonging to the Knights of St. Columba, Catholic Women's League and Legion of Mary have participated in pro-life prayerful witness during the passing of the bill and partnered with SPUC to say the Rosary for the Unborn within parishes and their congregations," he maintained.
According to the new order, the no-go zones could be extended to cover other premises where abortions are performed or counseling is provided, as well as homes of persons providing abortion services or counseling.
Free speech campaigners say this could mean virtually the whole island being covered by a no-go zone.
Politician and free speech advocate David Kurten described the no-go zones around abortion clinics as "one of the latest strands of the multi-faceted attack on the freedom of speech of anyone who holds Christian, conservative or traditional family values."
Kurten, a member of the London Assembly, said that local councils in England were given new powers to implement Public Space Protection Orders in 2014, which "have been used in a way never envisaged to silence peaceful and prayerful pro-life vigils for unborn children."
"Despite 23 years without a single instance of unlawful intimidation or harassment, the first ban was implemented by Ealing Council around a Marie Stopes abortion center in 2018, and other areas have followed suit."
Kurten added: "This will have a devastating effect on struggling mothers who will no longer have the offer of help and support from pro-life organizations like The Good Counsel who offer counseling and practical help to mothers, and have saved thousands of children's lives over more than two decades."
Meanwhile, pro-lifers have expressed their outrage at a second order passed by Tynwald calling for the "sensitive incineration" of aborted babies.
"Having just bludgeoned and dismembered these little babies with harsh metal tools — without anesthetic — are they planning to 'sensitively incinerate' the murdered babies?" asked Dave Brennan, executive director of Brephos, a pro-life group equipping churches to fight abortion.
"The language of incineration is yet another gift to those who would point out similarities with what the Nazis did at Auschwitz. Then, as now, innocent human beings were incinerated, and a similar audacity was applied in using dishonest language to claim that it was a civilized thing to do — 'The Final Solution,'" he noted.
In 2014, a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into Britain's National Health Service hospitals found that a number of hospitals, including the prestigious Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, were burning the remains of aborted babies along with other waste to generate power for heat.
"We've reached a page of a new dark age. What next, 'O Island so free and so fair?'" said Murcott, quoting the island's national anthem.
Last year, Church Militant reported on Msgr. John Devine, Catholic dean of the Isle of Man, dismissing the pro-life demonstrators as the "lunatic fringe."