Safe Access Zones are vital

Senator Annie Hoey image
27 June 2023

Labour Senator and Oireachtas Health Committee Member Annie Hoey has welcomed the belated decision of Government to implement legislation to safeguard women attending abortion services.

Senator Hoey said:

“Almost five years have passed since the public voted for compassion in a crisis, and for the last five years, many women attending abortion services have had to put up with abhorrent abuse outside GPs, clinics and hospitals.

“It’s welcome that Government have finally moved to protect women at their most vulnerable, but it is shameful that it has taken this long to put in place a safeguarding framework.

“Safe Access Zone 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, so it really should have been implemented here in Ireland alongside legislation to provide for abortion services.

“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 last year, 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. This is no way to provide healthcare.

“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. There are many changes that need to happen to the current operations of Ireland’s abortion legislation. Implementing safe access zones is a step in the right direction.

“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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