Harris planning hospital exclusion zones to block 'offensive' anti-abortion imagery

The Rotunda Hospital last week warned visitors of an anti-abortion protest being held at the entrance

Harris planning hospital exclusion zones to block 'offensive' anti-abortion imagery

Simon Harris. Picture by: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

The Health Minister has said he wants to see exclusion zones around hospitals and doctors surgeries when new abortion laws are introduced, so women and healthcare professionals aren't subjected to ‘offensive images’.

Simon Harris has said it's unacceptable that maternity hospitals have to issue warnings about graphic images outside their buildings.

Last week, The Rotunda tweeted to let people know that there was an anti-abortion protest taking place:

Graphic imagery was also displayed outside hospitals and other locations during the referendum campaign - provoking criticism from campaigners on both sides.

Simon Harris is planning to legislate for exclusion zones around hospitals and doctors surgeries to ensure women and healthcare professionals are not intimidated.

'Offensive and upsetting'

Minister Harris today said it is 'sad' that such zones even need to be contemplated, adding that it's worrying that demonstrations have continued after the referendum.

He observed: "I think it's regrettable that you need to actually have a law in this country to make sure that women attending our maternity hospital, and staff working there, don't have to be subjected to offensive images.

“I was really taken aback as Health Minister when I saw one of our maternity hospitals have to issue a tweet in recent days advising women to be careful of the fact that this protest was present.”

He added: “Yes, I do want to see exclusion zones - I’ve asked the Attorney General and my Department to advise me on how best to do that... is it best to do it through the health legislation, or is it best to do it through local authorities? So we'll work our way through that.

"I think what exclusion zones have to be about is sending out an important message that pregnant women and healthcare professionals have an absolute right to go about seeking healthcare and providing healthcare, without that being disrupted through imagery that is offensive and upsetting."

The Government is planning to have abortion services available from the beginning of next year - but new laws cannot be introduced until court challenges to the referendum result have been decided.

Minister Harris today insisted he still intends to publish legislation in July as planned.