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28th Jun 2023

Irish government passes abortion bill and promises access to services ‘with dignity and privacy’

Sophie Collins

“This legislation will deliver on a longstanding government commitment to ensure that anyone needing a termination of pregnancy can access services in safety, with dignity and privacy.”

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the Government’s approval to introduce Safe Access Zones around all healthcare settings providing abortion services.

A spokesperson explained: “This legislation will deliver on a longstanding government commitment to ensure that anyone needing a termination of pregnancy can access services in safety, with dignity and privacy.”

Last July, the Cabinet approved proposals to legislate for the designation of Safe Access Zones around certain healthcare premises to safeguard access to termination of pregnancy services.

The draft legislation was then seen to by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health in September 2022. The Committee published its report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny (PLS) last month.

Officials from the Department of Health have worked with the Office of the Attorney General to draft the text of the Bill, which was approved by the Government.

Welcoming the approved Bill, Minister 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.”

What does this mean going forward?

The legislation will create Safe Access Zones of 100 metres from an entrance or exit to 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 the termination of a woman’s pregnancy services will be prohibited.

The Minister plans to initiate the Bill in the Houses as soon as possible.

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