Limerick based Senator Paul Gavan will introduce the Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill to the Seanad on Tuesday the 19th October.
The Bill has been produced by Together For Safety, a national campaign group who have been calling for implementation of safe access zones for over a year.
As well as Sinn Féin, the Bill has been co-signed by Labour, and Civic Engagement, as well as Senators Erin McGreehan (Fianna Fail), Pauline O’Reilly (Green Party) and David Norris (Independent). Senator Rebecca Moynihan of the Labour Party will formally second the Bill.
Explaining the purpose of the Bill Senator Gavan said:
“This Bill is designed to prevent the kind of distressing and intimidatory anti-abortion protests that we see on a daily basis around the country as people attend medical appointments at hospitals and health centres.
“The Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021 will create a 100 meter area – a Safe Access Zone – around health centres and anywhere women and pregnant people are legally entitled to access abortion care, in which no communication about abortion can take place. Under the legislation, it would be an offence to protest directly outside hospitals, GP clinics or other facilities that provide abortion services.
“We were promised at the time of passing of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act in 2018 that Safe Access zone legislation would swiftly follow. Indeed, it was only on the basis on that commitment given by then Minister Simon Harris that my colleague Louise O’Reilly withdrew her proposed amendment to that Bill to establish such safe zones.
“Three years later we are still waiting for that legislation, and meanwhile every day women and pregnant people must endure these protests as they seek to access essential healthcare. This Bill will deal with this matter and deliver on the promises made not just by Simon Harris, but also as set out in the current Programme for Government.”
Senator Gavan said the Upper House has co-operated on a cross-party basis with previous bills and he hopes the same will be the case here.
“While Sinn Féin are proud to be supporting this Bill, this is not about party politics, this is just about getting these measures introduced. If there are any Government concerns with the bill in its current format they can be addressed at committee stage. Women have waited for long enough for action on this issue. They should not have to endure these protests for one day longer than is necessary. Now, thanks to Together For Safety, we have a Bill that will establish safe access zones in a manner that is legally sound and that has the support of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.”