Minister backs exclusion zones as US anti-abortion groups target Ireland

The Minister for Health has said the need for access zones outside health centres providing abortion care is a priority after it was revealed that American anti-abortion groups are planning operations in Ireland.

An undercover report for The Times Ireland Edition found an American anti-abortion group was training protesters to approach women seeking terminations, as well as urging activists to phone doctors pretending to seek an abortion to find out which health centres were performing the procedures.

The Times Ireland report revealed Sidewalk Advocates For Life will target women including rape victims and couples who have gone through fatal foetal abnormalities.

Leo Varadkar
We as a people voted overwhelmingly to provide safe & legal abortion in Ireland. Abortion is deeply private & personal and no woman chooses to end her pregnancy lightly. No one should be coerced, intimidated or harassed when accessing or providing these services #repealedthe8th

Speaking on RTE Radio 1 on Monday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said action must be taken to protect women.

“The idea that anybody, but particularly outside groups would be trying to undermine our democratic decision and effectively, in my view, harass and intimidate Irishwomen is something that is quite despicable and shows why we need to get on doing what I intend to do regarding safe access zones, that piece of legislation is a priority for me,” he said.

Likewise, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wrote on social media that women did not deserve to be intimidated for accessing medical care.

“We as a people voted overwhelmingly to provide safe and legal abortion in Ireland,” Mr Varadkar wrote.

“Abortion is deeply private and personal and no woman chooses to end her pregnancy lightly.

“No one should be coerced, intimidated or harassed when accessing or providing these services.”

Louise O’Reilly TD
Great chat with @ciarakellydoc & @_Katie__ONeill on @LunchtimeLiveNT just now about an American group who are organising to come here to target women availing of their legal right to abortion care We need legislation to prevent this ASAP #repealedThe8th

The article, published on Monday, has caused widespread concern and was discussed by members of the Seanad.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said: “Given the reporting today on plans by US-based anti-choice groups, who have very intimidating means of targeting women, and who now plan to bring their activities to Ireland, this issue has become even more pertinent.

”Exclusion Zones were not included in the legislation for abortion passed in December and many of us raised this issue during the debates at the time, and warned about the risk of protests outside clinics.

“The Minister for Health should not allow the practice of intimidation of women outside GP offices and health clinics to take hold before he acts.

“He should seek to amend current legislation or bring in new law if necessary, as soon as possible.”

In a statement to the Times Ireland, Sidewalk Advocates For Life said they are a “law abiding organisation that teaches others to lovingly and peacefully reach out to women at abortion centres, offering them non-violent solutions to their crisis situation”.

Figures show that 274 GPs and 10 hospitals have so far signed up to provide abortion services in Ireland.

The Yes side won the referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which prohibited abortion, by 66.4% to 33.6% in May 2018.

Press Association
Source: The Irish Independent