Women and pregnant people have the right to access the healthcare they need in privacy, in safety and with dignity. The protest outside our National Maternity Hospital, featuring tiny coffins and white crosses, denied that right to everybody entering the hospital on 1 January this year.
ICCL has heard confidential reports from abortion providers that protests like these take place on a regular basis. They prefer not to go to the press to protect their patients’ privacy, and so as not to deter new abortion providers from signing up to provide the service.
Minister Harris has been promising safe zones around abortion providers where protests would not be permitted since 6 December 2018. ICCL has been calling for the introduction of safe zones since January 2019. Given the delay in action from the Government citing legal difficulties, we have been investigating how safe zones have operated in other jurisdictions and how the highest courts in other countries have dealt with the issue. Our conclusion is safe zones have been viewed as necessary to protect women and in line with human rights law.
This investigation highlights that in certain, very limited circumstances protest may be restricted so that women and pregnant people can access healthcare in privacy, safety and dignity. However, any legislation seeking to limit a fundamental right, such as the right to protest, must be very carefully considered and drafted, and must show that the restriction is both necessary and proportionate. ICCL will remain at the disposal of policy-makers and legislators at the drafting stage.
Email your TD to express support for safe zones at this link