'Unprecedented' complaints over automated abortion calls
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has received what it has described as an unprecedented number of complaints relating to anti-abortion automated calls.
It has received close to 300 email complaints regarding calls - a record - which state that Irish doctors are obliged to save women’s lives, even if it means the death of an unborn child.
This tally does not include the number of telephone complaints to the office of the commissioner which it says are too many to count. Only emailed contacts are treated as official complaints. ComReg, which has received an additional 80 complaints, is also investigating the complaints. An Garda is not involved.
A spokeswoman for the Data Protection Commissioner said the automated calls may not be coming from Ireland but that investigations were continuing.
“It may be coming from outside the country, and [if] so, outside of our jurisdiction. But if this is the case, we will pursue regulators in other jurisdictions to investigate the matter,” she said.
“We have been absolutely inundated with calls and they have been coming in all through the night. We are aware of the issue, so only complain if you feel you have something different to add or if you feel you need to complain.”
The commissioner shut down a Dublin number yesterday that it believed was behind the automated calls, but resumed soon afterwards.
Eamon O’Dwyer, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUI Galway, is quoted in the automated calls.
However, he has dissociated himself from the calls. The professor said he was not aware his comment was going to be used in a telephone messaging campaign without his consent, he said.
Two Irish pro-life groups confirmed that they are not behind the automated calls.
Youth Defence and the Life Institute said they had received one or two comments from the public in relation to the calls.
A spokeswoman for the Life Institute said she was unsure of the potential impact from the automated calls.
“It says in the media that it is going to hurt our campaign, but I’m not quite sure."
According the Sinead Ahern of Choice Ireland, the calls are in poor taste.
“I don’t think it’s sensible and in this country we have quite clear guidelines. It’s in slightly bad taste,” she said.
“I think it will do more harm than good for their campaign, but it is not my place to condemn. They are strong in their beliefs too.”
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is advising people not to engage with the calls because the message asks people to share their views on abortion.