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Monday 16 September 2019

Harris to begin talks on protest exclusion zones outside maternity hospitals as 'a matter of urgency'

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Gabija Gataveckaite

Minister for Health Simon Harris will begin talks in September on exclusion zones as “a matter of urgency”.

Almost eight months after new abortion legislation has come into force, the department of health has not implemented legislation to introduce exclusion zones around GP surgeries and hospitals.

Exclusion zones at facilities that provide abortion would see protesters unable to protest within a certain distance of the facilities.

As exclusion zones have not yet been brought in, pro-life groups have protested in recent weeks outside maternity hospitals and GP surgeries.

"It remains the Minister's priority that the legislation is fully implemented so that all women in Ireland can access these services quickly and easily, without bias or judgment," a spokesperson for the Department of Health told Independent.ie.

"He is intending to meet with opposition spokespersons in September to progress this area as a matter of urgency."

However, the delay in the provision of exclusion zones has been criticised by abortion rights campaigners.

"This should have been introduced on January 1st," said Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC).

"We need the government to act.

"The pro-choice community has highlighted the need for safe access to abortion providers and called for safe access zones consistently," she said.

"We asked for rogue crisis pregnancy legislation two or three years ago also and that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

"We were assured in debates that there would be separate legislation for the exclusion zones, but nearly eight months later, that still hasn’t materialised."

The delay in the provision of exclusion zones has seen pro-life groups able to protest outside of GP surgeries and maternity hospitals.

Pro-life group 'Our Lady of Lourdes Protectors' faced backlash last week after it held a "prayer vigil" outside of Holles St Maternity Hospital with three white coffins.

The group says that it will keep protesting every Saturday with white coffins and that it plans to hold a mock funeral in an upcoming protest.

"We want to highlight the humanity of the unborn child because the baby gets no funeral," said Charles Byrne.

"If we don’t highlight this, someone else will."

He denied that the group was using 'shock tactics' as part of its protesting and expressed sympathy for women who had lost their babies.

"We want to highlight to people the reality of the situation, coffins of course are shocking but if people saw an abortion in the flesh, they’d be shocked too," he said.

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