Archbishop urges caution on anti-abortion protests at GP surgeries
Dr Diarmuid Martin speaks out amid continuing controversy over Galway picket
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has urged caution about staging anti-abortion protests outside GP surgeries. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has urged caution about staging anti-abortion protests outside GP surgeries, amid continuing controversy over one such demonstration in Galway.
On Thursday morning, a group of protesters stood outside the Galvia West Medical Centre for several hours bearing signs with slogans such as “Say no to abortion in Galway”, before leaving before lunchtime. The demonstration took place just three days after termination services became legal in the State.
The protest sparked renewed calls for the introduction of exclusion zones to prevent women seeking terminations from facing protests when accessing services.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio on Sunday, Dr Martin said that while “everybody has a right to make a protest”, GP surgeries were used by “everybody”.
“I would be particularly cautious about protesting against GPs because everybody is going there, and people go there for all sorts of reasons,” he said.
“I’m not a person personally for protest, what the Church should be doing is strengthening its resolve to help women in crisis and to educate people.”
Asked about plans for exclusion zones around medical facilities where abortions were being administered, Dr Martin said: “Exclusion zones have to be introduced within the realm of the Constitution, which allows people to protest and demonstrate.
“Protest can be legitimate, but you can’t absolutise. It’s up to the Government to provide ways in which the various rights of people are protected.”
He also spoke about the issue of conscientious objectors to abortion within the medical profession.
He said that he hoped there would be no professional sanctions for those people.
Those involved in the Galway protest have insisted it was peaceful and no intimidation was involved.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among those to criticise the protest, saying that he doesn’t think “it’s right to protest outside hospitals, to protest outside GPs’ clinics in that way”.
“Irish women don’t have to travel abroad anymore to end their pregnancies. There’s almost 200 GPs now providing the service across the country. And it’s my strong view that while I respect people who are pro-life, who oppose abortion, I don’t think anyone should be impeded when they’re trying to access a medical service,” he added.
Last week, the Catholic Primate, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, said the new law on abortion had no “moral force” and must be resisted.