Government decision to shelve legislation to provide safe access zones unacceptable and must be immediately reversed

07 August 2021

Limerick Labour Councillor Conor Sheehan has branded the Government decision to shelve legislation to provide safe access zones for people accessing abortion as unacceptable. 

Cllr Sheehan said:

“The Government decision to quietly shelve legislation to provide safe access zones for people accessing abortion services during the month of August when the Dáil is in recess is deeply cynical.

“Former Minister for Health Simon Harris promised that legislation to introduce safe access zones would be fast-tracked and repeatedly failed to introduce the requisite legislation.

“This decision must be immediately reversed and the Government should introduce the legislation that has been long promised in the Autumn and let the Oireachtas debate and work through the complex constitutional issues.

“Pregnant and vulnerable people are forced to pass through these demonstrations outside healthcare facilities on an almost daily basis and we have had a significant issue with these so-called “vigils” regularly intimidating people outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

“Current public order legislation is not enough and pregnant people deserve to access healthcare in privacy, dignity and respect. When the people of Ireland voted by 66.4% to Repeal the 8th Amendment, they voted to treat people in crisis pregnancy with compassion. A motion calling for the introduction of Safe Access Zones, I brought before Limerick City and County Council was recently unanimously passed on foot of the number and frequency of these protests outside UMHL.

“The explanation given by the Department of Health stating that there are a “limited number of protests or other actions relating to termination of pregnancy” taking place is both inaccurate and disrespectful and I would invite Mr. Donnelly to come to Limerick and to witness these protests for himself.

“This is yet another example of state sponsored misogyny when it comes to female healthcare in this country. By shelving plans to introduce legislation providing for Safe Access Zones, Minister Donnelly and the Government are effectively condoning these protests and the intimidation of women accessing abortion services.

“Whether it is the many failures of the CervicalCheck programme, women having decisions made in relation to their reproductive health without proper consent or the ongoing cruel maternity restrictions that still have not been lifted. The women of Ireland are once again left at the back of the bus.”

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