Concerns raised over potential resurgence of anti-abortion protests

By Sarah Slevin

A Galway abortion rights group has raised concerns that protests outside abortion service providers will ramp up again once Covid-19 restrictions ease.

When the abortion laws came into place in 2019, many healthcare facilities who offered the service had anti-abortion groups protesting outside their premises.

While this has decreased, Susan McGrady, founder of Galway East For Choice, has said it is largely due to Covid-19.

“I do think they decreased because of Covid, I think that was a big factor. What we want in the abortion rights campaign is to have an idea of how often these protests are happening, where they’re happening and to offer help,” she said.

The government has discussed a review of the abortion legislation and Ms McGrady expressed concern that this review will prompt further protests.

“I suspect when Covid is over and this ramps up again with the review, that sort of behaviour is going to increase again and we need to be watching for it,” she said.

Access to abortion services has been made easier due to telemedicine but there has been no guarantee this will remain after restrictions ease.

Ms McGrady has called for the review to address issues so that people feel safe when they seek abortion healthcare.

“We want more local access, more people to be able to provide and to feel like they can provide safely, that they’re not feeling threatened in any way.”

“There is the threat of anti-abortion activism popping up outside your healthcare facility and providers have every reason to be wary and nervous,” she said.

Ms McGrady said it has been difficult for not only those seeking an abortion and the providers but also the wider staff and public due to the lack of abortion clinics.

“We don’t have abortion clinics so if they’re outside a facility, they’re also in the way of everyone else going in and out for their other healthcare,” she said.

Both those who are pro-life and pro-choice have expressed interest in being part of the review process.

Last year, the Oireachtas Life and Dignity Group was launched at Leinster House which is made up of a number of anti-abortion TDs.

The amendments they have raised involve pain relief being administered to fetuses in the case of late-term abortions carried out on the grounds of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The new group published a report and called for “a humane response” to the question of fetal pain following scientific evidence that unborn babies experience pain.

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