Words: Eva O’Beirne
Campaign group Together For Safety protested outside the Dáil yesterday to highlight the need for Safe Access Zones in Ireland, as well as the need for access to abortion services.
Together for Safety is a National Campaign working for legislation that would enforce 100-metre Safe Access Zones around all family planning clinics/maternity hospitals/health care facilities in Ireland that provide or give information on abortion.
Safe Access Zones are fixed areas around healthcare facilities where anti-choice protesting, intimidating behaviour and/or communication about abortion would be strictly and legally prohibited.
Despite a bill passing in the Seanad to ban anti-choice protestors outside healthcare facilities last year, the Government has yet to act on the legislation.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has previously stated that he drafting the legislation, but campaigners are eager to get it passed as soon as possible.
The government initially promised safe access zones in January 2019, but officials raised constitutional concerns. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris defended current public order legislation.
HSE data reveals that only eleven out of nineteen maternity hospitals in Ireland provide abortion services and just one in ten GPs.
Research published by Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC) in July 2022 showed that there are thirteen counties in which less than ten GPs provide abortion care – with some counties having no GPs providing services.
Meanwhile, the Safe Access Zones law approved for Northern Ireland will come into effect on 7 May.