The Minister for Health has said he is “fully committed” to introducing legislation for safe access zones at healthcare facilities that provide abortion services.
Stephen Donnelly said his priority is women’s healthcare and the provision of safe services for women.
His comments comes after it was reported in the Irish Examiner that the Department of Health said current public order legislation is adequate to deal with anti-abortion protests at clinics and GP surgeries.
The department told the newspaper that the plans to introduce legislation for safe zones had been abandoned.
A priority for me as Minister for Health is women’s healthcare and the provision of safe services for all womenStephen Donnelly
It also said there was a limited number of reports of protests, adding this was an “extremely positive development”.
The Government had previously committed to bring in safe access zones at healthcare facilities that provide abortion services.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr Donnelly said he will work with department officials to ensure safe access around the facilities.
“As Minister for Health, I am fully committed to the introduction of legislation on safe access zones around our healthcare facilities. This commitment is in the Programme for Government,” he added.
“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.
“Officials in the Department of Health continue to work with me to ensure safe access around medical facilities.
“I have also been engaging with a range of stakeholders and civil society groups in relation to the review of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act which is being finalised with a view to it starting in the coming weeks.
“A priority for me as Minister for Health is women’s healthcare and the provision of safe services for all women.”
"The people of Ireland campaigned long and hard for safe, equitable access to abortion services, and the Programme for Government commitment to establish exclusion zones for the safety and dignity of those accessing abortion services will be delivered."https://t.co/XrizTxZnLe pic.twitter.com/jt2po51PMD— Green Party Ireland (@greenparty_ie) August 7, 2021
Green Party health spokeswoman Neasa Hourigan said she welcomed the statement by the health minister.
“Safe, equitable access to abortion services is something the people of Ireland campaigned long and hard for, and the Programme for Government commitment to establish exclusion zones for the protection, safety and dignity of those accessing abortion services in this country will be delivered by this Government,” she said.
“The Green Party will continue to work closely with our Government colleagues to establish a timeline for ensuring that legislation for safe access zones is progressed, along with the upcoming review of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act, and broader Programme for Government commitments on reproductive and maternal healthcare.
“Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic, we were all acutely aware of the improvements needed across a range of issues relating to women’s health and wellbeing in Ireland.
“We sought to address a number of these in the Programme for Government, and now the Covid crisis has exacerbated some of these deficiencies and highlighted how fragile many of these services were to begin with.
“We have an opportunity now to take a critical look at the provision of these vital services and the experiences of the people accessing them, and to ensure that Ireland has an equitable, safe and robust system of reproductive and maternal healthcare.”
Ireland’s strict abortion laws were liberalised following a referendum in May 2018.
The country voted by 66.4% to 33.6% to remove the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution, which outlawed abortion, with more than two million votes cast.