'That's deplorable' - Pro-choice campaigners hit out at anti-abortion protest outside GP clinic

Pro-choice campaigners have criticised anti-abortion protestors who have demonstrated outside a GP clinic.

A small number of people stood outside a practice in Galway city holding anti-abortion signs yesterday.

Legislation is being considered to ban such demonstrations so close to doctors clinics.

Ailbhe Smyth from the Together for Yes Campaign believes these protests are unacceptable.

Ms Smyth said: "I do find that this is public harrassment, effectively, of people who are trying to access abortion services here.

"That's deplorable. It's despicable behaviour because they are deliberately seeking to deter women from accessing an entirely lawful health service in this country."

Ms Smyth has called on the Minister for Health to immediately introduce legislation for exclusion zones around medical practices offering abortion services.

The co-director of the Together for Yes campaign in the Repeal the 8th referendum, told Newstalk Breakfast that the Minister and his department need to move as soon as the Dáil returns to ensure the introduction of such legislation “so that women are safe and their rights are respected.”

Ms Smyth’s call comes after anti-abortion protesters picketed a Galway GP practice on Thursday, just three days after termination services became legal in the State.

The group stood outside the Galvia West Medical Centre for several hours on Thursday morning bearings signs such as “Say no to abortion in Galway”, before leaving before lunchtime.

Some messages of support on twitter said the group were exercising their right to protest, and that some supporters offered them refreshments and beeped their horns in encouragement of the protest.

A photo of the protest was posted on social media with a message claiming the clinic was picketed because it was “on the HSE list as being an outlet for the abortion pill”.

“Public harassment is not acceptable,” added Ms Smyth. People have a right to assembly and to freedom of expression, said the veteran women’s rights campaigner, but they must not be allowed to interfere with people going about their lawful business.

"It was not just women seeking abortion services who were being impacted by such activities, but also staff who were being subjected to offensive images," she said.

“There should be sanctions against people holding up images. There needs to be 150m exclusion zone and sanctions against people who break it. It is not acceptable."

“Employees and women trying to access services find them offensive...As a country, we need to say that while they have the right to protest they do not have the right to intimidate women trying to access legal services," she said.

Meanwhile, the HSE has warned the public that there are a number of fake websites using a similar name to their MyOptions helpline.

They are warning women about fake websites offering advice on unplanned pregnancies which have appeared days after new laws on terminations came into force.

There is a concern that these unplanned pregnancy agencies "may have a hidden agenda".

Dr Mary Favier from Doctors For Choice said these fake websites often offer dangerous and misleading advice.

Dr Favier said: "One of the ones that pops up always is that having an abortion will cause cancer. That type of flagrant nonsense really has been long proven to be false. They prey on people's anxieties.

"Who they target is generally the vulnerable, also younger women and women who don't have English as a first language who may have issues with travel."

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