Latest: Health minister says it is 'sad' that exclusion zones are required around maternity hospitals

Update 1.40pm: The Health Minister says it is unacceptable that maternity hospitals have to issue warnings about graphic images outside their buildings.

It is after The Rotunda tweeted to let people know that there was an anti-abortion protest taking place last week and that it had notified Gardaí.

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

Minister Harris says it is sad that we even need to contemplate this.

"I think it's regrettable that you have to have a law in this country to make sure that women attending our maternity hospitals and staff working there don't have to be subjected to offensive images," said Minister Harris.

"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.

"So, yes, I do want to see exclusion zones and I have asked the Attorney General of my department to advise me on how best to do that."

Earlier: Campaigners say exclusions zones an 'important issue' for new abortion legislation

Abortion rights campaigners say the issue of exclusion zones is one of the main things that need to be dealt with by the new legislation.

Maternity hospitals have seen posters of foetuses appear outside their premises in recent weeks and have been tweeting to warn women.

Orla O'Connor from the National Women's Council of Ireland has said they want to ensure there is no interference.

She said: "We will be closely looking at things like exclusion zones so that there is no intimidation of women accessing services wherever they access them whether it's in their GPs or in hospitals.

"We'll also be looking carefully at conscientious objection because that's important that there's no interference and that there is a smooth service and that women know that they will be dealt with compassionately and their needs will be met."

- Digital Desk

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