Students Fighting To Distribute Abortion Information
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Students at Ireland’s largest university said Wednesday they would fight an attempt by an anti-abortion group to keep them from distributing information on legal abortions.
Earlier this month, the High Court served non-criminal summonses on four student leaders and an officer at University College, Dublin, who had refused to agree not to publish the names and telephone numbers of legal abortion clinics in England.
Ireland, whose population is 95 percent Roman Catholic, has made abortion illegal under a 1983 constitutional amendment after a campaign led by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child.
The four students said Wednesday they would fight the society’s allegations that they were breaking a Supreme Court ruling that said it was illegal under the 1983 amendment for pregnancy counseling centers to provide women with information on how to get a legal abortion. The Supreme Court has power over the High Court.
The four students, elected to represent University College’s 10,000 students, said they will distribute the abortion information in a manual to be published in October.
The anti-abortion group has demanded that the university administration not provide funds or facilities to aid the students in publishing the manual. The administration has not responded publicly.
″Our mandate is to provide information on all pregnancy options,″ said Student Union President Diarmuid Coogan. ″If they are to succeed in this case, it will have grave implications for civil liberties in Irish society.″
Coogan said other colleges, including Dublin’s Trinity College, alsp have stated their intention to provide the names and addresses of the same clinics. But the anti-abortion society has not taken any action against the other schools.
Coogan said University College was being singled out by the anti-abortion group in a ″witch hunt″ and accused the group of using the school ″as a pawn in their game.″
University College welfare officer Anne Marie Keary, who also received a summons, said 24 women had sought information on pregnancy and abortion from her since July 1.
Within three weeks, the anti-abortion society must submit a detailed argument on their case against the students to the High Court. The students then have another three weeks to present their defense.
During the six weeks, the anti-abortionists may seek a temporary injuction from the High Court against publication of the manual.
If the High Court rules in favor of the anti-abortion group, the students will be banned from distributing the abortion information.
Last month, Marie Vernon, spokeswoman for the group, said in an interview: ″The right to life is written into the constitution, and it overrides the right to information.″