Last summer, I often observed pro-life protestors while back in my hometown. They took to the road outside of a family planning clinic every Wednesday holding signs with religious messages, as well as posters detailing what happens when you abort a child. I was working in a shop across the road at the time and used to watch people going in and out of the clinic being verbally greeted by these protestors. I see the same thing here in Dublin, with anti-abortion groups positioned in the city centre sharing their ideals.
“There is absolutely no excuse for the attitudes and approaches of the judgemental protestors outside.”
Family planning clinics, such as the one at home, offer a wide range of services: they provide advice on pregnancies, give practical assistance in contraception consultations and perform STI testing. Someone could be attending these facilities to renew their pill; someone else could be going to get treated for chlamydia; someone could be receiving crucial cervical screening; another person could be going to discuss their unplanned pregnancy. There is absolutely no excuse for the attitudes and approaches of the judgemental protestors outside.
The thing is, each individual person availing of the services of a family planning clinic – regardless of their reasons for attending – deserves the utmost privacy and respect during all stages of their visit, let alone when simply entering and exiting the building. While these protestors bask in the entitlement of their own opinions and views, they are seemingly unable to apply this ‘logic’ to others. Their double-standards are clear as they shove their ‘help’ down patients’ throats.
“Whilst many would expect dignity, privacy and respect to be rights which we could take for granted in twenty-first century Ireland, securing and ensuring the right for protection of patients and staff is unfortunately an ongoing process.”
Whilst many would expect dignity, privacy and respect to be rights which we could take for granted in twenty-first century Ireland, securing and ensuring the right for protection of patients and staff is unfortunately an ongoing process. The vitality of reproductive healthcare is frequently undermined and overlooked. Thousands of individuals wouldn’t be here today without the services offered. Therefore, to normalise the intimidation tactics of extremists groups puts at risk the lives of many who rely on the services provided by family planning clinics.
In order to combat the actions of these protestors, activist groups have endlessly campaigned for dignity and respect in the face of reproductive healthcare. Together For Safety is a Limerick-based organisation whose main aim is to fight for the introduction of Safe Access Zones around medical centres. On top of this work, Uplift have made similar leaps through their coordinated action for progressive change across Ireland.
In the face of this, it was recently announced by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that, by the end of this year, there will be Safe Access Zone legislation implemented across the country.
Over 2,140 Uplift members backed the petition launched by Together for Safety and a further 711 members submitted to the public Repeal Review consultation supporting the same recommendation. Their aim is to protect people from harassment from anti-abortion protesters as they approach healthcare centres and clinics. This allows for the individuals entering and exiting family planning clinics and reproductive healthcare units to do so in privacy, without facing intolerable and extreme backlash.
“People need to be able to access health care in privacy and dignity and without being harassed or intimidated – Safe Access Zones around health centres have been shown worldwide to be the best and safest way to facilitate this.”
Yvie Murphy, the co-convenor of Together for Safety, was delighted with the announcement. Speaking on behalf of the organisation, she emphasised that “people need to be able to access health care in privacy and dignity and without being harassed or intimidated – Safe Access Zones around health centres have been shown worldwide to be the best and safest way to facilitate this.” Whatever a person’s reason for making a journey to a healthcare centre, it is unjust for them to be met by any form of intimidation. It increases the risk of danger with its palpable potential to deter individuals from accessing crucial healthcare.
You wouldn’t be met with the same resistance if you were going to a healthcare clinic to get your blood tested, so why – when anything sex related is invovled – does the attitude change? Reproductive healthcare is crucial, yet it is still not openly discussed, even in 2022.