May 2, 2024
Laws on Safe Access Zones for healthcare settings finally passed – Senator Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has saluted the tireless campaigning of the Together for Safety group in the wake of the passing of the Safe Access Zones Bill through all stages.

The Health (Termination of Pregnancy) (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2023 completed its passage through both houses of the Oireachtas yesterday and will now be referred to Uachtarán na hÉireann for his consideration.

Senator Gavan, who’s Bill in 2021 on the same issue was instrumental in forcing the government to act, has welcomed the final outcome Senator Gavan said:

“At last, the government has fulfilled its promise to deliver this legislation to ensure that anyone wishing to access healthcare can do so in privacy without being subject to harassment and tactics of coercion.

“The new law 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. Within those zones, certain conduct aimed at impeding access or influencing decisions in relation to termination of pregnancy services will be prohibited.

“This legislation was originally promised by then Minister of Health Simon Harris immediately after the Repeal referendum was won in 2018. However, that government failed to follow through on that promise and protests, intimidation and harassment of patients and healthcare providers outside healthcare settings was allowed to continue for too long.

“The Together for Safety group, which is headquartered in Limerick, built a powerful campaign around the issue and I was honoured to be asked by the group to introduce their Bill in the Seanad in 2021. The passing of that Bill through all stages of the upper house with cross-party support, forced the government to act.

“Unfortunately, the protests and harassment have had a chilling effect and undoubtedly are linked to the very poor rate of take-up – one in 10 – by general practitioners to the provision of abortion services.

“Everybody has the right to access healthcare – including abortion services – in dignity, privacy and safety. The passing of this Bill is a step in the right direction.”

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