Campaigners urge Stephen Donnelly to ban anti-abortion ads outside hospitals

Opposition parties and campaigners are now calling on Minister Stephen Donnelly to ban anti-abortion adverts outside GP practices and hospitals as part of any safe access zone legislation. 
Campaigners urge Stephen Donnelly to ban anti-abortion ads outside hospitals

Campaigners are urging the government to ban anti-abortion ads and protests outside hospitals and GP clinics. File Picture of a protest at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in 2018. Picture Ciara Wilkinson

The Health Minister has been urged to ban anti-abortion adverts outside GP practices and hospitals as part of any safe access zone legislation.

It comes as pro-choice groups launched a billboard campaign in Dublin, Cork, Galway and other parts of the country.

Opposition parties and campaigners are now calling on Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly to outlaw such adverts, similar to what has been done with alcohol advertising outside schools.

Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns said the current billboard campaign contains "misleading" information, but said that "there is nothing at the moment to stop groups putting these adverts up where they like".

"Anti-abortion campaigners always seem to target hospitals and GP clinics where women go to receive treatment. That is a deliberate tactic. We have seen it with those grotesque physical protests that happen outside hospitals and we have been waiting for legislation to create safe zones outside hospitals since 2018.

"That safe zone legislation could also include billboards like this," she said.

The Life Institute and Iona Institute have rolled out a nationwide anti-abortion billboard campaign to bring public attention to what the groups say is the "disturbing rise in the number of abortions".

One billboard, which has been erected close to both the Coombe maternity hospital and a GP surgery in Dublin, states that 13,243 abortions have been carried out in two years, adding "that's more than the population of Crumlin".

Misleading information

However, Ms Cairns said this information is misleading as "the obvious implication of this is that abortion is now more prevalent in Ireland following Repeal and the enactment of abortion legislation".

"The fact is, we have never had a reliable figure for the number of abortions in Ireland as it was never legal here and women had to travel. The only jurisdiction we had figures for was the UK — and those figures were unreliable as they were dependent on Irish women in UK clinics giving an Irish address, so they would be captured in statistics," she said.

"An attempt to present this information as abortion now being more prevalent in Ireland, doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny."

Labour's health spokesperson Duncan Smith said his party also supports banning such ads around hospitals or GP surgeries and said this provision should be included in the "much needed" safe access zone legislation.

The Together for Safety group has been campaigning for legislation that will put safe access zones around hospitals, Clinics & GPs so that no communication about abortion can take place within 100m of them.

Together for Safety co-convener, Karen Sugrue said safe access zones would protect the right to protest while allowing people to attend medical appointments without being harassed and distressed by people or billboards.

"We call on Minister Stephen Donnelly to establish these zones as a matter of urgency so that people will no longer be harassed at the door of their GPs and hospitals," she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said Mr Donnelly is committed to addressing all matters to ensure safe access to termination of pregnancy services, and the area remains an ongoing priority.

"The minister plans to have proposals for safe access on the legislative programme as soon as possible."

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