Urgent call for safety zone legislation to stop harassment of women seeking abortions 1 month ago

Urgent call for safety zone legislation to stop harassment of women seeking abortions

There has been a fresh call for safety zone legislation to stop the harassment of women seeking abortions.

Concerns that women seeking terminations will be targeted by anti-abortion groups are growing, with the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) calling for a "zero tolerance" approach to harassment or intimidation outside healthcare facilities.

It is common for these groups to carry graphic imagery, protest healthcare facilities, and surveil those entering the building.

Women’s health coordinator Dr Cliona Loughnane said that a recent investigation conducted by The Times shows that this legislation has now become "more urgent than ever."

The report detailed the tactics used by anti-abortion groups from the US to intercept women before they access abortion services.

Anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic in the US

Dr Loughnane said that some healthcare facilities have already seen protests since abortion became legal in Ireland.

"These are similar to tactics used by anti-abortion groups in other countries which can stop women exercising their legal right to abortion," she said.

"Safety zones are designed to criminalise behaviour outside healthcare premises which is intended to, or is likely to, deter people from accessing abortion, undermine their privacy, or prevent them from entering the premises at all."

She said that Minister for Health Simon Harris must make the legislation a reality to support the women, doctors, and healthcare professionals accessing and delivering this service.

"The urgent passage of this legislation will protect both women and their doctors," she said, "ending demonstrations near hospitals or primary care centres where abortions are being provided, and show a zero tolerance approach to any attempts to coerce and intimidate women.”

Harris said that he hopes safety zone legislation will be in place this year.