Republic of Ireland news

Health minister condemns those sharing information about Republic's first abortion

The Republic's health minister Simon Harris
Aoife Moore

The Republic's minister for health Simon Harris has condemned those sharing information about the state's first abortion procedure.

Over the weekend, a post on social media alleged that the termination would take place yesterday in a specific hospital.

The minister said he would not decide what is fact based on social media and we should not try to know other people's medical history.

"I find it extraordinarily unedifying, I find it pretty darn despicable actually that somebody would take to social media, that anybody would take to social media and endeavour to create a public conversation about an individual patient's care," he said.

"Any service that is provided legally in our country deserves to be treated with absolute respect and confidentiality of the patient must be to the fore.

"I've spoke to the director general about this this morning and the HSE [the Republic's health service] shares this view. We will defend and protect any citizen accessing any health service and the idea that people would effectively try and incite harassment of women and health care staff through online discourse is despicable and offensive and I don't think its any way reflective of how the large majority of the people in the country feel.

"It's an attempt to drag us back to pre-repeal place and that's one place we're not being dragged back to.

"If the information has been leaked from our health service, that's very very serious and I have no doubt the HSE will act accordingly."

Anti-abortion protesters have been protesting outside doctors offices and hospitals in some areas across the Republic in the past week, and the minister said he is fully committed to legislating for safe-access zones outside health care facilities.

"In many ways I find it quite sad that we have to," he said.

"That people would endeavour to intimidate people, be it doctors, nurses or midwives or people using the services is indeed upsetting.

"I'm looking at pictures today of people standing outside hospitals and there are many people going in and out of that hospital today in many different circumstances and they should be able to freely access that hospital without any added burden of such a protest that could cause upset.

"I am committed to introducing safe access zones. This will take legislation and on the basis of legal advice I made a conscious decision to decouple it from the substantive bill because I didn't want to delay the introduction of abortion services. I made a clear commitment to the women of this country and I didn't want to delay that.

"I will in the coming week or so endeavour to meet with with the opposition spokespeople in health to discuss how best we can work together to make safe access zones a reality."

Around 1.42 million in the Republic people backed the repeal of the Eighth Amendment after a historic referendum in May last year while 723, 632 voted in favour of its retention.

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