Limerick council calls for safe access zones around abortion providers, following protests

Cross-party support for measures to ensure patients are afforded privacy and respect
Limerick council calls for safe access zones around abortion providers, following protests

Councillors voted unanimously to call on the health minister to legislate for safe access zones around abortion services after reports of protests outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

Limerick City and County Council is calling on the Minister for Health to bring in legislation to create "safe access zones" around abortion services, after a unanimous vote on Monday.

The motion calling for the council to write to  Stephen Donnelly, urging him to bring in legislation, came after reports of ongoing anti-abortion protests outside University Maternity Hospital, Limerick (UMHL) and other healthcare settings.

The motion was brought forward by councillor Conor Sheehan, who said that even those councillors who voted ‘no’ in 2018 had voted for this motion.

Councillor 'grateful for compassionate support'

He said he was grateful to his fellow councillors for their compassionate support.

“Pregnant people have a right to access whatever healthcare they need in privacy, dignity and respect,” Mr Sheehan said: 

They should not have to pass by or walk through these protests which are designed to intimidate and frighten people. 

Mr Sheehan added that Mr Donnelly must bring forward legislation as soon as possible, as part of the upcoming review into the termination of pregnancy legislation.

The news was welcomed by Together for Safety, which has been calling for safe access zones for some time.

Legislation is in programme for government

Co-Convener, Karen Sugrue, said it was wonderful to see unanimous support, with representatives from Labour, Sinn Féin, the Green Party, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil all speaking passionately for measures to allow people to attend medical appointments in privacy and safety.

Yvie Murphy, Together for Safety Co-Convener, added: "Legislation for safe access zones was promised to us in 2018 and is in the current programme for government. 

"We hope the passing of this motion demonstrates to the Minister for Health that safe access zones are a necessary and proportionate response to the reality faced by people having to walk past protesters on their way to access healthcare." 

A spokesperson for University of Limerick Hospital Group said that UMHL "has not received any complaints from our service users or staff about protests that may be taking place outside our hospital".

“The first priority for hospital management is to ensure the safety of our patients, and we are mindful of anything that would hinder or impede access to our site and the services we provide there,” the spokesperson said. 

“There is no issue with regard to safety of access, and we would urge anyone who is aware of such issues or difficulties, to contact hospital management without delay,” they added.

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