Abortion safe access zones bill to be published

Abortion safe access zones bill to be published

Stephen Donnelly

Plans to ban anti-abortion protests from taking place within 100 metres of healthcare providers have moved forward with the approval of the draft bill by ministers.

This Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services) (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2023 will deliver on a long-standing government commitment to ensure that anyone needing a termination of pregnancy can access services in safety, with dignity and privacy.

The general scheme of the bill was published last August and the joint Oireachtas committee on health completed its pre-legislative scrutiny last month.

Officials from the Department of Health have worked with the Office of the Attorney General and other relevant stakeholders to draft the text of a bill, approved by government today.

Health minister Stephen Donnelly said: “I am pleased that government has approved this much-awaited bill.

“Nobody should be harassed, insulted or intimidated in any way, or have their decision to access lawfully available healthcare services subject to attempted unsolicited influence by strangers.

“I would like to acknowledge the commitment shown by my ministerial colleagues, officials in my department and the gardaí, all of whom worked together to get this bill to this point.

“I would also like to acknowledge and thank colleagues particularly in the Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General for their significant contribution to the development of this bill.”

The legislation will create “safe access zones” of 100 metres from an entrance or exit to a premises where obstetricians/gynaecologists and general practitioners provide services. This will include consulting rooms, family planning clinics and women’s health clinics.

Safe access zones will also apply to hospitals that provide acute inpatient services within the meaning of section 51 of the Health Act 1970.

Within those safe access zones, attempting to impede access or influence decisions in relation to termination of pregnancy services will be prohibited.

The health minister plans to initiate the bill in the Oireachtas “as soon as possible”.

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