Call for safe zones to protect women accessing medical services

by Padraig Conlon

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has called on the Minister for Health to immediately establish safe zones around all medical centres that provide abortion services.

The ICCL say they have researched the legality of such zones from a human rights perspective, and found these zones are necessary to protect women.

The investigation also found protests may be restricted so that women can access healthcare in privacy, safety and dignity.

Their investigation comes a week after a demonstration featuring tiny coffins and white crosses outside the National Maternity Hospital on 1 January, which Simon Harris labelled “sickening”.

In response to the protest, ICCL set up an email-your-TD tool which helps people contact their local politicians to express support for the creation of safe zones.

Since then, 2405 emails have been sent in support of the move.

ICCL’s Senior Research and Policy Officer Doireann Ansbro has been investigating whether safe zones are necessary, and if so, how they can be implemented from a legal and constitutional perspective.

“Everyone is aware of the disturbing demonstration outside the National Maternity Hospital last week, but the same thing is happening far more often than is reported either to the Gardaí or in the media,” she said.

“Many medical practitioners and their patients understandably prefer to protect their privacy instead of going to the press.

“Some also worry that publicising the extent of the demonstrations will deter new practitioners from signing up to the service, and women from accessing it.”

“Everyone has the right to access the healthcare they need.

“It’s not acceptable that anyone should feel exposed, or intimidated, or shamed when they access medical care.

“We need particular legislation here, in order to deal with a particular issue.

“We have to stop the culture of shaming and stigmatising people who require abortion services.”

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