The government is moving forward with legislation to ban pro-life abortions outside healthcare premises by the end of the year.
Protesters could face jail or fines for demonstrating outside healthcare units where a 100 metres buffer zone has been designated. This means it would be illegal to harass, insult, or seek to influence those attending these healthcare services, or the staff working in them.
This would include protests such as those that have taken place outside Lifford Community Hospital when picketers carried a number of posters with uncensored images of unborn babies.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the ban is not on a right to protest, but on protests that could influence a woman’s decision to access service or interfere with her access.
Breaches would lead to an initial warning from An Garda Síochána, but repeat offenders would face a fine, and possible trial before a judge and jury.
The Cabinet approved the introduction of the legislation this week. Following this, a formal Bill will be drafted by the Office of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Department of Health.
Pro-life campaigners said the law is an “overreaction”. Eilís Mulroy of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Criminalising pro-life activity in the vicinity of abortion providing facilities is not all about targeting “protesting”. The experience of women like Alina Dulgheriu risks being airbrushed out. In February 2019, Alina told the Oireachtas Life and Dignity Group how she received pro-life support outside an abortion clinic at the eleventh hour which prompted her to rethink her decision and instead of an abortion to have her daughter. Such experiences should not be ignored.”
The Together for Safety Campaign has welcomed the law and said: “We are thrilled to hear that pregnant people and medical professionals might finally be able to access treatments and go to work free of intimidation.”