Safety Zone Legislation Urgently Needed For Abortion Services Providers

Safety zone legislation is urgently needed to prevent women being confronted or intimidated when accessing legal abortion services, the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) has said.

Reiterating its call following an investigation by The Times, Dr Cliona Loughnane, Women's Health Coordinator at NWCI said:

"Safety zone legislation is urgently required, in order to prevent women being confronted or intimidated when accessing a legal healthcare service. Safety zones are designed to criminalise behaviour outside healthcare premises which is intended to, or is likely to, deter people from accessing abortion, undermine their privacy, or prevent them from entering the premises at all. Media reports in The Times of the planned activities of anti-abortion groups indicate that the need for this legal protection has become more urgent that ever.

"We have already seen some protests in Irish healthcare facilities. These are similar to tactics used by anti-abortion groups in other countries which can stop women exercising their legal right to abortion. The Irish public voted for abortion to be provided in Ireland. This must be like access to any other healthcare procedure. In order to ensure this, we must have the legislative framework in place to protect women and to support the providers of this necessary care."

Dr Cliona Loughnane concluded: "The Health Minister has previously committed to the introduction of this legislation in early 2019. It is vital that the Government acts now to enable women's right to access this healthcare and to properly support the doctors and healthcare workers who are delivering this service for women in Ireland. The urgent passage of this legislation will protect both women and their doctors, ending demonstrations near hospitals or primary care centres where abortions are being provided, and show a zero tolerance approach to any attempts to coerce and intimidate women.

"Safety zones should outline the dimensions of an area in which certain behaviours are illegal, such as protest, the display of graphic images, recording people entering a building, or the surveillance of a building or its staff. Alongside safety zone legislation, we must ensure that women have access to comprehensive information about how to access reproductive care. The long-awaited legislation to regulate rogue pregnancy agencies must now be enacted."

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