28 Nov 2021

“Their shouts of slogans and graphic imagery that distort reality is causing real psychological damage.” 

MLA, Sinead McLaughlin calls for a stop to extreme pro-life protests as she addressed Stormont in support of MLA , Claire Bailey's Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill 

Sinead McLaughlin, MLA, condemned the actions of extreme Pro-Life protestors as she spoke at Parliament on Wednesday and declared “safe access zones for abortion services are long overdue.” 

"I have repeatedly raised the issue with the PSNI,” she said, “Its response is always the same: it acknowledges the hurt that the behaviour causes to members of our community, but it does not have the legal powers to act on it. 

"That is why the Bill is so vital: it lays down provisions that will help to protect people from these extremists — and they are extremists.  

“I know that many Members who identify as 'pro-life' would certainly distance themselves from their behaviour."

The Bill, if passed by Parliament, will require the Department of Health to establish safe access zones for premises providing abortion services and will criminalise acts within 'a safe access zone which may have the effect of preventing or impeding access to the premises, or influencing, harassing, alarming or distressing persons accessing the premises'. 

McLaughlin then read out testimonies that Alliance for Choice had gathered from those who had witnessed or been victim of the anti-abortion protests outside clinics.  

Women trying to access the healthcare at clinics are often subject to posters and signs of dismembered babies, hateful and cruel name-calling and the entrances and pavements to clinics being physically blocked as they try to access clinics.  

This has led many seeking treatment to leave the clinics and, on some occasions, not even attempt to access them. 

One testimony read: “I was so afraid of them that I got a taxi straight from the airport straight to the door of the clinic and got picked up to leave the same way. 

Another read: “I feel extremely intimidated. I have PSTD from a complicated birth after I suffered a miscarriage and these images are so traumatising.” 

McLaughlin tweeted after: “Everyone has a right to protest, but to hinder access to healthcare is unconscionable. 

“Anti-vax protestors distribute inaccurate information and block access to healthcare which receives widespread condemnation, including from Minister Swann.

“Anti-choice protestors distribute misleading info and block access to healthcare and it receives widespread silence. 

“Both are unacceptable.” 

McLaughlin went on to thank Claire Bailey for bringing the bill forward as well as Alliance for Choice for "the vital work they do on the ground.”

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