Limerick City and County Council is calling for ‘safe access zones’ to be legally established around locations offering abortion services.
The call comes more than two-and-a-half years after then Health Minister Simon Harris said legislation establishing the zones was one of his priorities.
His department said the legislation would ban “oral, written or visual” anti-abortion displays within the zones.
The legislation has yet to be enacted and yesterday, Councillors in Limerick backed a motion calling on current Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to follow through on the promise.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Limerick City North Cllr Conor Sheehan said he tabled the motion because patients are facing intimidation outside Limerick University Maternity Hospital (UMHL).
“Essentially what it is, is the creation of a buffer zone or a safe access zone around maternity hospitals or around healthcare settings so that pregnant people and people accessing services do not have to pass through these so-called vigils which are happening regularly and were happening the whole way through Lent outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick,” he said.
“You have groups of people walking up and down - mainly groups of men; they were chanting and praying and it was very, very intimidating for people who had to actually pass through that.”
Safe acces zones
He said the issue was recently raised in the Seanad by Senator Paul Gavan but Government ‘doesn’t really seem to see the need to have them.’
“I know Constitutionally there is a bit of a quagmire there and it is a difficult one but it is something that needs to be dealt with because these protests are very, very intimidating for anybody that has to go through them,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that women have a right and pregnant people have a right to access healthcare in privacy, dignity and respect.”
Cllr Sheehan said he finds it “hard to believe” that UMHL has not received any complaints about the protests – noting that he knows of a number of people who have complained to Gardaí.
He said he also “read some very, very harrowing testimony from people who encountered these protests and vigils” into the record of the Limerick City and Council meeting yesterday.
UMHL said it had “not received any complaints from our service users or staff about protests that may be taking place outside our hospital".
You can listen back to Cllr Sheehan here: