Sunday 26 January 2020

Simon Harris 'appalled' to see protesters outside National Maternity Hospital amid renewed calls for exclusion zones

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: PA
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: PA
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris said he was "appalled" to see apparent abortion protesters outside the National Maternity Hospital today.

Mr Harris said he is committed to the implementation of exclusion zones and that there will be a cross-party meeting on it this month.

He was responding to a social media post which alleged to show anti-abortion protesters picketing outside the hospital today.

"Appalled to see. I don’t wonder why we need it at all," Mr Harris said in a tweet.

"Have been engaging with Attorney General, Gardai and service providers about how best to bring it in in a manner that is constitutional. Can assure you I am committed to it and will be meeting cross party on it this month."

Senator Catherine Noone supported the calls for exclusion zones, which would prevent people protesting within a certain distance of facilities providing abortion services.

"We can’t wait any longer for exclusion zone legislation, it should have been done before now," Sen Noone tweeted.

"It needs to be a major priority for the start of the new term. The danger is that it might never happen if there’s a change of Government."

Orla O'Connor, Director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, said that legislating for exclusion zones "to stop intimidation of women seeking abortions and those working to provide health services must be priority for the first quarter of legislative programme 2020".

Abortion services became available in Ireland on this day last year under the Health Act 2018.

There are now approximately 340 GPs signed up to provide medical abortions up to nine weeks of pregnancy, compare to around 236 in January and follows the delivery of training in medical abortion to more family doctors.

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