Safe Access Zones are vital

27 July 2022
  • Audit of services needed

Labour Senator and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee Annie Hoey has welcomed the publication of the heads of bill to legislate for termination of pregnancy safe access zones.

Senator Hoey said:

“This is a belated move by government but it is welcome. When we voted in 2018, people voted for free, legal and safe access to abortion. Labour and many other campaign groups have been calling for the introduction of such laws for four years. Now, we need to see the new laws brought into force without any further delay to ensure women are not intimidated when they seek access to abortion.

“These laws are vital to protect women and their partners from intimidation as they enter GP surgeries and hospitals, as well as the healthcare professionals who work there. Exclusion zones restricting gatherings designed to intimidate pregnant people and obstruct access to abortion services are already in effect in other countries, including parts of Canada, Australia, and the US.

“Pregnant women should have safe access to healthcare without any fear of intimidation, whether they are accessing abortion or any other form of essential healthcare.

“With the implementation of Safe Access Zones, it is my hope that more healthcare providers, particularly in rural areas, will feel empowered to provide vital healthcare. Following the publication of the Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC) study conducted by Trinity College Dublin which found real failures of provision of abortion, particularly in rural Ireland, Labour called for a full audit of services nationwide. We know that there are 13 counties in which 0-10 GPs provide abortion care.

“Many women outside major urban centres are forced to travel to a city-based GP for care – and they have to make the journey twice due to the three day waiting period requirement. Even when they do travel to see a GP who is willing to provide abortion care, the legislation may restrict their access. Last year, we know that over 200 women had to travel to Britain to obtain abortions for that reason.

“Following the repeal referendum, we must now ensure that our legislation provides effective protection for women’s reproductive healthcare rights. This is about providing support in a crisis, and ensuring safe access to abortion for all who need it.”

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