Legislation introducing ‘protest exclusion zones’ around healthcare facilities – particularly those providing family planning services and advice – must be fast-tracked through the Assembly, says Nicola Campbell, Workers Party spokesperson in Newry and Armagh
For a number of years now hostile, aggressive and intimidatory groups have been openly bullying women and girls as they attempt to keep appointments at clinics providing information and advice on abortion services.
“Many of these belligerent groups have adopted and copied the ‘in your face’ tactics employed by right wing American fundamentalist groups which include verbal abuse, stalking, photographing staff and members of the public entering clinics and posting video footage taken inside healthcare buildings. They also compare the provision of abortion services to the Holocaust”, Nicola said
“It is regrettable that the Executive has chosen not to act on this issue and that it had to take a Private Members Bill to highlight the issue and prepare the legislation.”, she added
The Bill is now making its way through the Assembly but faces the risk of running out of time before this Assembly mandate ends next April.
“No one accessing health care services should be forced to run the gauntlet of screaming zealots. Nor should healthcare staff who work there be confronted by a daily barrage of abuse and invective”. Nicola said.
“This is not an academic argument”, she added. “If the types of coordinated and vicious harassment of women, girls and healthcare staff continue as they have done in recent months there is a real possibility that someone will be seriously hurt or worse. Several doctors, staff and members of the public have been murdered at abortion clinics in the USA. The incidents of deaths threats and violence there are rising year on year”.
“The Assembly must ensure that the legislation which is before it now is enacted into law with the upmost urgency. To allow it to fall would be to abandon vulnerable women, girls and NHS staff to the hands of the mob
A woman’s right to choose has been hard won. It must now be urgently defended and protected in law”, Nicola concluded.