Sunday 16 June 2019

Anti-abortion TDs say hospitals should not be exclusion zones for campaigners

Mattie McGrath Photo: Frank McGrath
Mattie McGrath Photo: Frank McGrath

Wayne O’Connor

Anti-abortion TDs hit out at plans for exclusion zones outside hospitals where pregnancy terminations are carried out during a meeting in Leinster House today.

They claim such laws would impede the rights to free speech and prevent groups being able to assemble in public.

The TDs, including Independents Carol Nolan and Mattie McGrath, heard from Alina Dulgheriu of the London-based group ‘Be Here for Me’. She told TDs people should not be “criminalised” for “offering help to vulnerable mothers”.

Members of the Dáil’s Human Dignity Group also heard from Ben Fullbrook, an English barrister who helped to bring a challenge against the first exclusion zone at an abortion clinic in England.

He told the meeting he believes a ban outside abortion clinics would be unlawful.

The meeting was chaired by Independent TD Carol Nolan, who lost the Sinn Féin party whip because of her stance on abortion. Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath and Senator Ronan Mullen co-hosted the meeting which they said was attended by “about 15 people”.

Ms Nolan said creating exclusion zones around hospitals would be a “dangerous precedent”.

It follows calls from campaigners for exclusion zones to be set up around medical practices offering abortion services. They say a ban is necessary to ensure women are safe when seeking to access pregnancy terminations.

Carol Nolan called this reaction to a series of demonstrations outside hospitals “disproportionate”.

“No one wants to see any woman feeling harassed or intimidated by anyone when approaching a hospital or GP surgery,” she said.

“Were real harassment to occur, the authorities in Ireland already have wide-ranging powers to deal with the situation under existing law. But for the government to seize on one or two incidents and blow them out of all proportion is no way to introduce public policy.”

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