Plea for legislation as anti-abortion protests start up again at Limerick maternity hospital

Members of Together for Safety at a previous demonstration in Dublin.

REPORTS of fresh demonstrations by anti-abortion campaigners outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick have prompted calls on the Minister for Health to move quickly on enacting safe-zone legislation.

In an open letter to the Minister for Health, the leaders of the Limerick-based Together for Safety group asked on behalf of hospital staff and patients upset by the protests: “When will they leave us alone?”

The open letter, sent on Wednesday last, informed the Minister: “This morning we received a call from a very distressed woman telling us that there are once again protesters outside Limerick maternity hospital causing distress to people going for medical appointments, people going to work, local residents, and passersby, as the maternity hospital is on the main road into the city centre.

“We are writing to you this morning to ask when the long promised safe access zone legislation will be in place? Last month you publicly promised the legislation would be in place by July. It is now half way through June.

“Minister, it is seven years since the citizens assembly on the 8th Amendment, six since the Oireachtas Committee, five since Repeal. Each of these public debates supported the need for safe access zones.

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“It is four years since the abortion legislation was put in operation, and three years since Together for Safety started collecting reports of distress caused by the protests and lobbying for safe access zone legislation.

“It is two years since we wrote and submitted a Private Members Bill for safe access zones which had such broad support across all parties.

“It is one year since you got cabinet approval to legislate for safe access zones. The Abortion Review report said they are urgently needed. Last September you promised that the safe access zones would be in place by Christmas. Last month you promised they would be in place by July.”

The letter went on to state that safe access zones are supported and being called for by multiple organisations including the UN, the WHO, the Council of Europe, and human rights groups in Ireland.

Authors of the letter, Karen Sugrue and Yvie Murphy, co-chairs Together for Safety said: “We are writing to plead with you for immediate action. Minister, all people want is to be left alone – please take immediate action so that they will be.”