An emergency motion at the Dublin City Council calling for by-laws to impose ‘exclusion zones’ outside hospitals and GP clinics that conduct abortions was ruled ‘out of order’ by the Lord Mayor, Nial Ring.
Green party Councillors Patrick Costello, Ciarán Cuffe and Claire Byrne proposed the motion rather than wait for national legislation promised by the Minister for Health Simon Harris.
They acted after a similar motion was passed by Louth County Council last month. That motion was proposed by FF councillor Emma Coffey with the enthusiastic backing of some FG councillors. The Chief Executive Joan Martin however is seeking a legal opinion on the motion before proceeding any further with it, saying, ‘I don’t want to have useless by-laws that we can’t enforce.’
The Dublin City motion proposed using a bylaw to regulate the public roads and footpaths within 500 metres of hospitals or GP clinics. Anti-abortion activists would be banned from observing women or doctors, or “continuously observing” a healthcare facility itself. They would be prohibited from engaging in “threatening, harassing or intimidating behaviour” and from obstructing anyone from using services.
The bylaw would also ban protesters from leafleting people entering hospitals or GP clinics or putting up posters.
Mr Costello said that he believed the motion would be passed. “I don’t want to chill all debate on the subject. We’re not ending all protest, we’re simply preventing the intimidation and the prevention of women accessing services that are their choice to access.”
His party colleague, Ms Byrne, added: “In removing the Eighth Amendment this country said clearly we trust women. This cruel harassment and intimidation stands in contrast to that.”
The Lord Mayor ruled the motion ‘out of order’ at a meeting of the Council Tuesday night, but Councillor Costello has already vowed to reintroduce it at a later date.