Louth could become the first county in Ireland to bring in exclusion zones to deter anti-abortion protestors gathering outside hospitals and clinics where abortions are being carried out.
The motion to introduce council byelaws so that anti-abortion protestors could not legally hold protests within 500 meters of a hospital or clinic was set forward by local Fianna Fáil Councillor Emma Coffey.
The local councillor who has been a vocal supporter of repealing the Eighth Amendment explained: “It is unchartered waters but I have a legal background and I wouldn't have drawn up this motion unless I thought there was a real legal footing in it.
The wording of the motion is included below:
Great news from Louth County Council as a motion in favour of byelaws mandating exclusion zones around abortion providers is passed. Thanks to solicitor and Cllr @emhcoffey for her work in proposing and forwarding this motion, the first of its kind in Ireland. Wording attached: pic.twitter.com/9vSXGpWl0N— Lawyers For Choice (@Lawyers4Choice) February 18, 2019
“I think if this legislation was to go through it would send a strong message to the rest of the country that County Louth supports women and their families who are going through horrendous times. I'd like to think that we will be the first county in the country to bring these byelaws in to protect our women.”
Cllr Coffey added: “Hopefully we can set the ball rolling for other counties who might take matters into their own hands and call for the legislation to be implemented in their county.
“I think that these protestors are wrong on so many levels - morally speaking.
“Everyone has the right to protest, peacefully, but women also have the right to decide and have the right to attend clinics and hospitals in an unhindered fashion.
“I have no problem with peaceful protests and I think that people should be allowed to protest as long as it is peaceful”, she added.
The motion was passed at the Louth County Council meeting yesterday (Monday, February 18). There was one open objection to the motion from local Green Party councillor Marianne Butler, who had reservations regarding parts of motion which she believed could be unconstitutional.
Louth County Council Chief Executive Joan Martin said she wanted a second legal opinion and advised that the motion would be passed on to the Joint Policing Committee to be developed further. Cllr Coffey explained that the legislation she presented to Louth County Council yesterday (Monday, 18 February), was an initial document which outlined the principal factors and would become a more detailed motion.
The motion, which might not be implemented before the local elections this May, would be welcomed by many pro-choice campaigners and members of the public who have expressed concern about women being intimidated by anti-abortion protesters gathering outside hospitals and medical clinics across the country. Cllr Coffey added that in Louth, anti-abortion protestors gather outside Our Lady of Lourdes hospital every week.
A report in The Times Ireland edition 0n Monday, 18 February, detailled how anti-abortion activists “plan to open a sister operation in Ireland to intervene in the treatment of women trying to access GP clinics or hospitals offering terminations.”
US group Sidewalk Advocates for Life (SAFL) is training campaigners to wait in hospital car parks and “target couples who have received news of a fatal foetal abnormality to “talk them out of having an abortion.”