A third anti-abortion protest has been held at a health clinic which has been subjected to nuisance calls and intimidating letters which has resulted in gardai investigating.
The Health Clinic, located in Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny is so far providing the only termination services in the adjoining counties of Carlow and Kilkenny.
Today the group, also protested outside the Cistercian Abbey and close to the Clinic entrance for three and a half hours. A local parish priest has had to move them away from the Church as Mass-goers were entering.
They have picketed once a month since legislation making abortion services legal in Ireland was signed into law at the end of December by President Michael D Higgins.
The anti-abortion protestors were holding signs with slogans such as “Say no to Abortion in Graiguenamanagh” and “Doctors save lives not end them” and “Smile Your Mum Choose Life”.
It comes as legislation creating exclusion zones around healthcare facilities providing abortion is expected to be ready by June.
It is understood the protest outside the clinic, which is located beside a library, caused a lot of “upset” again to children using the facilities with many adults “condemning” the move by pro-lifers.
The highly respected Clinic, which has two GPs working there, received several nuisance calls in January, which caused upset to staff. It is understood that an intimidating letter was also sent to practice and has since been given to the gardai.
Officers continue to investigate the phone-calls made to the Clinic. It is believed that ongoing issues in setting up the service in St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny are delaying the implementation of abortion services to the wider areas of Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Laois.
More than 600,000 people live in the south-east of the country. Of the 3,500 GPs in the country, with just 10% having signed up to provide the services. A third of GPs in Ireland are women.
The protests continue to renew calls for the introduction of exclusion zones to prevent women from seeking terminations from facing protests when accessing services.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has promised to introduce legislation for such zones
The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act allows for terminations of pregnancy of up to 12 weeks, also providing for terminations where there is a risk to the life or a serious risk to the health of the pregnant woman.
GPs provide the service up to nine weeks of a pregnancy, after that time a woman will be referred to a hospital for the other three remaining weeks.
In response, a Kilkenny pro-choice group, Kilkenny for Choice issued a statement saying, “Pregnant people need support and privacy, not intimidation and harassment. (We need) safe zones now.