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09th Aug 2021

Fresh calls for safe zones at Ireland’s abortion facilities

Jade Hayden

Such zones were promised to be introduced along with abortion legislation.

There are fresh calls for the government to introduce safe zone at Ireland’s abortion facilitates.

Promises for such zones, which would make it illegal for protests to be held within a specific radius of clinics offering abortion services, were promised by former Minister for Health Simon Harris amidst the repeal referendum.

According to reports, the government last week scrapped legislation which would have made this possible, instead choosing to rely on the current law concerning public order offences to police any incidents.

The news had led to much criticism towards current Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who has since said that he is working closely with government officials to maintain “safe access” to abortion facilities.

“I am fully committed to the introduction of legislation on safe access zones around our healthcare facilities,” he said.

“It was originally intended to provide for safe access to termination of pregnancy services in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018. However, a number of legal issues were identified which necessitated further consideration.”

Dr Mary Favier, of the Irish College of General Practitioners, issued a fresh call for safe zones today, saying that they are necessary to ensure the safety of patients and staff. She added that Donnelly’s “turn around” on the issue has been welcomed.

“I’m not saying that people can’t protest, they can, but in an appropriate place, not where services are being provided,” she said.

Safe zones are generally introduced around maternity hospitals and clinics where abortion services are offered to protect patients and staff from intimating protests.

Since Ireland’s legalised abortion, there have been multiple demonstrations outside maternity hospitals by so-called pro-life groups protesting such services.

One year after abortion services began in Ireland, the Our Lady of Lourdes Protectors protested outside Holles Street holding crosses and singing hymns. They later said it was their right to protest outside the hospital as nothing in the legislation said otherwise.

Canada and the US are among countries currently operating safe zones outside some of their abortion clinics.