Limerick hospital group says it has no record of anti-abortion protests

University Maternity Hospital Limerick
University Maternity Hospital Limerick

THE UL Hospitals Group has said it is has not received any complaints from patients or their families or staff relating to safe access to University Maternity Hospital Limerick, despite a number of politicians calling for a “safe access zone” to be organised at the hospital claiming anti-abortion protestors have regularly been intimidating patients going in and out of the hospital throughout 2021.

Legislation to provide safe access “without harassment” to hospital for women and girls seeking abortion services are yet to be signed off by government.

However, a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group, which runs the mid west region’s maternity hospital, in Limerick, replied: “University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) has not received any official complaints from our service users, their partners or accompanying support persons, or our staff, about protests outside the hospital.”

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

“UL Hospitals Group is satisfied that there is no issue with regard to safety of access at University Maternity Hospital Limerick,” he said.

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The UL Hospitals Group, which manages the maternity hospital on the Ennis Road, Limerick city, said it had received “third-party correspondence on this matter, which we have noted”.

A hospital source said they were not aware of any such protests taking place: “Certainly not intimidatory… there might have been one or two women outside the hospital saying prayers with rosary beads occasionally, but they would only be there for a few minutes and then leave, they were certainly not intimidating anyone”.

The source said they were concerned that highlighting the matter in the media might actually lead to protests.

On November 9, Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavin urged all political parties and independents to back legislation providing safe access zones outside clinics providing abortion care.

Senator Gavan said his Bill had received cross-party support and was “necessary to ensure that women and pregnant people can access essential care without intimidation and harassment”.

“Intimidating protests are happening outside of maternity hospitals, across the state and at family planning centres and GP clinics, there are people monitoring, marching, praying and watching women and pregnant people going in and out of maternity hospitals. Every day there are protestors outside the maternity hospital in my home city of Limerick.”

A number of other local politicians have voiced concern about protests taking place outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick, including Labour Councillor Conor Sheehan.

Last July, Cllr Sheehan tabled a motion, unanimously passed before Limerick City and County Council, calling on the government to introduce “safe access zones” because patients were facing intimidation outside UMHL.

In a statement released last August Cllr Sheehan said: “Pregnant and vulnerable people are forced to pass through these demonstrations outside healthcare facilities on an almost daily basis and we have had a significant issue with these so-called “vigils” regularly intimidating people outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick.”

“Current public order legislation is not enough and pregnant people deserve to access healthcare in privacy, dignity and respect, and when the people of Ireland voted by 66.4% to Repeal the 8th Amendment, they voted to treat people in crisis pregnancy with compassion.

“A motion calling for the introduction of Safe Access Zones, I brought before Limerick City and County Council was recently unanimously passed on foot of the number and frequency of these protests outside UMHL.”

Cllr Sheehan added: “The explanation given by the Department of Health stating that there are a “limited number of protests or other actions relating to termination of pregnancy” taking place is both inaccurate and disrespectful and I would invite (Minister for Health) to come to Limerick and to witness these protests for himself. This is yet another example of state sponsored misogyny when it comes to female healthcare in this country.”