I welcome Cabinet's approval to legislate for the designation of safe access zones around healthcare premises to safeguard access to termination of pregnancy services.
This is something that I and my party colleagues have been pushing for: I believe that all persons accessing or providing healthcare services need protection from harassment while doing so.
Minister Donnelly brought the heads of bill for the necessary legislation to the Cabinet today. This legislation will designate specified healthcare premises and 100 metres surrounding their perimeter as safe access zones. These will protect women who are accessing termination services from harassment by protestors. This protection will extend to service providers, and their staff in the course of their duties and responsibilities.
The heads of bill have been developed with the support and input of representatives of the Departments of Health and Justice, the HSE and An Garda Síochána. Following the Government decision to approve the heads of bill, a formal Bill will be drafted by the Office of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Department of Health.
I welcome the Department of Health’s commitment to engage with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and Irish Council for Civil Liberties, to seek any observations they may have.
I will continue to work with colleagues to ensure that the legislation is both timely and robust. The legislation will now go to the Oireachtas Health Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is expected that the law will be passed by the end of the year.